After studying mechanical engineering & production at Berlin and Hanover, Winfried Witte joined Mannesmann Demag in 1967, initially working in production. His work at the management level took him to Iran and the USA. A seven-year spell running a company making filters followed. In 1996, he took over the helm of Mannesmann Rexroth, a year later becoming Chairman—a post he has retained under the new Bosch Rexroth configuration.
A worldwide shortage of engineers is changing the division of labor, says WinFried Witte. Machine manufacturers are increasingly looking for development partnerships and will be buying expertise from external suppliers. This means that professional, international support over the complete life cycle of a system is becoming ever more important.
DESIGN NEWS: Factory automation is an important business sector for Rexroth. What trends do you see in this field?
Witte: In factory automation we see substantial long-term growth opportunities. Decentralized intelligence for the components and Total Connectivity through bus systems enable machines to be modularized and setup times shortened, which is especially important for small batches. Through our Drive & Control capability, we are able to develop comprehensive solutions that exploit the full potential of the single technologies. It is precisely these solutions that are the key to higher production flexibility. Machine manufacturers can realize new, modular machine designs, and it won't be long before highly flexible in-line production becomes the state of technology. Here, Rexroth has a big opportunity, as we have already realized such in-line production facilities with our open, overarching automation solutions.
Q: How difficult was it to bring together the technology and capabilities of Rexroth and Bosch Automation?
A: With hydraulics, pneumatics (Mecman), linear technology (Star), and electrical controllers (Indramat), Rexroth already had a comprehensive range of technology for automation and mobile applications. Bosch supplemented this range, in particular with its assembly technology. Now, we can offer an even wider product range under a strong Rexroth brand all from one company, because the product lines of both of the former companies mesh together extremely well. In the future, our customers will benefit even more from the Rexroth capability as a solution provider. Whereas the competition can offer one, maybe two technologies under their own steam, Rexroth is the sole supplier having a command of control, motion, and drives to offer total integrated solutions.
Q: Rexroth has the motto "The Drive & Control Company". Where is the emphasis in development?
A: Right at the center, combining all technologies—that's the Drive & Control solution. The operator of the future will control all machine motion via an operator interface. And it is precisely here where our development comes to bear—Total Connectivity of all drive components and modules to form ready-to-install Drive & Control solutions. That's not a long way off—it's already reality. Rexroth offers integrated linear axes with servomotors and displacement measurement systems or CNC controllers that can equally control electrical, pneumatic, and hydraulic axes. A sales organization, covering the globe and responsible for all technologies, ensures the best solution for the customer.
Q: The SERCOS bus system is well established at Rexroth. More generally, how are developments in digital techniques integrated into Rexroth technology?
A: We support the SERCOS interface because it is the only internationally recognized, open, digital drives interface. This applies not just to electrical, but also to hydraulic, drives. Last fall, Rexroth introduced the first hydraulic controller world-wide with the SERCOS interface. Our special strengths lie in motion control, the central link for productivity and flexibility. This is where we are applying our developments and expanding our control range with components that support this capability through their full potential.
Q: What does "globalization" mean to Rexroth?
A: Rexroth depends significantly on decentralized development and local application support in the regions. Apart from our product expertise centers in Europe, USA, and Asia, we have local application centers on all three continents. About 80 % of our developments originate from customer discussions and we very often develop new solutions together with our customers.