Bosch Rexroth Corp. CEO Berend Bracht held a formal presentation Wednesday April 23 reporting solid growth in 2007 and offering an upbeat double-digit growth forecast for 2008. Design News Editor-in-Chief John Dodge quizzed Bracht over the phone about the state of this “Drive & Control” company and on the engineering profession.
DN: Is Bosch Rexroth an engineering company?
Bracht: There’s no doubt BR is an engineering company. Even those in our sales force have engineering degrees (check out Bosch Rexroth’s unique Fun Facts and Creative Diversions humor pages for engineers).
DN: Of the 3,150 jobs Bosch Rexroth added last year, how many were engineers?
Bracht: I would have to get that for you (later in the day, a spokesman could only say 75 percent of the new jobs were in production).
DN: Is BR partial toward a particular type of engineer? Would that be a mechanical engineer? I know that’s your background.
Bracht: That might have been the case in the past, but the electrical engineering side is gaining or might be the highest numbers today. Electro-hydraulics is the future with proportional valves and electric drive pumps and motors. We get into the connectivity [before] the mechanical work.
DN: How well do you think engineering graduates in the U.S. are prepared for the working world?
Bracht: Being able to apply automation products is lacking a little bit. That’s why we have that push to help with these colleges. At Texas A&M, we donated equipment and they opened up an additional lab for automation and [offered] courses for the student, which in the long term is very beneficial for our industry (BR rival Rockwell Automation made a gift of nearly a $1 million in cash and equipment for an automation lab in 2000). Overall, there could be more of a push toward integration of what the industry needs as opposed to what the colleges are offering to the students.
DN: Is giving students experience in the working world while they are in college a good idea?
Bracht: In Germany, you have two semesters [in the working world]. It’s a very good idea and helps you grow up. A lot of [college] students are quite young. It gives you better feedback on what the real world is like and helps you make the decision that this is not the right field for you and you should choose something different. Or you get the idea you love it and it’s the right thing and you go back to college with a higher level of commitment.
DN: How important is mechatronics to Bosch Rexroth?
Bracht: It’s been here for some time and we’re going away from the [single] component fields. The need to understand electrical, mechanical, pneumatics and hydraulics in a system approach is here. That focus is increasing. We are going away from only having [single] component sales to integrated modules and components that unify two, three or four parts of these different technologies.
DN: [In your formal presentation] you showed a slide of a “mechatronics assembly cube.” What is that?
Bracht: We are basically integrating the linear technology with other [technologies]. More and more, linear, automation, electric drives and controls have to be connected in smart and efficient ways. We also have open architecture so we can link to our competitor’s products. (A spokesperson added the mechatronics cube is used for education to teach students about mechatronics. Bosch Rexroth has relationships with about five technical colleges in North America. Besides Texas A&M are Illinois State, Tri-County Technical College, Lake Superior State University and Niagara College Technology Technical Centre).
DN: What is the impact of rising energy costs on Bosch Rexroth’s business?
Bracht: That’s a difficult question. It’s a benefit because in the oil industry, there are lots of Bosch Rexroth products such as pumps and motors. The higher the oil price, the more investment that will take place. Of course, there is a cost factor to us and on the transportation side, we see the hit. That translates back to a flowing economy. The less the consumer is buying, the less that is being produced.
DN: What is the answer to the energy problem?
Bracht: Your guess is as good as mine.
DN: What are the hottest growth areas?
Bracht:Hydrostatic Regenerative Braking(watch the video) is something we have in development and we have contracts with refuse truck users (in his formal presentation, Bracht said the technology promises to reduce diesel consumption by up to 25 percent in hybrid hydraulics). On the wind, we have different pockets. Germany is high [in usage] of wind mills (see related blog post).
(In his formal presentation Wednesday, April 23, Bracht mentioned a $247 million investment in a new wind turbine gear plant in Germany, industrial automation in the U.S. lumber industries, several solar initiatives including panel positioning via hydraulics and U.S. plant expansions.)
Related Podcast: DN Editor-in-Chief John Dodge interviewed Bosch Rexroth Corp. CEO and President Berend Bracht yesterday about the quality of American engineers coming out of school and about the business outlook for 2008. His assessment is upbeat, especially about wind turbines, solar and regenerative braking for hydraulically powered vehicles.
|Bosch Rexroth Corp. CEO and President Berend Bracht