With its roots in mechanical engineering and hydraulics, how does a company like Bosch Rexroth adapt to digitalization and the increasing opportunities that software creates? We spoke to Dr. Steffen Haack (member of Bosch Rexroth’s Executive Board with responsibility for development) to find out how our company is embracing the change and how it will benefit you.
What is Bosch Rexroth’s biggest development challenge?
At Bosch Rexroth, we’re passionate about being the best that we can be, in order to drive our customers’ businesses forward. This is reflected in our promise to our customers: “We move. You win”. Of course, product development is a crucial part of this.
Many of the products we’ve developed that have a very good reputation with our customers, consist mainly of hardware. But hardware is increasingly becoming a price-driven product and it’s getting harder to create real benefits for our customers. That’s where software and data usage come in. Building more competency in this field and embracing the new opportunities brings an exciting challenge for us.
Can you tell us what this means for customers and explain what the benefits are?
By shifting mechanical functions, such as pump controllers, to the software, costs are reduced, flexibility is increased and lead times are shortened. In addition to this, customers’ systems will be able to be connected and all kinds of possibilities for data analysis will open up, which will enhance performance and productivity.
There are many tangible ways in which customers can benefit from these changes, and it’s up to us to prove there is real value in making this transition.
How well informed are customers when it comes to software? Do they know what’s possible?
It’s not easy these days for customers to stay up to date with all the new developments – especially when technology is evolving at such a fast pace. Many are doing a great job, but they can’t always know what’s technologically possible or what technologies are used in a product – especially when this technology can be complex.
We see it as part of our role to show our customers how they can get even more out of a product and to use it to their best advantage. That’s why many of our customers think of us more as a partner than a supplier. Of course, it differs from one industry to another – and from one business to another – but we’re happy to fit in our customer’s plan or to help them get started and guide them on their journey.
What will the relationship between hardware and software development be in the future?
Over time, more and more mechanical functions will migrate over to software in our world of mechanical engineering. We already have pure software products, such as our laser localization software that’s used in mobile robots. You can expect to see software taking a greater share in the development of our drives and controls going forward. This will mean that our development teams will need to work together more seamlessly than ever before.
If the software share in Bosch Rexroth products is going to increase, where will the software expertise come from?
Our goal is to make our customers better and give them all important competitive advantage, for instance by making them more efficient and improving their productivity. In order to do this, we have to be constantly expanding and renewing our own competencies in this field, so that our customers can reap the benefits of our expertise.
That’s why we’re already building up partner networks with universities and start-ups. One of the benefits of being part of the wider Bosch Group is that we have access to initiatives that support talented start-ups and drive innovation in our industry, so we can also draw on that wider pool of knowledge.
With technology changing rapidly, it’s essential that our people are being continuously educated and brought up to speed with the latest developments. We also want to attract new young minds, who will bring a fresh perspective with them to our company.
So, will Bosch Rexroth slowly turn into a software company?
While more opportunities are arising for us to create and supply software products to our customers – and I believe that demand will steadily increase – our DNA will always be mechanical engineering. So, the majority of what we do will still be firmly rooted in the design and production of hardware components, but with embedded software.
In much the same way as we see in the devices that we use in our day-to-day lives, it’s likely that more and more of our components will be enhanced by electronics with software, or an increasing share of software. It’s all about maximizing our solutions and making sure that our customers get all the benefits and advantages that software technology can offer.
With regard to devices in our day-to-day lives, was this user-friendliness the aim of the new ctrlX AUTOMATION platform?
We wanted to build a bridge between the devices that people use in their everyday lives and the automation world. That’s why we say we have developed the smartphone for automation, including the corresponding app technology. We only succeeded because we gave the responsible development team the necessary freedom. This meant they were able to break away from everything that existed and take a completely new path, with the goal of making automation as easy as possible for the user.