All comments attributed to Paul Bowden Vice President Sales Bosch Rexroth
Q1. In your view, what are the current key talking point areas?
Control of hydraulics is a significant talking point within the industry. 2014 has seen a strong demand for not only more efficient and powerful equipment, but systems which match the demands of the application. This is clear to see with an array of hydraulic technologies available in the market place which will only generate the necessary energy an application requires during operation, enhancing efficiencies.
The industry is adding more intelligence to hydraulic systems. For example, intelligent controls can now automatically compensate for external changes in a hydraulic system, as well as allowing for longer operation periods between maintenance intervals, as the system can monitor its own health. In addition, variable speed pump drives can now reduce a machine’s energy requirements by as much as 80 per cent.
Q2. How have end users or OEMs requirements for systems and equipment changed in recent times?
Energy efficiency and system reliability are paramount. We are seeing a trend with organisations taking a more proactive approach to service and performance through initiatives such as preventative maintenance – all of which helps to increase performance uptime and reduce downtime.
Upgrading existing systems is on the rise. There has been an increase in the demand to take out old systems and retrofit intelligent systems, prolonging the life of existing equipment and reducing running costs.
ii. How have vendors sought to satisfy these changing requirements in terms of enhanced solutions and services?
Companies can no longer simply supply individual components. More and more, vendors are taking a holistic view of hydraulic systems to provide a complete fully integrated solution.
Q3. Some level of ‘re-shoring’ (relocating production plants from, for example, Asia back to Europe or the US) has recently taken place. Please provide your views and knowledge regarding this trend – for example, has your company been actively involved in re-shoring, or does it have plans to do so; and for what reasons?
We do see re-shoring happening in the UK. Anecdotally, we’re seeing more and more companies coming back to the UK in order to benefit from engineering expertise.
For this same reason, UK based engineers are increasingly in demand to deliver overseas projects.
Q4. Please talk about your perceptions with regard to market/economic improvements or lack of improvement within your particular technology sector (and other sectors if you feel this to be appropriate) over the past few months to a year or so.
The automotive industry has seen a significant improvement in 2014 with investments to enhance production at all major automotive manufacturers. It has also been a positive year for the aerospace industry, attracting inward investment.
The onshore and offshore oil and gas industry continues to attract healthy investments, and it will be interesting to see what the future holds, particularly with the current situation with oil prices.
Q5. How are fluid power solutions markets (construction/off road, manufacturing, civil engineering, agriculture, offshore, public sector, etc.) fairing in the current economic climate, from your perspective?
2014 has been a strong year for the majority of key markets we operate in, with significant success in the automotive, renewable energies, construction and offshore industries, which we are keen to build upon in 2015.
Q6. Please provide your views on current available training courses and education in general within the UK. Do they meet your company’s (and/or your customers’) requirements?
The UK has seen a massive increase in the number of engineering and manufacturing apprentices in recent years. We have found it easier to attract people to apprenticeships than five years ago and have significantly increased the number of apprentices within the business to meet future growth needs.
The fluid power industry is currently quite well covered, with good opportunities for people to develop.
However, we have a large shortage of engineering and manufacturing skills in this country so it is vitally important that this momentum is maintained and we do all we can to attract young people into this industry.
Q7. Please provide your predictions for the future with regard to technological enhancements/innovations (within your specific technology sphere, or within the fluid power and related systems space in general) that you believe are likely to gain traction over the next couple of years or so.
Industry 4.0, or the ‘Connected Industry’, is a huge talking point within the industry and the integration of smart devices into the automation process will only become more prominent as we move forward. Machine manufacturers are demanding better and faster access to all information of machine controls. This exposure will enable manufacturers more freedom to optimise performance and analyse production data from familiar IT programs and languages, helping to reduce costs and increase flexibility.