Energy, safety themes fuel manufacturing market optimism
Energy and safety have been the central themes of automation suppliers at the 2011 Hannover Messe, with many companies introducing products to specifically address current issues.
Energy and safety have been the central themes of automation suppliers at the 2011 Hannover Messe. With energy prices the only obvious barrier, manufacturing leaders see a clear path to continued robust growth in the manufacturing sector.
The optimism at Hannover this year has been palpable. The return of crowds after a recession and a volcano has matched the return of sales for most major companies. Most manufacturers are back to 2008 levels and projections show double digit growth on the near horizon for motors, drives and automation companies.
“We have registered pleasingly high growth across all geographical areas and branches of industry. Our existing customers have regained their previous strength and have been joined by new customers and new fields of business,” says Beckhoff Managing Director Hans Beckhoff. “One of the main growth areas is the Asian market, but we also grew by 45 % even in North America and Germany last year.”
Other sectors are seeing growth because the push to get as energy-efficient as possible to cut costs is getting plant managers to look at new equipment. Atlas Copco, for example, introduced a new oil-free compressor at Hannover Messe that the company says offers up to 9% cost savings when compared with traditional turbo compressors.
“This is a relatively mature project,” said Stephan Kuhn, president of Atlas Copco’s worldwide compressor business. “The shape of the impeller, the direct drive technique and the magnetic bears all help to drove efficiency.” The compressor uses two high-speed motors and no gearbox, which drives a large part of the savings.
The move to get this kind of incremental improvement comes from a more Euro-centric approach to energy, Kuhn noted. “Europe pays a lot of attention to this issue,” he said. “We have 23% of our plants in Germany that run on nuclear power. Seven of them have been shut down to check for safety. Now there is discussion in Germany that if we didn’t bring them back on line, the cost would go up. And it’s already high today.”
Festo is planting its stake in the compressed air efficiency areas as well. The company cited four tips to consider when designing a decentralized compressed air preparation system:
- What is the maximum flow rate required?
- What connection sizes are required?
- Do all consuming devices need the same compressed air quality?
- What compressed air quality does the compressor actually provide?
Another company that is pushing the energy button is Bosch Rexroth, both for itself and its customers. “Bosch Rexroth has set itself the goal of lowering CO2 emissions in all Rexroth plants worldwide by 20% by 2020. We are now offering to share the expertise acquired as a result of this goal with other industrial organizations,” said Dr. Karl Tragl, chairman of the executive board of Bosch Rexroth AG. “The specially trained energy efficiency consultants from Rexroth have an in-depth understanding of all drive and control technologies, and a wealth of experience with almost all machine types. Pilot projects are showing that the investment is often amortized within the first year thanks to significant energy savings.”
Lenze is working at both ends of the drive efficiency issue. They released their 8400 decentralized inverter drive line, which promises a 30% reduction in energy consumption. They’ve also developed the Drive Solution Designer, which allows users to model the complete drive train to determine the most efficient design for the system. They see uses in the material handling industry, or other applications when long operations are needed and efficiency loss multiplies.
“With the long running time in material handling applications, energy use is one of the major cost factors – and one of the first places we look to reduce costs,” said product manager Craig Dahlquist.
Annual Salary Survey
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.
The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.