Looking outside the engine for fuel savings
Automotive Industries spoke to Georg Wolf, Chairperson of the Schaeffler Group.
Georg Wolf, Chairman of the Board of ixetic
While others focus on improving engine efficiencies and reducing body mass to improve fuel consumption, a German company is obtaining exciting results by concentrating on peripherals such as oil pumps and air conditioners.
ixetic is a partner and supplier to all well known car and commercial vehicle manufacturers, and is a leader in engineering, quality and customer orientation. The company develops and produces a wide portfolio of hydraulic and vacuum pumps, transmission components, as well as air-conditioning compressors with CO2 technology and adjustable lubricating oil pumps. The product spectrum is rounded off with electrical pumps and special solutions for a wide range of applications.
ixetic originated from the hydraulics business division of Schaeffler Group (LuK). The enterprise is spread over locations in Bad Homburg, Hückeswagen, Brunswick (Ohio/USA), Yokohama (Japan), and became an independent enterprise in 2006. The company is headquartered in Bad Homburg, Germany, and has a total workforce of 1,200 employees. The Management Board consists of Georg Wolf (Chairman) and Oliver Rupps. In 2006 ixetic recorded sales of €286-million and delivered a total of around six million products.
Automotive Industries (AI) spoke to Wolf, and asked him about ixetic’s current market share and plans for the future:
Wolf: We are a partner to the world’s leaders in the automotive industry. Our products are currently being installed in a multitude of passenger cars and both medium and heavy trucks. We will increase our market share in the next two years through various activities in the automotive markets.
AI: In what areas do you see a potential for growth?
Our worldwide growth strategy is built on four pillars:
-Growth in new markets such as Asia and North America
-Growth from our current products in Europe with new partners such as Renault
-Growth in new segments, like mobile air conditioning
-Growth with innovative new technical solutions in our mainstream business
AI: How do you meet the ever increasing demand for lower fuel consumption, CO2- reduction, safety, easy handling and highest quality?
Wolf: Until now, engineers put their focus on the heart of a car – the engine – for achieving lower fuel consumption. We started thinking about solutions in our business: the ancillaries. So we developed an intelligent, temperature controlled oil pump, which saves up to 1.5 per cent fuel. Another example, combining comfort and fuel savings is ixetic’s CVT (continuous variable transmission) switchable pump. Compared to a manual transmission the fuel savings are up to 2 per cent. Each pump of the millions of pumps we produce every year must meet the stipulated performance and quality levels.
AI: What is your approach towards quality management?
Wolf: To deliver our products at the highest quality levels, ixetic has implemented a comprehensive quality management approach, encompassing all procedures for each employee. We meticulously inspect our equipment, our processes and the production output.
AI: What is the potential for business in Asia and what are your plans for the region?
Wolf: Asia is a big opportunity for us. We have just opened an office in Yokohama, Japan, to get closer to our customers there. I believe, that not only administration and sales but also production must be close to our automotive partners.
AI: How do you respond to customer requirements for local support and how important it is that ixetic is one of the few automotive suppliers in Europe to be Kaizen certified?
Wolf: As just mentioned, we have to go to the regions were our new customers are or follow the route of our current customers, if they open new production sites around the world. The Kaizen certification is confirming that we produce quality. Furthermore, the president of the Kaizen institute conferred the “Best in Class” award on the Bad Homburg plant, which hence complies with the 5 S programmes in all areas of operations proving that a permanent optimization process is reliably implemented.
AI: What are the trends in using new materials and processes in terms of lower part weight space saving design and increasing overall functionality?
Wolf: The strategy of ixetic is to look at all opportunities that help to improve our products.
AI: How do you see the future of CO2 compressors for air conditioning in terms of efficiency and reliability and what are your intentions about serial production of this new technology?
Wolf: Ten years ago we started to develop a C02 Compressor for air conditioning. ixetic always was convinced that in the end CO2 would be the final choice for mobile air conditioning systems. Believing very much in the positive results which have been achieved with delivered prototypes, and of course in-house testing, it was the next logical step for ixetic to find out, whether the completely new swash ring compressor is not only ready for high volume production, but also offers the same quality performance as the R134a compressors from today’s leading suppliers. Of course there is only one reliable method to prove this: Simply do it. Therefore ixetic has built a small volume production line for their CO2 swash ring compressor family to gain confidence, that the design concept is competitive. Just a few weeks ago, ixetic started a small volume production at its Bad Homburg facility.
AI: Can you tell us about your track record of innovation and in particular the development of the new fuel saving oil pump?
Wolf: In line with our CO2 reduction strategy, ixetic’s innovations portfolio has been expanded into our low pressure product segment like transmission or lubrication oil pumps. Built on similar basic vane-type designs, distinctive features like active leakage compensation, variable displacement, electronic controls and start/stop modes have been implemented. For lube oil pumps, fuel savings of 1.5 per cent have been proven in the NEDC cycle, compared to today’s typical serial production components. Savings are even twice as high as latest competitive variable oil pumps. Two major OEs are currently running active projects with this range of ixetic pumps. Our power saving concept is mainly based on temperature controlled adaptation of pump capacity, thereby generating economic and precise to-demand oil supply for the engine. Other innovative ixetic products are power packs for a full range of hybrid applications, new control modes for power steering, gear and vacuum pumps as well as further exciting and novel automotive fluid applications which we can not yet reveal completely.
AI: Since the sixties you have been working in close co-operation with the major German manufacturers. What are the biggest challenges of developing new solutions to exact specifications of the carmakers and translating them into serial production with zero-defect delivery?
Wolf: Yes, it is always a challenge to develop new solutions to meet or even exceed the specification of our partners - the carmakers. But it is our day to day business. The carmakers know, that we are not only developing new technically sophisticated hydraulic and vacuum solutions but that we also ensure their smooth entry into production. Our expertise extends beyond the design and development of a particular product; it includes the planning and implementation of an economically viable serial production. As I said before, our quality management ensures a smooth start to serial production.