Less is more when it comes to reducing the overall mass of a vehicle, particularly in the often hidden components. Automotive Industries asked Thomas Muhr from sector leader Muhr und Bender Maschinenbau (Mubea) to share the technological changes through the eyes of his company:
Muhr: Mubea started as a spring manufacturer 90 years ago. Over the years we have focused our product portfolio on highly stressed springs and related products for the automotive industry. Today Mubea’s products are used in suspension systems, engines, transmissions as well as body in white. With some of our products, such as engine valve springs, suspension coil springs or hose clamps, which have been in our line-up for many years, we enjoy leadership positions in many markets. Others such as tailor rolled products, assembled cam-shaft or hollows shafts have been developed more recently and are currently expanding their market positions very rapidly.
Automotive Industries (AI): What are the benefits that Mubea’s newest product line of tailor rolled products offer in terms of lower part weight and cost?
Muhr: Mubea decided to launch this technology as an industry premiere on an industrial scale in 2004 because of the huge potential it presents to reduce the weight of the body in white. The tailor rolling technology allows varying the thickness of the steel in a continuous manner, meaning that the thickness run can be exactly adjusted to the required mechanical performances.
AI: Your technology is present in body, chassis, engine and transmission. In which of these areas do you see potential for growth?
Muhr: We have gone through numerous benchmark studies with our customers showing how all of Mubea’s products contribute to weight reduction. Furthermore we feel that with our current product line up we are among technical leaders for each of our components. Therefore each one of them has a strong potential for growth.
AI: What do you think is the biggest design challenge in bringing the weight down for the automotive industry?
Muhr: As I have explained we are focusing our efforts on further optimising traditional materials such as steel. This is because there is still a huge potential for weight reduction in this approach without the necessity to provide radically new materials or designs. Obviously there are trends mainly related to safety and to comfort features of the vehicles which have driven the weight of vehicles up in the past. To stop this trend, meaning to provide continuously improved safety behaviour and more comfortable driving without inflationary growth of vehicle weight, is certainly a strong challenge for the industry. As we have demonstrated to most OEM’s, Mubea’s technology can provide weight savings in the range of 20 kilograms on recent vehicles. With this we can be a strong contributor to this challenge.
AI: What are your goals for expansion worldwide and in particular with the Japanese carmakers?
Muhr: Mubea has a strong position with the European and North American OEMs through our longstanding presence in the US and Mexico, as well as Western and Eastern Europe. Over the last years we have been able to catch the interest of all major Japanese and Korean carmakers and develop businesses for our suspension and engine components. We have installed teams in Japan at two locations as well as in Korea to serve our customers locally during the development and the life of the vehicle. We will further grow the capabilities of our teams in front of the customers and also our industrial presence in Asia to be able to serve them in all relevant markets.
AI: You are a family owned company. Does that allow you more flexibility with your future planning?
Muhr: Stability in ownership and management allows us to follow clear strategic directions that we have set and that we are working to. As any company in this industry we have to preserve our ability to react fast to changing market requirements. Short decision processes and accountability at all hierarchical levels are the key success factors that describe our organisation and which we will preserve. Obviously being a family owned and family managed company does give us an advantage when it comes to fast decision making.
AI: How do you meet the OEM’s demand for high quality, lower system cost, and just in time delivery?
Muhr: Those are the â€˜basics’ for any automotive supplier and no supplier can be successful without satisfying our customers requirements in that respect. How do we try to achieve it ? By rigorously managing our operations, constantly searching for improvements and working with our customers for design optimisations. To do this in an organised manner we are permanently developing our tool-box of methods we use in design, purchasing and productions.
AI: Congratulations on you Global Supplier Award from DaimlerChrysler! You are one of only eight companies honoured with this high accolade for outstanding performance in 2005! Can you tell us what it takes to achieve this award?
Muhr: This nomination, which we received for the second time from DaimlerChrysler, makes our team extremely proud. We see it as a recognition for the work of our employees who strive to listen to the customer, understand their requirements and then fulfill them. I don’t think anything special can be identified as the factor for our selection but probably more the stability in the approach of the above.