ZF is a leading worldwide automotive supplier for driveline and chassis technology with 121 production companies in 27 countries. In 2011, the Group achieved a sales figure of roughly EUR 15.5 billion with approximately 72,100 employees. ZF is among the top 10 companies on the ranking list of the largest automotive suppliers worldwide. ZF annually invests about five percent of its sales (2010: EUR 646 million) in Research and Development, says Hermann Beck, Vice President Industrial Technology, Head - Off-Highway Systems, ZF. Excerpts from the interview.
How has ZF responded to the high regional growth opportunities?
ZF created additional production capacity with the shift of production facilities from Pune to Coimbatore.
More OEM touch points have brought additional complexity and more technical challenges for driveline and chassis system manufacturers. What is your take on this?
ZF has technology solutions tailor-made for specific customer needs. That strategy provides various pro¡duct platforms. Based on this, technical evolutions like the ZF Efficiency Package, CVT Transmissions or even hybrid solutions can be rolled out in future, depending on the existing regional or strategic needs of customers.
Brief us on the implications of stringent emission norms on ZF. How competent is ZF in packaging its solutions?
Higher fuel efficiency, lower emissions and increasing productivity are the main driving factors for the construction machinery market already today and even more in the future. That is why ZF is focusing on these topics and why we see high potentials in the so-called emerging markets.
Design to market is one key element in ZFs global strategy. That means adjust design to expectations of local customers and the possibilities and demands of the local industrialisation market.
We are trying to meet this demand by creating global product platforms so we can adjust specific technological steps exactly to the according market requirements; from basic powershift transmissions and dry brake axles to CVT transmissions, wet brakes and high efficient axles.
How do you view the increasing impact in the hardware design due to environmental regulations? What is its impact on ZF?
The overall optimisation of the driveline system does require different approaches for the individual driveline components. Components considered as being of minor importance also offer considerable potentials at limited efforts.
After optimisation of the individual components, additional potentials can only be achieved by a system approach. This system approach will play a major role in our future strategies. In combination with our axle and transmission expertise we see fuel saving of 20-30 per cent for our products. The ZF Efficiency Package is recent technology to address this system approach.
Based on our long term experience in the agricultural sector we already made the next step in this evolution - CVT technology for construction machinery. Hybrid modules for all relevant applications will be a final step as soon as markets, customers and environment-political infrastructure request that technology.
Could you elaborate on cPower technology and its application areas?
There are a lot of options. The CVT is interesting for all machines, which work mainly in the low speed area, where the torque converter is open or for applications where the engine speed is dominated by the working hydraulic and not by the driving. With CVT, you have a high degree of freedom for the driving strategy and that offers a lot of potential for different applications. Several projects for different applications are ongoing.
With the CVT transmission, we will cover the same power range like Ergopower does today. At the higher product range we will have an additional size for wheel loaders up to 35t.
What are the design advantages of CV technology for wheel loaders and compact loaders?
High loads at low speeds in combination with high dynamic are the outstanding requirements for construction machinery. These criteria are met optimally by the new ZF CVT transmission technology with a degree of efficiency that was inconceivable up to now. While searching for the ideal transmission concept, it became clear that other technologies and mixed hydrostatic and power-split concepts had considerable disadvantages and were only compromises with constraints in performance and efficiency.
What are the solutions offered for material handling equipment like lift trucks?
To suit individual customer requirements, ZF provides front and rear drives for electric counterbalance lift trucks and ready-to-install complete systems for any kind of warehouse handling equipment such as elevating work platforms, electric tractors, cleaning vehicles, automatically guided transport systems or other special applications with various options: spur gear, helical bevel gear or planetary transmission.
For diesel applications, ZF supplies its Ergopower transmissions for lift truck systems, reach stackers and straddle carriers of up to 60 tonne lifting capacity and 330 kW engine power. For terminal, yard and RoRo tractors, ZF offers its Ergopower transmissions which suit gross combined weight ratings of up to 270 tonne.
Could you elaborate on the Ecomix?
The Ecomix II transmission CML 10 in comparison to previous models with PLM 9 is approximately 24 per cent lighter and 50 per cent shorter. However, the special design of the new mixer transmission range Ecomix II also offers a wide range of further advantages. Thanks to a tough bearing concept it was possible to significantly increase the output bearing strength, which leads to less sensibility at off-road operation.
The use of patented Elastomer units from ZF Boge Elastmetall allows an increase of the axial run-out at drum bottom and an increase of misalignment of the drum. With the new bearing concept the installation angle is no longer dependent on drum size and drum filling. An installation angle up to 20¦ is always possible. Acoustic and mechanic descoupling of drum and vehicle frame leads to considerable noise reduction during operation and improved driving comfort.
Brief us on the efficiency package system. What is the response from OEMs?
In loaders, the ZF-Powertrain management provides the efficiency which is required under any working condition. Wheel loaders are amongst the most purchased and technically most demanding off-road vehicles. The efficiency of a wheel loader is shown in the working cycle: an intelligent driveline system always makes the power available where it is needed. There is great value in ZF innovations. They produce advantages in equal measures for the driver, operator and manufacturer. Features such as consumption savings, comfort or ecological compatibility are of increasing importance with construction machines and construction site vehicles. ZF is decisive in pushing development forward in driveline and chassis technology.
ZF is a renowned specialist for driveline technology and recognised worldwide as innovative systems supplier for off-road machinery. The demands on these vehicle types are high: fast work with millimeter accuracy and highest productivity combined with reduced operating costs. ZF underlines its systems competence with the Efficiency Package which includes many benefits due to perfectly matched components. The field of application mainly comprises the important wheel loader, dump truck; diesel and gas lift truck market. The options of the Efficiency Package provide increased productivity and enhanced operating and driving comfort for the operator associated with a reduction of the operating and maintenance costs for the vehicle owner. Full utilisation of the Efficiency Package allows fuel savings of up to 20 per cent.
Could you brief us on the core competencies and strength of ZF?
Industrial technology is the division where the ZF Group bundles its activities for off-road applications. It comprises the development and production of transmissions and axles for agricultural and construction machinery as well as driveline technology for material handling systems, rail and special driveline vehicles. The division is also responsible for the worldwide business of marine propulsion systems, aviation technology as well as the development and production of wind power transmissions. Electronic components, shift and test systems for all kinds of applications are also included in the division's portfolio.
The business units of the industrial technology division cover a very wide range of products and markets. Approximately 13,000 employees worldwide work at 40 locations for the division.