Eaton engineers are constantly developing smarter ways to simultaneously deliver both eco¡lo¡gical and economic benefits through the development of energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies that include hybrid electric and hydraulic powertrains, electrical power control systems and high-pressure hydraulic aircraft systems and automotive super¡chargers for enhanced fuel efficiency, says Nitin Chalke, Managing Director - India, Eaton. Excerpts from the interview.
Would you brief us on the evolution of the hydraulic systems for the last one decade?
Across factory and mobile applications, hydraulics has always been the best choice for high power-density applications. Traditional strengths of this key technology are centered on power, strength, durability and control. Growing consumption of hydraulic products in the construction and infrastructure segments has now been a long term trend. The increased investments and expansions in core industries also remained major growth drivers for the hydraulic equipment and components markets.
Additionally, due to the growing awareness around environment and prevention of worker fatigue, demand for smarter technologies like electro hydraulics and products with low NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels is also growing. Segments like construction, agriculture, mining, energy and oil and gas are the crucial ones which are fueling this demand for quality hydraulics products. The latest trends in hydraulics systems point to applications of electronics, high pressure systems, compactness and systems without foundations. The customers are now majorly looking for the best usage of space, better power density and energy efficiency.
To what extent does the stringent emission norms and increasing demand for highly fuel and energy efficient equipment have a bearing on the growth trajectory of hydraulic systems manufacturers such as Eaton?
All hydraulics equipment essentially needs to fit into the prescribed energy efficiency norms by default. The end users, OEMs and consultants - all of them demand highly energy-efficient machines so that the running cost of power is kept low and consequently the total cost of ownership comes down. New designs, materials, and technologies are extending this advantage like never before. But, good as they are, these new components are destined to be a smaller and smaller piece of the overall hydraulics industry pie.
The real action in the coming years is going to be focused not on components but rather on integrated system solutions that marry hydraulics and electronics in increasingly innovative ways. This marriage will deliver even smarter products that combine the intelligence of electronics with the power density of hydraulics to enable all of these applications and many more that have not ever been thought of yet.
Eaton is answering the emerging needs through the development of new smart electro-hydraulic technologies that shrink the footprint of hydraulics systems, improve their performance and energy efficiency and reduce emissions. These technologies give equipment manufacturers greater design flexibility to achieve the goal that every customer desires: more function, less fuel.
How do you address the OEMs` demands that are seemingly contradictory requirements with reference to energy and fuel efficiency?
Globally, across industries, OEMs are getting technically more demanding with their needs becoming seemingly contradictory: the equipment must be more powerful while being very fuel efficient; it needs to be extremely rugged while being very precise at the same time. The old demands of reliability remain but new standards of flexibility, serviceability and power are now being set.
Hydraulics providers have a major role to play in enabling OEMs to meet these demands. OEMs are looking to their hydraulics partners to provide the smart muscle to power their machines. Hydraulic systems that can handle greater pressure with increased flow capacity and combined together into smaller packages to increase power density are in demand. At the same time better controls, precise power management through integration of electronic controls is required in order to meet the demands placed on these equipments.
There are a select number of hydraulics providers that can meet these requirements, and even fewer that have the breadth of hydraulics products that spans the range required to be a true systems solution provider. We believe Eaton is uniquely qualified to meet the needs of our OEMs. Eaton has a long history of serving the OEMS in key segments such as construction and agriculture around the world, as well as in India. Our wide range of pumps and motors, steering units, mobile valves and hoses are used as systems solutions across platforms by leading OEMs in these markets. At the same time, we are constantly innovating to meet our customers' needs across markets and segments.
Could you throw some light on the developments happening in Eaton R&D, globally?
Eaton wants to be the most admired company in its markets with the singular focus on helping customers manage electrical, fluid and mechanical power better, making it more efficient, reliable and safe. To enable this, Eaton is committed to continuous investment in R&D programmes through its innovation centers across the globe. Eaton innovation centers empower us with distinct capabilities to cater to various industries and markets. The larger objective of these innovation centres is to bring maximum value to Eaton customers. The innovation centers emphasise on developing advanced technologies, leveraging capabilities, serving diversified operations and supporting customers with innovative solutions that they need to compete and win.
In India, Eaton's Hydraulics manufacturing facility at Pimpri in Pune is an Eaton Center of Excellence (COE) for gear pumps and has been expanded to manufacture various other hydraulics products and systems such as steering control units, hitch valves, power units and cylinders. The hitch valves designed and manufactured in India go into one of world's leading tractor brands. Besides, Eaton also has an integrated test lab with 38,000 sq ft of testing area at its Ranjangaon facility for Industrial Sector products.
Our engineering centre in Pune is the largest integrated engineering center for Eaton anywhere. This center provides support to our global R&D projects across all our business segments. We also have in house testing capabilities within this facility.
What sort of a growth do you envisage this fiscal?
Eaton sees an exciting market opportunity in India, particularly in the area of infrastructure development. As per the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-2017) of the Government of India, there is a projected investment of USD 1 trillion in infrastructure. This certainly translates into a wide range of opportunities for all of Eaton's businesses in India. While we will continue to work in our traditional focus segments such as agriculture, construction, processing etc., we see many opportunities in segments such as oil and gas, and machinery as well. Eaton's India operations remain significant in driving the company's manufacturing capabilities. Additionally, our professional services centre in Pune will continue to be a major area of focus to enhance Eaton's global competitiveness.
What is the role played by Eaton in terms of green products?
Eaton's ability to develop innovative products and solutions that help customers and users conserve resources and reduce their carbon footprint, is critical to realising Eaton's vision of becoming the most admired company in its markets. Eaton is thus committed to developing customer solutions that drive sustainable growth around the globe. Eaton engineers are constantly developing smarter ways to simultaneously deliver both ecological and economic benefits through the development of energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies. These include hybrid electric and hydraulic powertrains that boost fuel economy and reduce particulate emissions in trucks, buses and service vehicles; electrical power control systems for the efficient use of power; high-pressure hydraulic aircraft systems that reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency; automotive superchargers for enhanced fuel efficiency and many more. Eaton's success in this area is a key factor in achieving competitive advantage and making the world a better place. Here, I would also like to mention the electro-hydraulic technology which uses the same hydraulic assist technology as standard systems, with the only difference on the hydraulic pressure that comes from a pump driven by an electric motor instead of a drive belt at the engine. This technology is gaining popularity in the industry due to its extremely compact package and reliability factor. These are not only fuel efficient but are also environmentally friendly considering the low power requirements and the fact that they have no emissions.
Electro-hydraulic Steering by Eaton is a combination of Char-Lynn« steering unit and VickersT advanced proportional valve technology that create Eaton's new auto guidance products. These auto guidance steering products are suited for use with tractors, sprayers, combines, motor graders, scrapers and other off-road equipment. These steering units are also available with Q-ampT and 2-speed, which increase efficiency while maintaining excellent road performance.