CEO Boris Schneidhuber was available for an interview. Questions about the current business model, future trends and internationalization will be answered. Of course, e-mobility, autonomous driving and Industry 4.0 are also key topics of the conversation.
In short: a good distribution network, early recognition of trends and the right portfolio at the right time - with a special focus on certain standard product lines.
Mr. Schneidhuber, AKE has been showing rapid growth over the years - what makes this dynamic possible?
What does that mean in concrete terms?In recent years, we have invested heavily in the development of standardized plant concepts. We adapt these systems to the particular needs of our customers, but the basic principle is the same and has proven itself. Such systems make a big contribution to our sales figures now.
Do you have an example for such a system?Our standard cell for the production of power distribution boxes has established itself in the market. Our innovative press system "Verinno" also makes up a large proportion of the systems sold.
What is "Verinno" needed for?The "Verinno" is a press with interchangeable tools and is used to process interior components in vehicles, such as armrests and pillar trim.
But there are still more main pillars?Sure, for example our test benches, which triggered a veritable hype at the last trade fair due to the latest innovations. With three-dimensional excited test stands, we are looking for noise in components or the entire vehicle.
Is it really possible to score points with standard systems today?Of course, in addition to these so-called standards, we also concentrate on inquiries for special developments. But we are always looking for solutions that are widely applicable and that bring benefits not only to us but also to our customers.
For one year you have a subsidiary in Romania. Labor costs for reason or even more advantages?The factor labor costs, of course, creates a cost advantage for us that makes us even more competitive on the market. But moreover, many of our customers produce in Eastern Europe, thus a lot of assembly lines go to these countries. And the establishment in Romania also serves as a service base. The employees there are quickly available to our customers for maintenance or repair work. We can easily realize the required repair times of less than 24 hours, which is a clear selling point. Plant extensions and changes can also be implemented quickly and easily.
Is further internationalization planned?Currently we have a laboratory in a subsidiary of our partner company TS TECH in China. We are also represented by distributors in Spain, Portugal, China, Korea, Japan and the USA. Additionally talks are also held for the Indian and South African region.
In the near future, another AKE base is planned in the USA. There are already talks with regional representatives. We have numerous customers in the USA and Central America. First, a small branch is planned, but let’s see how it will develop. The automotive market in the USA in particular has enormous potential.
How do your production methods and products change as a result of the politically decided turn to electric cars?This area is one of our pillars for the future with growth guarantee. Already since 2012, we have successively expanded the field of assembly testing technology with a focus on electronic components. Our product portfolio now ranges from power management boxes to fuse and power distribution boxes to the manufacture of single cells and the complete battery system for electric cars. Tesla has been one of our customers for years. In addition, we also want to support the car manufacturers, who are now taking the step towards e-mobility.
Our area of test bench construction for noise analysis is also affected. Due to more and more quieter vehicles in combination with the trend towards autonomous driving, more attention is paid to the acoustics and processing of the vehicle in the interior.
What is changing, especially due to the unstoppable trend towards autonomous vehicles?This development will revolutionize the way of working. Answer e-mails on the way to the airport, make calculations on the way to work or even put the final touch on the presentation on the way to the customer ...
Of course, this trend also has an impact on our product portfolio. When drivers no longer need to focus on driving the vehicles, other aspects come to the fore - in short, the connected vehicle. AKE is already investing heavily in the development of new technologies in order to provide access to the required plant technology timely.