Like the construction equipment industry as a whole, the Mobile Hydraulics Group of Bosch Rexroth enjoyed a good a year in 2018. “Our efforts to restructure the company and gain market share definitely paid off,” said Bernd Schunk, Senior Vice President Sales for Mobile Hydraulics. “We generated another double-digit increase in revenue, boosted by the positive market environment.”
Speaking at last month’s bauma show in Munich, he said the company’s success is based on technological leadership, application know-how and global presence. But as the mobile-equipment industry enjoys steady growth, it also faces a range of technology-driven obstacles. “Our industry has to master a range of challenges: stricter emissions regulations; increasing requirements for productivity, energy efficiency and safety; and increasing demands for innovative solutions like automation, connectivity and electrification,” Schunk noted.
“These challenges are being accompanied by sharper innovation cycles and limited development capacities at our customers. More and more OEMs, especially smaller ones, are looking for partners who do more than just supply specified components — partners like Bosch Rexroth and Robert Bosch who can offer tailored and proven solutions for these requirements and these challenges.
“What does that mean for the development of mobile machine for the future? We want to lead the change,” he said, focusing on areas of development like more-efficient electrohydraulic systems, equipment electrification, function automation and drive assistance, and digital connectivity among components and machines.
“The foundation for these solutions is created by our wide range of products,” he noted. Components at the functional level must deliver complete solutions, for instance travel drives that include built-in safety capabilities. These individual operations must be integrated to work seamlessly together at the machine level.
For good reason Rexroth exhibited at bauma under the motto, “Transforming mobile machines,” said Schunk. “We don’t see disruptive changes, for example the electric drive replacing the hydraulic system. We see more of an evolution, and at Bosch Rexroth we see change as an opportunity and want to actively shape it.
“One good example is our new portfolio of electric drives for mobile machines.” The development strategy combines the expertise of Bosch Automotive and that of Bosch Rexroth’s industrial business with application know-how from the mobile side, he explained. They are adding an entire range of e-motors, inverters and software to the existing line of hydraulic products. With different form factors and frame sizes it permits integration into existing machine layouts, yet also offers the freedom to develop new machine architectures. “We will play the same leading role in the segment of electrification that we already play in the area of hydraulics,” said Schunk.
Another example of transforming mobile machines is the opportunity that arises from the connection of components and between machines, said Alexander Flaig, Senior Vice President of Engineering Systems.
“If you look around at the show, you see that digitalization of mobile machines is fully underway. Any machine showcased here is already digital, meaning electronically controlled. Rexroth has always been a promoter and driver of this transformation.” He cited, as one example, the company’s electro-hydrostatic drives. The product includes a pump, motor, control unit and modular software in a complete package to help OEMs transition from traditional hydrostatic drives to electronically controlled ones that bring sizeable efficiency and performance benefits.
“But where do go from here, now that machines are digitally controlled?” Increasingly, he said, machines will be digitally connected. To address that trend, the company launched a new platform at bauma 2019 called the Bosch Rexroth Connected Off-Highway Solution (COS).
“This is an end-to-end solution that connects machines, sub-systems and users to the cloud and back. It’s based on the Bosch IoT Suite, which already connects more than 8 million devices including 4 million automotive vehicles. So scalability is not an issue,” said Flaig.
“Like our other offerings, we require it to be open and flexible. We have smart hardware, an open back-end and, of course, a configurable front end. And it already comes with many applications, such as fleet management, vehicle health monitoring, updating software over the air, and integration of machines into company IT workflows.
“We expect users and OEMS to implement their own ideas onto this platform,” he said. Rexroth also offers a complete end-to-end package that lets companies comprehensively connect their machines and provide information and insight to everyone from technicians to fleet managers.
Both the end-to-end solution and individually selectable modules can be seamlessly linked to third-party systems. Conversely, the open modules can be integrated into existing IoT back-ends in exactly the same way. Rexroth has made provisions for as many interfaces as possible with COS, whether it’s the integration of third party apps into the Bosch back-end or the incorporation of individual modules into existing IoT back-ends.
“We think this is a differentiator in this market. Everybody has a connectivity solution today, but I haven’t met anyone who is totally happy with their system,” said Flaig. The Internet of Things is becoming increasingly relevant for mobile machines. However, there has always been a lack of comprehensive solutions combining a globally reliable IT infrastructure with the sector’s unique requirements. The situation has now changed with the launch of the Connected Off-Highway Solution, he said. “Here, we bring together Bosch Rexroth application know-how in hydraulics and in total machine control with the power of Bosch in the Internet of Things for individual solutions for mobile machines.”