Tremendous progress in electrification

Reduced operating costs drive product changes, and precision systems and electrification deliver results and reliability.

Jules Carter, Divisional Chief Engineer, New Product Innovation, GKN
Jules Carter, Divisional Chief Engineer, New Product Innovation, GKN

responses by Jules Carter, Divisional Chief Engineer, New Product Innovation & Mark Benkendorf, Vice President of Sales & Business Development - Americas, GKN Land Systems

[GLOBAL] What are the economies you are looking at for future expansion and growth?

GKN Land Systems is a global enterprise and we continue to grow and invest in the markets that are performing strongest, namely North America, Brazil and China.  We have made major investments in terms of modern manufacturing facilities and strive to continuously improve our operational performance and quality standards to deliver the best performing engineered products and services. The Agriculture market has slowed down considerably across the globe, but we continue to see growth in Construction Equipment and the Industrial Segment in most of the regional markets that we serve.  

[GLOBAL] Has the current conditions in Russia/Ukraine or other international situations affected your current or future business plans? If yes, how?

The situation in the Ukraine is of concern to GKN Land Systems and like most companies operating in this region, our revenues and prospects for this area have been adversely impacted.  As a global company, however, we are not highly reliant upon any one single region that our long-term future will be negatively affected.

[POLITICS] What political/government regulation/standard/bill was passed in the past year that most affected the way you do business and go to market?

GKN is most impacted by any legislation or regulation that affects farm income and construction spending. We strive to continuously improve our products in terms of quality and other factors that lead to better fuel efficiency so that our customers see a competitive advantage in utilizing GKN products and engineering services.

[POLITICS] How do you foresee this effect continuing into next year and in years to come?

GKN Land Systems has made major investments and tremendous breakthroughs in the field of equipment platform and attachment electrification. This should be a tremendous growth market over the next decade and will lead to lower costs and improved productivity for our customers.

[CLIMATE] Have you seen extreme temperature and weather conditions affect the performance expectations of your vehicle/system? If so, how?

GKN’s products are engineered to function in a wide range of environments and temperatures, the extremes due to climate change have not exceeded these limits so we haven’t had to make any changes.

[TECH OF THE FUTURE] Where is the heavy-duty vehicle industry lagging (technologically and/or manufacturing process)?

The heavy duty vehicle industry is traditonally slow to change and risk averse. Progress in other sectors of the industry in terms of fuel saving technologies, hybrid drive systems, electrification, we believe will be adopted in this industry once the systems have been proven in other sectors.

[TECH OF THE FUTURE] What technology breakthroughs are necessary to propel the mobile off-road industry forward?

For the industry the end customer’s operating costs will drive the change in products. These lower costs will come from the competition between products driving innovation but also the operators will see cost savings through the increase in technology driving precision and therefore saving time on a contract.

The biggest cost change will come from the reduction of operating costs, primarily through the reduction in fuel use but also in the reduction of machine down time through increased reliability.

The increased precision will be driven through more accurate control and monitoring; GPS, machine-to-machine communication, etc. The reliability will come through condition monitoring and system controls, however electrification offers huge benefits in terms of the controllers monitoring state of heallth and the algorithms eliminating driver error.

Hybrid systems will have a large part to play in fuel saving, through engine downsizing and energy capturing systems fuel use will be cut by 30% in the near to medium term and up to 50% in the longer term. Machines offering such technology will also enable customers to win contracts in environmentally sensitive locations, where even the benefit of much quieter machines due to the hybridiation will have a benefit.

[TECH OF THE FUTURE] What current ideas and new technologies have the most potential for future gain?

Hybrid and electrification of driveline systems will have a significant gain in the future on two levels. Firstly, through the reduced running costs and improved emmissions, but also the secondary benefit of controlability will have many advantages. An electrified machine is fully computer contolled and can achieve a higher level of accuracy. These systems will easily interact with precision operation tools such as autonomous control, highly accurate GPS, drone monitoring and they will have the ability to report their current state very accurately.

[TECH OF THE FUTURE] Is hybrid/electric technology an area the company is looking to focus more of its efforts? If so, why?

GKN has a worldwide reputation in this industry as a driveline company. It is clear to us with technological developments in the last few years that the trend to electrification for the benefits of fuel saving, controlability and simplification of oppration are the future trends in many industries.

We can also see that these technology trends cut across all industry sectors we supply products to. GKN is therefore focussing on the development of the technology across industries to bring the right benefits to each sector as the products mature.

Electrification of driveline started in the heavy duty industry many years ago but rapid recent development of hybrid energy storage systems such as the GKN Gyrodrive have moved the economic position of the tecnology to be cost effective on smaller and more main stream products. With the acceptance and experience of these products in the industry the  follow on benefits of controlability, ease oy use and improved reliability will become  as valued to the operator as the fuel saving.

Hybrid technology and electrification will lead to higher net income for our customers as well as tremendous benefits to the global ecosystem.  In the Agriculture market, electrification alone could equate to improved fuel economies that could save farmers millions of gallons of fuel on an annual basis.  These technologies will soon gain momentum and GKN Land Systems is planning on leading the way.

[CHALLENGES] What new challenges have arisen that effect the way you design or manufacture your product? How you do business? How you go to market?

GKN Land Systems is an engineering focused company, so we have some of the most talented resources in the industry who are able to tackle just about any issue our customers face.  Most OEM manufacturers are already GKN customers, but I still don’t think that we have the desired market recognition that leads customers to our doors.  I would like for our customers to come to us with their biggest manufacturing/design issues and problems, so that we can have the opportunity to partner with them to bring in new ideas and technology.