What are your regions of opportunity?
The BRIC countries remain important drivers in the global marketplace; in fact, we continue to see our customers investing, particularly in agriculture and construction as well as the energy industry. The mining industry is among the other growth arena in the emerging economies, especially in China where mining operations are under pressure to operate more efficiently and safely. Today’s growth may not be as strong as historical growth, but there is still real sustained long-term growth in these markets driven by rising GDP and expansion of the middle class, which is in turn fueling investment in infrastructure. Beyond BRIC, I think that the industry is also seeing Africa as an emerging market – in fact, its growth rate rivals China and the diversity of markets certainly creates opportunities.
We primarily look at the growth potential. In the last year, we’ve announced two acquisitions which demonstrate that growth emerges not just geographically but also with a footprint expansion to better serve emerging markets as well as industry-leading platforms. The acquisition of Turkish manufacturer, Polimer Kauçuk Sanayi ve Pazarlama A.S., significantly broadens Eaton’s portfolio of hydraulic and industrial hose products and further expands Eaton’s global hose manufacturing footprint to allow us to better serve emerging markets with a range of hose solutions. And, the acquisition of Jeil Hydraulics Co., Ltd. demonstrates Eaton’s major commitment to the global construction equipment and mobile markets. Jeil products complement our existing product offerings, enabling us to better serve mature and emerging global markets and serve customers with a proven, competitive hydraulic portfolio for the fast-growing excavator market, one of the largest platforms in the hydraulics industry.
What areas do you see in the off-road mobile equipment industry that are lagging?
Predictive diagnostics is one area where the industry is starting to realize that it can overcome and capitalize on solving downtime. With Eaton’s LifeSense hose monitoring technology, fleet operators and individual users can continuously assess the health of hydraulic hose assemblies in real time, detecting internal fatigue, as well as external damage and providing advance notification if the hose is approaching the end of its useful life.
Distributed control architecture using CANbus technology is being rapidly adopted by all off highway OEMs. The next generation of Eaton’s electronic controls, Eaton’s Pro-FX™ family of products is an example of micro-controllers that aim to match the needs of increasingly sophisticated machine design. This technology also benefits OEMs, who want to take ownership of the software associated with their control system, which in turn can help shorten development time and get to market faster.
Technologies of the future
This is where we see solutions like LifeSense evolving to wireless technology so that off-highway applications can operate in the remotest of locations with the benefits of predictive maintenance and safety.
Additionally, we continue to explore hydraulic hybrid technology and how it can evolve to match the demands of off-highway applications. Potential benefits of this technology include the opportunity for OEMs to downsize the engine without losing productivity due to supplemental power provided by the hybrid system. We are also finding that on some platforms, a hydraulic hybrid system can actually boost machine performance and productivity. The constant evolution to more demanding duty cycles, larger machines and increasing demand for higher productivity mean these technologies are becoming much more attractive to our off-highway customers.
What keeps you up at night?
The growing sophistication of operators is something we are definitely keeping a close eye on, and it’s driving some significant design decisions. Mobile machine operators are coming from a different demographic today and over the next five to 10 years. These new operators grew up with dynamic video games, smart phones and are often more “switched on” than their predecessors. These workers expect similar performance, comfort and interface in their consumer goods. This has and will continue to drive more sophistication of vehicle systems. The challenge that pushes us to continue innovating is that controls need to have the look and feel of consumer goods—like our highly engineered VFX displays—yet withstand the harsh environments where these machines must work reliably every day.
Jeff Finch leads Eaton's global hydraulics product and markets team working with partners around the world to solve customers' fluid power challenges. Finch is active in the Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution as well as the National Fluid Power Association.