Interview Tobias Pfendler - “Characterized by Innovation”

TOBIAS PFENDLER – Drive manufacturers often pay considerable attention to tradition and origin of their products. How Dunkermotoren successfully upkeeps these factors on one hand and meets modern challenges confidently on the other hand, Tobias Pfendler, the Director of Product Strategy and Marketing explains.

The interview was conducted by Michael Kleine, :K magazine

Mr. Pfendler, today component manufacturers are at a crossroad between the classical product portfolio and the future requirements. Let us begin with the history of Dunkermotoren up to now…

Everything started in a side room of a carpentry in Bad Godesberg close to Bonn, when the 34 years-old Christian Dunker started building electro-motors together with his brother. In 1955 the company moved to Bonndorf in the Black Forest, and in the years of the economic expansion, the company grew to be an important manufacturer of drive technology. After the death of the company founder, Dunkermotoren became part of the Alcatel/SEL group and has developed to be a global player. Since 2012 we have been a subsidiary of the American Ametek-Group. Today the company has locations in Subotica in Serbia, Taicang in China and Mount Prospect in United States.

What does the strong root in the region mean, as it is in your case in the Black Forest?

Today, Dunkermotoren is still strongly related to its region. Because of the former clock industry which was situated in the Black Forest, the region provides excellent suppliers for mechanical precision components. The larger components are somewhat more difficult to source due to transportation limitations of the region, however these components don’t play a significant role in manufacturing of our core products. While we have built new plants in Serbia and China to overcome the transportation limitations, the headquarter in Bonndorf has continuously grown and strengthened hiring over 800 employees.

How has the acquisition through US group Ametek affected Dunkermotoren? Do you expect any changes within the organization?

Dunkermotoren is the biggest subsidiary of the Ametek group, and it has been expanding as an independent company and brand. Above all we can gain market share with the expertise and presence of our parent company in the American market.

How has the current product portfolio been developed? Which milestones come to your mind when thinking about the history of Dunkermotoren?

The company has always been characterized by innovation. In 1956 Christian Dunker produced ironless DC motors per the principle of the bell-shaped armature, which was considered a new technology at the time. In 1977 the first planetary gearboxes were introduced and in 1985, Dunkermotoren set a new standard with introducing the first four-phases brushless DC motor. The foundation for the important decentralization of drive intelligence was laid in 1999, when the brushless DC motors with integrated controller and sensors were launched.

What is required from a drive manufacturer today? What are today’s customer expectations?

A comprehensive modular system is still important for the customers. That is why Dunkermotoren has been developing and producing gearboxes, encoders, and brakes in addition to electro motors. But today that is not enough, with extending our new Motion-Control-Platform we concentrate more on integrated motor controller and software. Furthermore, for many customers, our global presence is an increasingly important decision criterion.

In which sectors does Dunkermotoren mainly focus on? What are your strengths or even your unique selling points? Where do you see potential for future business?

Dunkermotoren delivers drives in all industrial sectors, the machinery where plant automation is the most important driver of innovation. Additionally, the medical equipment, railway industry and building automation are significant growth markets for Dunkermotoren. Our company is thereby positioned between premium specialty equipment manufacturers on one hand, and the Asian low-cost-suppliers on the other. We have the flexibility to offer our OEM customers volumes between 100 up to 100,000 drives providing optimal cost-benefit ratio for most of the applications.

That leads us to the present and further in the future in the direction of the inevitable industry 4.0. How does the drive technology shape or also re-orientate itself under those conditions?

In the future factory lines will be optimized with more accessible automation technologies to meet end customer’s price and productivity needs. We expect our integrated servomotors with Ethernet interfaces to fit into this new development of internet of things. Through increased connectivity, the use of cloud-based platforms and decentralization of control electronics, completely new possibilities will be available to control and troubleshoot motors.

How does Dunkermotoren plan to develop and introduce these new capabilities? What sort of challenges does the company face in respect to these new developments? particularly in sales and marketing?

For a component supplier such as Dunkermotoren the change in development and production is not without any risks, however offers immense opportunities. We are in an excellent position, being one of the pioneers in intelligent motors with fieldbus interfaces, our customers have realized and encouraged our approaches within the scope of industry 4.0. Many customers already utilize our custom software and fieldbus capabilities and use our integrated drives to perform critical motion profiles. For sales and the whole organization, the challenge is to offer a high level of competent and customized support worldwide.

Are your electronics suitable for interconnection? What sort of outputs information are currently available?

Currently the current and temperature measurement are significant for the monitoring and output of energy and performance data. The necessary sensor technology is already integrated into the motor which could be monitored and utilized using our software. Further helpful software functionalities are going to be implemented. Next big challenge for Dunkermotoren is to provide all the standard communication interfaces. The aim is the interconnection of many components in real time so that the collected data can be used optimally and a digital shadow of the system could be created.

Are these product concepts going to be presented at the SPS IPC Drives 2016 in Nuremberg?

At the SPS IPC Drives exhibition 2016 we present our smart motors with integrated sensor technology, controller and Profinet as the new additional Ethernet interface for the first time. Nevertheless we do not only concentrate on the challenges of industry 4.0 but we also present new innovations in the range of our classic motor and gearbox portfolio such as our small ironless 22-millimeter-BLDC motor with integrated dGo electronic and reinforced planetary gearboxes for higher rated torques. Furthermore we continue to develop and expand capabilities of our three-phased tubular direct drive linear motors with integrated encoder, Ethercat and CANopen drives.

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