In May, ebm-papst organised what has now become the fourth Innovation Forum under the title “Future Efficiency” industrial technology, air-conditioning and refrigeration technology and heat pump technology. Twenty subject specialists from customers, colleges and universities and the company itself presented on and discussed this for two days with the more than 200 participants. The people responsible for the biannual event, Dr Bruno Lindl, Managing Director for Research and Development of the ebm-papst Group, and Alfred Müller, Sales Manager Germany, provide information about its results and background
How do things look for the future of efficiency?
Lindl:Competitive products that conserve resources are the basis for the future sustainability of companies. That is why the essential parameter for successful innovations in the coming ten years is energy efficiency. That is one part which the companies contribute for achieving climate goals.
Have customers now become more receptive to “green” messages?
Lindl: It is not just a question of “green”. End customers expect not only a functional and cost-effective product, but also one that can reduce operating costs. That is the task of the entire supplier chain. More and more, lifetime costs are slipping into the foreground of efficiency and cost evaluation. This is also a substantial reason for the success of energy-efficient products.
What role does the Innovation Forum play in this?
Müller: Among the numerous customers from our industries of industrial technology, air-conditioning and refrigeration technology and heat pump technology, many were important development managers for us, who significantly determine the product development of their houses. Thus the Forum picks up right where the products with our forward-looking technology have their origin.
Lindl: Here, we make it possible to present and discuss innovations along the entire value creation chain, all the way to the benefits for the end customer. This forum serves as a platform and catalyst for discussing the requirements and options for marketable products of tomorrow.
What should the customers take away from this?
Müller: It is enormously important for us to present our forward-looking technology for external institutions and ways to implement them directly with the industry’s reference customers. That is the focal point of the event. Additionally, consumers and competitors of our reference customers come to the Forum because here they can learn about implementation and new trends of their industries. Accordingly, the breaks were filled with intensive discussions and animated exchanges of information between specialists and executive staff of the companies. It is possible to have personal discussions among experts at the Innovation Forum. Moreover, here customers have the opportunity to speak directly with the management and ebm-papst developers. In addition, of course, it is also a social event in a beautiful setting that strengthens customer loyalty.
What benefit does ebm-papst draw from the event?
Lindl: We have to work jointly with our customers to find the best technology at marketable prices, in order to offer our end customers the greatest possible benefit together. When generating product ideas, the most important challenge is to address the future desires of customers and to optimise the customer benefits qualitatively and quantitatively.
This succeeds only when there is close networking among developers of components, subsystems and end products. In terms of progress, more latent potential exists here than in endless value analysis reflections focused on single components. And at the Forum, we attempt to establish this comprehensive approach.
Has the event already produced synergies?
Müller: The Forum presents not only our own basic and future developments, but also how to successfully implement applications with reference customers. In any case, with imminent standards, such as the Energy-related Products directive, we achieve the greatest success through close co-operation. This was confirmed by the presentations from customers on existing and future market demands as well as research results presented by professors from colleges, universities and other institutions. Only by working jointly to persuade end customers have we and our OEM customers succeeded in placing over one million energy-saving motors in refrigerated counters and refrigeration systems in the past three years.
What were the high points for you?
Lindl: Certainly the presentation by Professor Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker on the evening before the Forum. He vividly portrayed the relationships between society, politics, economy and technology – and the scenarios to be derived from these. He emphasised that the next technology cycle will have to focus on energy efficiency and resource conservation. And in the evening program on the second day, for the third time in a row we received the distinction “365 landmarks in the land of Ideas”, overseen by Federal President Christian Wulff.
How would you sum up the fourth Innovation Forum?
Müller: It was an outstanding event. Our clear focus on innovative efficient products has been confirmed. Now, together with our customers, we have to open up new markets and expand the ones that exist. Only energy efficiency will enable us to master the future with renewable energies! The greatest growth potential for all of us appears particularly in this area and with the energy-related upgrading of existing building materials. Our great sales success in the past fiscal year, also confirmed for our customers that they relied on the right partner with us.
How will the Forum continue?
Lindl: We will certainly schedule another Innovation Forum in Mulfingen in two years and invite our customers even today to present forward-looking technologies with us as well as how to implement them. We will again select two to three areas from our eight main industries. This way we will ensure concentrated, joint work on both days – along with highly competent and interesting representatives from science and research.