As Dürr celebrates 50 years of business in Mexico, its North America MD Bruno Welsch is confident about the company’s resource-conscious future
For Dürr North America, 2016 has been quite a year. First there was the official opening of its new $43m campus near Detroit, with 126,000 sq.ft of state-of-the-art office-space and a 100,000 sq.ft test and training centre. The next highlight came in October which marked the 50th anniversary of Dürr in Mexico. In this interview, managing director for both sites Bruno Welsch speaks about future challenges such as digitalisation and the efficiency potential of new technologies in the painting process.
Dürr’s various activities in the greater Detroit area are now consolidated at the new campus. What does this mean for your North American customers?Bruno Welsch: It now means that no information is lost – both internally and externally. The campus, which employs 500 employees, offers a new platform for communication that allows our customers to save a great deal of time, especially where large system-based projects are concerned. Customers can now easily interact face-to-face with contacts from all of the various divisions, which used to be located at separate facilities in Plymouth, Wixom and Auburn Hills. We also profit internally from this close proximity as it streamlines communication.
Dürr's North America MD Bruno Welsch
What prompted an investment of this magnitude?The campus is indeed a large investment and represents our commitment to the US market. We have been here for 46 years and had our fair share of ups and downs but we continue to experience solid growth that dates back to 2010. Currently, 18m cars are manufactured each year in North America and we anticipate an even greater demand of up to 20.5m cars by 2022. That equates to a capacity of roughly six to eight paintshops that we can then build new, or modify existing equipment for our customers. Our final assembly activities have developed very well in North America. From retrofitting to turnkey systems – including end-of-line equipment – we are currently executing several projects, and new final assembly plants are in the quotation phase as we speak.
What does the industry look for in paintshop design?One aspect that continues to gain in importance is resource-conserving production, requiring lower quantities of water, energy and material. It’s good for the environment and reduces the cost per unit. Take California, for example, where water will soon be more expensive than gasoline, or a production site that is subjected to high temperatures such as in San José Chiapa, Mexico. There we installed one of the most technically-advanced and environmentally-friendly paintshops in the world for Audi.What technical solutions help to conserve resources?From pre-treatment by way of electro dipping and spray booths that use application technology all the way to ovens, we have been able to dramatically improve the operational efficiency of our equipment for each step in the painting process over the last ten years. Water and energy consumption for the newest generation of painting systems have dropped by upwards of 70%. In San José Chiapa we opted for the Ecopaint RoDip rotation dipping process, in which the vehicle bodies are rotated an entire 360 degrees in the tank.
Since there is no longer a need for inclined sections at the entrance and exit to the dip tank, the overall length and volume of the tank are reduced accordingly, which means that less water and energy, as well as fewer chemicals are required to condition the bath. Energy efficiency apart from quality play paramount roles in our recently constructed paint shop for Ford in Louisville, Kentucky, to paint the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator luxury automobiles. For the very first time, we have been commissioned to install the Ecopaint RoDip E for Ford in the US, a system that is capable of individually controlling and regulating movement and rotating speeds. We also save energy with the efficient EcoDryScrubber dry separation unit, which binds overspray and requires absolutely no water or chemicals. With this globally established technology, the spray booth can be operated using up to 90% recirculated air. Thanks to this reduced expenditure on conditioning the air, the EcoDryScrubber saves up to 60% of the energy, traditionally consumed by the spray booth.
Is it also possible to reduce consumption in existing systems?Savings are immediately achieved when the application technology of an existing system is upgraded to Dürr applicators, since the paint can then be transferred onto the vehicle bodies much more efficiently. We can also adapt our application technology with existing third-party mechatronics equipment. Savings are likewise possible for modification projects, such as when automotive manufacturers are looking to integrate new products into the market or convert to new materials as Ford has done with its commitment to using aluminium. The latest painting technology makes it possible to save a great deal of consumable materials and energy following retrofit conversions.
How do you view your position as a German firm in the North American market?With 500 employees in the US and 300 in Mexico, all of whom work at newly constructed subsidiary locations, our physical presence is a testament to the high level of localisation of our products and services. Other benefits come from the great deal of intensity with which we pursue R&D developments and product optimisation. Dürr is the only plant engineering firm for paintshops that can offer turnkey technical solutions leveraging its own products. Technological demands and complex implementation requirements can be conclusively met with turnkey concepts. Many of our local competitors limit their offering to that of integrating products that they did not develop and produce themselves. We also help to develop and advance new trends, such as the internet of things along with Smart Products and Smart Processes. Examples of this include our EcoEMOS MES system as well as EcoSmart AC, which intelligently regulates supply-air and exhaust-air installations for the spray booth, and EcoSmart VEC, which regulates adequate fresh and exhaust air for the oven in direct relation to the number of bodies in the drying zone. As part of the “digital@Dürr” initiative, our products and systems will continue to be developed further with an objective to meet the requirements of the modern digital industry in the spirit of upholding our leadership in technology and turnkey expertise.
This year, Dürr celebrates its 50th anniversary in Mexico – what potential do you see there?Automotive production in Mexico is booming so much that it even exceeds the growth rate in the US from a percentage-based perspective. When we opened our location in Querétaro in 2006, we were a small company with a sales revenue of $20m. Today, our sales revenue in Mexico exceeds $200m. We have also already increased our production capacity twice over to more than 104,000 sq.ft and are the only system supplier with turnkey competence that has a local presence. With 300 employees we are viewed as a reliable partner with the capacity to carry out large-scale projects. This helped us acquire and execute large projects from Audi, VW, Chrysler, Ford, Nissan and others in recent years and we are currently in the process of completing additional projects.
Are there any special requirements for Dürr in Mexico?Global system projects with international teams, such as for Audi in Puebla and BMW in San Luis Potosi, present a demanding set of challenges for not only Mexicans and Americans but also for individuals from Germany, UK, France and Poland who all have to work together. To ensure that these projects are successful, excellent preparation and a high level of mutual acceptance are key. We focus specifically on these aspects in workshops and further training across the entire Dürr Group.