This past week, I had an opportunity to once again join construction journalists from across the globe in the Liebherr Information Tour, a whirlwind adventure consisting of corporate presentations, plant tours and visits to construction sites utilizing Liebherr equipment. This year’s tour centered largely in the company’s home country of Germany, while finishing up the last leg with a journey to a major project in central Paris.
Day 1: A Day at the FAIR
Day 1 of the trip saw little rest for editors arriving from destinations outside of Europe, as we headed straight from the Frankfurt airport to Darmstadt, the future home of the FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research) international particle accelerator. Currently under construction, the center is an international collaboration between European research organizations, and will be used by some 3,000 scientists from roughly 50 countries once completed in 2018.
After listening to presentations on the center and the project, journalists donned hard hats, vests and bright yellow safety boots to head out to the work site. There, we had the chance to get a close-up view of Liebherr’s LB 44-510 rotary drilling rigs in action installing foundation piles and performing kelly drilling – the first production application of the new machines introduced at bauma earlier this year. The LB 44-510 is the largest rotary drill in Liebherr’s line, weighing in at 170 tonnes and delivering 376,000 lbs.-ft. of torque and 123,000 lbs. of pull force.
After the site visit, our group hopped back on the bus to head to Ettlingen, a charming community situated at the northern edge of the Black Forest and intersected by the Alb River. There, we settled in at the Erbprinz Hotel for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 2: Focus on Components
The second day of the tour began with several insightful presentations from members of the Liebherr Board of Directors. Stefan Heissler led off with an update on the status of the business activities of the Liebherr Group, including a brief overview of the recent $115 million Euro investment in a new logistics center in Germany for global parts distribution, as well as a review of first half 2013 financial results. He noted that the Group expects to end the year at approximately $8.986 billion Euros (down slightly from 2012) and remain flat in 2014.
Components Division. Gebhard Schwarz, managing director, Liebherr-Component Technologies AG, followed with an outline of the various segments and facilities that make the Components Division, which supplies diesel and gas engines, fuel injection systems (including common rail systems), engine control units, transmissions, hydraulic systems, and other components used in the manufacture of Liebherr machines. The division also supplies components to other machine manufacturers for use in heavy-duty off-road applications, as well as manufacturers of industrial equipment.
Schwarz emphasized the objective of the Components Division to continue to provide technological advances for Liebherr construction machines. “For years, we have been carrying out research and development projects in the areas of energy efficiency and hybridizing construction machines,” he notes. Specifically, he cited a patented drive system for the R9xxx hybrid excavator concept showcased at bauma 2013. “In addition to hydraulic pressure accumulators, storage systems that have been developed in-house, and have supercaps, are used for the storage of electric energy.”
The division is also working on development of new drive systems with power split (CVT) gearboxes that combine the advantages of a hydrostatic drive with mechanical drives. Prototypes are currently in the test stage, with production anticipated in 18 months to two years.