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Bosch Rexroth, working with suppliers 'who understand our needs'

27 May 2011

EXCLUSIVE Trevor Osborne, automation sales manager at Bosch Rexroth, talks to FP Express about legislation, the company's future and its work with Unilever

Describe Bosch Rexroth in your own words
Bosch Rexroth is the supplier offering the most comprehensive range of automation components, from basic pneumatic and mechanical elements through hydraulics and complex electronic drive and control solutions onto fully automated transfer and conveying systems. With our background of more than 200 years' experience in engineering we're well placed to offer innovation and security to our customers.

What in your opinion differentiates Bosch Rexroth from its competitors?
As I've alluded to, we offer the broadest range of automation products available from any manufacturer. Whether it's a component level or all the way through to a complete, turnkey automation solution we're able to bring together the major elements of a 'machine' and avoid the interoperability issues associated with the traditional route of using multiple suppliers. To support this we have a highly skilled team of sales and application engineers who are responsible for each of our specific technology areas.

What does your company have planned for the rest of 2011?
We'll be continuing with our automation approach. For the manufacturing customers out there this means we've a dedicated team of engineers responsible for assisting them with the realisation of automation in their plants, either with one of our recognised sales partners or directly with us. The focus here is on understanding 'problems' such as bottlenecks in production and helping to develop solutions, be it conveying or automation that solve these. For the OEM's, they benefit from regional teams who work together to offer the best possible 'package' of components. Each team having sales engineers from each of our technologies, meaning we can offer the right solution, not the one to which a single technology supplier is limited.

Could you detail your work with Unilever?
We worked with Unilever to develop and supply and conveying lines for their Magnum ice cream plant in Gloucester. The conveyors were used to connect the machines that make up Unilever's new Magnum packaging line, and many of these linked at different levels. Unilever was so pleased with the installation it chose its VarioFlow S food grade conveyors for even larger projects.

Do you have advice for food manufacturers post-recession?
I think the best piece of advice we could offer is to question what you get from specifying particular suppliers year-in, year-out. Our experience has shown it's often of far more importance to work with a supplier that understands your needs and can work to solve your problems. For example we very often hear "we use 'X' ". Well that's great, a long-standing relationship with a well-known supplier should offer some comfort but what benefit do you really gain from it?

What legislation or impending legislation is currently most pertinent to your business and why?
Like most companies in or around the food processing industry the Machinery Directive has had and will continue to have to greatest impact on the way we work and the products we supply. As a company we've ensured our products reach the standards and our engineers are being trained to assist our customers with their machine build or specification.

Could you detail how the company has stabilised after the acquisition?
Following the merger with Bosch Automationstechnik in 2001, Rexroth was organised into technology orientated divisions: Hydraulics, Electric Drives & Controls, Linear Motion & Assembly Technology and Pneumatics. This structure proved very successful, allowing us to dramatically grow the size of the business. However, over the past few years a lot has changed and the company is facing new requirements from the market and customers, also our technologies are moving closer together all the time. Owing to this we're repositioning ourselves for the future with new market segments, namely: Mobile Applications, Machinery Applications and Engineering, Factory Applications and Renewables. This new structure will provide even greater benefits to our customers and grow our business further.

What are Bosch Rexroth's biggest challenges going forward (2011)?
I believe it's to get the message about us out into the Market, as our MD, Paul Cooke often refers to, we regularly hear from companies we visit: "I didn't know you did that".

How important is lean manufacturing to Bosch Rexroth?
The philosophy of lean manufacturing is important to the whole Bosch organisation, each manufacturing site has a team of engineers responsible for ensuring lean processes are applied. To Bosch Rexroth we have the added bonus of specialists in the field of lean as part of our applications team. We offer a comprehensive range of products to support lean manufacturing including software to simulate workflow, workstations and pick-to-light systems. In fact we've joined forces with six other UK companies to form 'The Lean Factory group', the group will be offers seminars to allow manufacturers to learn more about lean and advanced manufacturing techniques. The seminars last for a day at our facility near Cirencester and attendees get the opportunity to follow a product through a complete lean manufacturing processes - all hands on of course.

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