GF MACHINING SOLUTIONS – SUCCESS STORY
Electric vehicles call for new technologies
GF is developing and producing innovative and sustainable solutions for mobility that’s fit for the future.
GF is developing innovative solutions for customers to help them make more environmentally sound vehicles and components. GF Machining Solutions is building custom machines as well as integrated and automated solutions for a Schaeffler Group factory, marking one of the division’s biggest contracts in recent years.
GF and Schaeffler have a rich history and a shared commitment to innovation and sustainability, underscored by GF’s Strategy 2025 and Schaeffler’s Roadmap 2025. The family company headquartered in Herzogenaurach (Germany), about 200 kilometers north of Munich, employs around 84’000 people worldwide. With its technologies and services for CO2-efficient drives, electromobility, Industry 4.0, digitalization, and renewable energies, Schaeffler is working to make mobility more efficient, more intelligent, and more sustainable.
The sci-fi movie “Back to the Future” came out almost 40 years ago, but it has by no means lost its cult status. The very final scene in particular is now legendary: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” says Doc Brown as he and Marty McFly lift off. A couple of mid-air fiery streaks later and the two time travelers find themselves in the future. It’s 2015 and the skyscape is full of flying cars.
Is this pure fiction? Not quite.
Our reality today has little to do with what we once thought the future would look like. While our cars remain on the ground rather than flying, the world is looking for ways to replace fossil fuels and make mobility more environmentally friendly. However, what the film showed back then and what we now know for sure is that internal combustion engines have had their day. The future is most likely electric, among other alternative forms of propulsion, and low-CO2.
Cyriaque Steffen is Head of the Tool Technology Center at Schaeffler. He has been with the company since 1999, among others as a production manager for tool making at the site in Kappelrodeck (Germany).
Stephan Eckert joined GF Machining Solutions in 2018 as Head of Automation. In September 2020, he also took on the role of Head of Product Support. He works at the Schorndorf site, GF Machining Solutions’ Center of Competence in Germany.
GF has been working towards this future for many years. It develops and produces innovative and sustainable solutions such as lightweight cast components to reduce the weight of vehicles or machine tools for making automotive components – for mobility that’s fit for the future. All around the world, companies in the automotive and supplier sectors count on GF’s expertise.
One of these is Schaeffler, a global supplier to the automotive and industrial sectors, which is pursuing its Roadmap 2025 to bolster the development of future mobility solutions. Last year, GF provided Schaeffler Group with ten milling machines, twelve wire EDM machines and three linear automation cells, as well as System 3R Tooling packages, among others. Schaeffler will use these in the manufacture of tools for automotive components, including electric motors. “At the new location, we are utilizing modern development and production technologies that make optimal use of digital processes and significantly increase our efficiency,” says Cyriaque Steffen, who is in charge of construction and management for Schaeffler’s Tool Technology Center. “That’s where GF Machining Solutions is helping us. We get a package of solutions from a single source."
GF R&D setting its sights on electromobility
Cars will continue to play a key role in the mobility of the future. But they will most likely be electric, connected, and drive semi-autonomously. GF recognized early on that mobility is one of the most important drivers of social change and that it is in great need of fresh ideas. GF has therefore focused its research and development activities on giving customers the right solutions for their environmentally friendly vehicles and associated components.
An unprecedented contract
For GF Machining Solutions, this solution package is one of the largest contracts in recent years (see infobox for details). Schaeffler ordered the new milling machines due to their very good experience with similar machines. “We see this as a very strong sign of trust,” says Stephan Eckert, Head of Automation & Product Support at GF Machining Solutions in Schorndorf (Germany) and project manager for Schaeffler. “All of this reflects a strong customer relationship and reliable, partnership-based project work.” Moritz Matthes, Technical Project Manager at GF Machining Solutions, is part of this team and values the solution-oriented interaction. “From the very beginning, I had the feeling that everyone had the same goal and that they were all pulling together,” says Matthes.
Facts and Figures
Strong growth expected in
According to forecasts, the global market share of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will continue to rise sharply in the coming years. They are expected to account for around two-thirds of new vehicle registrations by 2040. Strong growth is expected for passenger vehicles in particular: from 3 million units sold in 2020 to 66 million units in 2040. A comparison with 2010 underscores the momentum of this growing trend: back then, there were an estimated 20’000 battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles (Source: Bloomberg Markets + Green/International Energy Agency).
3 millionunits in 2020
66 millionunits expected in 2040
The cooperation between Schaeffler and GF stretches back an impressive 40 years. If difficulties ever arose during that time, they were overcome together. For example, in 2018 the team went through an exemplary learning process. In cooperation with Schaeffler, GF planned and implemented measures for improvement. Regular meetings and service calls ensured that machines and automated systems functioned properly again. “In the end, this phase really helped us to move forward together,” says Stephan Eckert. “It is also why we have the privilege of continuing to support Schaeffler with our expertise and new machines.” For Cyriaque Steffen, this mutual openness is the foundation for success. “During our regular meetings, we experience GF as a reliable partner that looks for and finds solutions.”
In the spirit of Going Forward, both partners are now working together with a view to the future. GF Machining Solutions will continue to innovate to support the success of its customers. And GF looks forward to intensifying its partnership with Schaeffler and offering it customized solutions.
A big order
The latest contract with Schaeffler is one of the largest that GF Machining Solutions has received in recent years and consists of three System 3R Fanuc linear cells with a total of ten milling machines and twelve wire EDM machines as well as System 3R Tooling packages. Schaeffler operates more than 80 production machines and twelve automated systems from GF Machining Solutions across nine locations.
Two Points of View
Against the backdrop of the transformation in the automotive industry, what are the challenges faced by suppliers?
Cyriaque Steffen: With the changes in the automotive industry, suppliers have to develop completely new products that are manufacturable. Today, that might be parts for an electric vehicle’s drive train. But tomorrow, entirely different innovative products could be in demand. We’re also expected to be agile and to respond with new solutions as toolmakers.
Can you give an example?
Cyriaque Steffen: The requirements have changed. The primary focus is materials and surfaces, as well as general manufacturability. GF Machining Solutions has a good package of total solutions.
What does that look like?
Stephan Eckert: GF Machining Solutions has numerous different high-precision manufacturing technologies in its portfolio, and with System 3R, it also covers Automation/Tooling. The digital solutions are from Symmedia, among others. This combination enables us to cover a broad scope of customer requirements with our own technologies and expertise, even for complex projects. Since we can count on proven partnerships for advanced technologies, as a general contractor, we can offer customer-specific solutions from a single source.