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8 questions, 8 answers from the Bosch CEO
Dr. Volkmar Denner
“Manufacturing technology is a driver of product innovation” Ultrashort laser pulses as a prime example

  • Long tradition at Bosch
  • Extreme precision, mass production
  • Connectivity is growing in importance
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  • December 04, 2013
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    1. How important is manufacturing technology for Bosch?

    Denner: “Manufacturing technology is one of Bosch's main strengths. It puts us in a position to manufacture machinery, production lines, and products that we cannot procure ourselves in the market. Especially when it comes to premium products, this allows us to achieve USPs in terms of cost, function, and quality. To name just one of many examples, we use ultrashort laser pulses in the manufacture of the valves for our gasoline direct injection systems. Or again, there is the process we use to manufacture micromechanical sensors, which are the 'sensory organs' of today's automotive and consumer electronics. Using a process developed in-house, now known as the 'Bosch process,' we have become one of the leading suppliers of these sensors. This long manufacturing tradition began as early as the first magneto ignition device, when Robert Bosch found that the market was unable to supply the high-precision components he needed for this device. As a result, he started to construct his own manufacturing machinery and to acquire the necessary technological expertise. This is a principle we at Bosch have followed since then, and will continue to follow.”


    2. How does manufacturing contribute to new products?

    Denner: “Many of our components would not be possible without precision engineering. Manufacturing diesel direct injection components involves assembling parts machined to an accuracy measured in thousandths of a millimeter. Moreover, manufacturing technology often inspires developmental leaps on the product plane. Using ultrashort pulse technology, for example, we can now drill the tiniest holes in the injection valve – even holes with different diameters. This was previously not possible. One of these holes has roughly the same diameter as a human hair. Its walls are extremely smooth. This allows our customers to control the distribution of fuel in the combustion chamber even better, and to adapt it to each individual type of engine. In this way, manufacturing technology makes an essential contribution to reducing emissions and fuel consumption.”


    3. Why does Bosch believe it is important to manufacture key components in its own plants?

    Denner: “We have set ourselves the goal of supplying large volumes of top-quality precision-engineered parts. Customers expect this from us, and will continue to do so in the future. To achieve this, we need sophisticated production and process engineering. Only if we can understand and master this down to the last detail will we be truly able to offer the quality customers expect. This is why we have our own separate unit for the construction of assembly lines and special-purpose machinery, as well as the test and process engineering to go with it. This unit designs many of the Bosch Group's complex production lines for core technologies.”


    4. What are the issues that will be important for Bosch in the future?

    Denner: “Manufacturing technology for electromobility will gain in significance in the years ahead. Currently, volumes here are so small that manufacturing is almost artisanal compared with the huge mass of components we manufacture for injection systems. We are now only at the beginning of the development toward a cost-effective mass product. Among other things, this applies to power electronics, electric motors, and battery systems. For all our products, resource efficiency in product design and manufacturing will continue to grow in significance. More and more, software and connectivity will determine not only our products and services, but also our manufacturing processes. The key word here is Industry 4.0. This will be a crucial driver for increasing productivity along the product creation process, and beyond company boundaries.”


    5. When it comes to improving production processes, how important is collaboration between industry and universities?

    Denner: “Very important. Again and again, we have seen how interdisciplinary working groups often achieve better results. Closely cooperating with universities gives us the chance to give research a practical direction. In this way, we can more quickly use the results of research in the development of our manufacturing processes. In return, we provide stimuli for new research subjects. It's a win-win situation.

    In many areas, the abundance of information and knowledge is already so huge that one individual can no longer have everything at their fingertips. This makes it important to be part of a scientific and industrial network. In such networks, specialists can achieve more in a joint effort than on their own. This collaboration generates synergies, often in the form of new, improved solutions. This is not only true for Bosch. Collaboration among experts is one of the reasons for Germany's success. One outstanding example of this is the way Bosch worked with TRUMPF, the University of Jena, and the Fraunhofer Institute to refine the use of ultrashort laser pulses in materials processing.”


    6. How can publicly funded projects – such as those supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research – help drive innovations?

    Denner: “Through publicly funded projects, the government creates a major platform for applied research. In research networks, universities, research institutes, manufacturers of systems and components, and users work together intensively in a competition-free atmosphere. Whenever experts from different faculties and backgrounds come together, a new, critical mass is created. And this can set free the next wave of innovations in a certain area. Such networks frequently cover the entire value-added process, and allow the results of research to rapidly find their way into products. This not only spurs individual companies on to new innovations, but also secures the innovative strength of Germany as an industrial location.

    The PRIMUS and PROMPTUS networks, supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, are a good example of how innovative manufacturing technology can be developed. Thanks to the close collaboration of universities, manufacturers of laser and systems technologies, and users, the use of ultrashort laser pulses for materials processing has been transferred from the research laboratory to the raw reality of industrial production. The business success this has now generated benefits Germany as an industrial location, both with respect to jobs and to tax revenues. In addition, research networks are a driving force in education. When basic research collaborates with industry-based research, young researchers can not only contribute their knowledge, but also use opportunities such as company-sponsored PhD programs to further their education. Bosch makes extensive use of such opportunities.”


    7. Does Bosch also collaborate with suppliers?

    Denner: “Collaboration with suppliers is absolutely necessary and important. Many suppliers have a wealth of expertise in their specialty areas. If we need special solutions, we work with them to develop these. This goes for both products and manufacturing machinery. It takes a lot of know-how to apply the results of basic research to a machine for continuous operation that will work without a hitch 24/7. For this, you need competent process plant engineers. Examples of such effective collaboration such as these can be found in Germany, where they are a strategic advantage for this high-wage country. They also ensure that products and the manufacturing processes that go with them are developed hand in hand, right from the start. Only in this way can we create excellent products.”


    8. How long has Bosch been using lasers in manufacturing?

    Denner: “We've been using them to make products for more than 36 years now. They were once used to adjust the resistors used in automotive electronics. And laser welding is used in the production of sensors and injection components. Despite this experience, it took a lot of work to transfer micro-processing with ultrashort pulse lasers from university laboratories to the shop floor. This is why Bosch does a lot of industrial research. It starts from scientists' findings, and uses its own know-how and staying power to help make them ready for industrial use. Materials processing using ultrashort laser pulses is a good example of this. Our research and development department worked ten years on this subject.”
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The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

Additional information is available online at www.bosch.com and www.bosch-press.com, http://twitter.com/BoschPresse.

PI8321 - December 04, 2013

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