[The following advertorial appeared in the PACE 60th anniversary November 2013 special issue which was supported by SEW-Eurodrive.]
SEW-Eurodrive Managing Director, Robert Merola, recently celebrated his 30th anniversary with the company and is the longest serving member of staff in Australia.
Here, he outlines the key drivers behind the company’s success and also offers his perspective on the manufacturing sector.
The last 30 years have arguably seen the most rapid and constant change to the manufacturing sector since the industrial revolution. Throughout this time, market pressures have had an impact on businesses everywhere.
Establishing and growing a quality engineering company in the midst of all of this has required one constant commitment. SEW-Eurodrive’s commitment to its customers, staff and to the community at large has not waivered since Australian operations commenced in 1982.
This approach has taken us from a single site in Melbourne to a national presence. We now have sites in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane and over 180 employees nationwide. The distinctive logo of SEW-Eurodrive is a familiar sight in and around industrial sites across the country.
SEW-Eurodrive recently celebrated 30 years in Australia, having been incorporated on 11 August, 1982.
The company was formed in Germany in 1931 and is still family owned. Currently the fourth generation of the family are working in the business and this is quite unusual for a company of this size. Over 15,000 people are employed worldwide and the company has a turnover in excess of two billion Euros a year.
SEW-Eurodrive’s product range started off quite basic in the early 80s – classic geared motors, mechanical variable speed drives and friction type variable speed drives.
By the late 80s electronics came into vogue via inverter technology, so we made the investments to introduce it into the product range, which opened a whole new market for the company.
Since then, SEW has become dominant in technology advancements, evolving from a classic gearbox and motor supplier to a total turnkey solutions provider.
We work closely with very large OEMs in Germany to meet their demands and this results in new products and technology advances. The rest of the world gets to benefit from this as well. Electronics has become a sizable piece of the business model globally.
It stretches beyond classic inverters to servo technology, which is prevalent in robotics. We are currently setting up a business unit in Australia called MAXOLUTION, which will allow us to provide complex solutions for automated guided vehicles in warehousing, storage, retrieval and so on.
A qualified engineer has been training in Germany for almost a year on this solution and will bring high end capabilities already available in Germany/ Europe to the Australian market. MAXOLUTION will be introduced to the market early next year.
In addition to SEW-Eurodrive’s classic gear motor business – revolving around materials handling equipment such as classic conveyors, pumps cranes, palletising, de-palletising storage and high bay retrieval— we have made a considerably large investment in large industrial gears.
In November, 2012, SEW unveiled a 10,000 square metre Heavy Industrial Solutions division in Melbourne. The state-of-the art facility includes cranes capable of handling 50 tonne loads, an automated two pack paint line, offering epoxy paint as standard, and a storage capacity in excess of 3000 pallets, making it unsurpassed in Australia when it comes to stocking, assembly and servicing extremely large industrial gear units.
Although SEW was late coming on board with a product range and capabilities for the mining industry, we are certainly making our presence felt, particularly in service.
SEW has been winning service work due to unmatched capabilities in Australia. Providing excellent servicing to our customers throughout the life of their product means that when the product gets to the end of its serviceable life and the customer needs to replace it, hopefully SEW will be under serious consideration.
SEW covers a very broad spectrum of products Australia-wide and still has the largest stockholdings of all our competitors put together.
Think global, act local
People always ask why don’t you manufacture in Australia? The answer is simple — SEW Australia doesn’t have the volume. Australia represents just two per cent of the global market. There are huge facilities in Germany and France that manufacture in vast quantities and keep production costs down. It is much more economical to manufacture centrally and assemble decentrally.
That’s why SEW keeps stock in Australia. Being a long way away from Germany, the replenishment time isn’t quick. To maintain the levels of same day or 48-hour service that SEW Australia introduced into the market 30 years ago, it’s important to maintain stock levels locally.
Wth technological excellence and customer focussed support fundamental to our business, in addition to the local stock holding, local engineering excellence is a must. Highly regarded for their ability to innovate and adapt, Australian engineers have traditionally embraced new technologies and shaped them to suit the country’s unique environment.
Advances in drive technology exemplify this ability. Since the local SEW-Eurodrive operations first began, our engineers have used their mechanical and electronics skills to tailor end-to-end solutions for a wide range of Australian manufacturers.
Future of Australian manufacturing
Looking to the future, Australian industries and business owners could take a leaf out of European family type businesses – like SEW, for example – where you invest for the future and make decisions based on the future.
Due to the uncertainly of manufacturing in Australia, a lot of companies just want to invest and get a quick return. That’s sad.
I have a feeling we’ll get by, the economy will grow, businesses will grow, but at a very pedestrian pace.
I don’t think we will see any outstanding booms in our time, purely because there’s too much focus on shareholder returns, on cost cutting, so there are no real incentives to invest from Government.
There are so many ingredients to make a recipe, and healing the manufacturing economy in Australia is quite a complex recipe. You must have industry wanting to invest for the future as well as the Government and the bureaucrats giving them the opportunity and incentives such as tax benefits, write-offs, accelerated depreciation.
We have the knowhow. Anything Germany, France or the US can do, Australia can do as well. There’s no reason why we can’t be world’s best practice, but the costs of doing this in Australia are prohibitive. That’s the harsh reality.