“Our tradition pledges us to innovation”
Since the 1960s Liebherr has developed and built material handling machines in various sizes and equipped for a variety of tasks. Bernd Wager, Product Line Manager for dockside material handling machines at Liebherr-Hydraulikbagger GmbH in Kirchdorf an der Iller, Germany, sums up the initial situation: “About four years ago we began to sketch out a development concept for an entirely new model: the LH 80 was considered small and the next model higher up the scale too large. Obviously what we needed was a machine to fill the gap between the existing models.”
The solution of the development team at the Liebherr factory in Kirchdorf: the LH 110, a machine rated to move loads weighing up to about 10 tonnes at working radii of more than 20 m. Sarah Wetzel, who was in charge of project development, says: “In our planning we put the emphasis on versatility.” As a result the LH 110 is not only available in an industrial scrap-metal handling version but also to “Port” specification for dockside load movements.
The new model underwent a systematic development process conventionally used in the earthmoving division; this determines and accompanies product development as a series of phases. Various teams from Sales, Product Management, Development, Purchasing, Manufacturing and After-sales Service work simultaneously on their contributions to the project. Sarah Wetzel: “Each team has its own priority task, so that every aspect of development is taken into account.” At this specialised level, the exchange of know-how with other Liebherr Group companies is especially important. High quality standards are achieved by using in-house sources, for example the diesel engine and the hydraulic cylinders, pumps and motors, but also large diameter bearings and transmissions from companies within the components division. As a company based on tradition, Liebherr knows the value of consistent, well-proven methods, but as Bernd Wager points out: “Part of that tradition is our ability to come up with innovative products and ideas. Research and development has very high status in the Liebherr Group.”
In the early stages of development, only a small team worked on the new model, but this later grew to about 50 – all with different backgrounds. There were team members who had been with Liebherr for 20 years or more, and others who had joined the Group only a few months previously. “And cooperation between colleagues from various departments makes the whole project much more effective”, Sarah Wetzel is convinced.
In the technical office, the engineers faced a challenge specific to the Port version of their new LH 110: increasing load capacity and working radius, and at the same time optimizing the weight of various mechanical components.
Bernd Wager explains what this involves: “At the dockside the machines aren’t worked as intensively as in industry. Reducing the tare weight of the Port version boosts its load capacity by about 20 %.” The first version of the LH 110 will start volume production early in 2017, but the team in Kirchdorf is already working on additional items of equipment for the new model. “It’s typical of us engineers”, says Bernd Wager. “We spend a lot of our time thinking about product innovations that could improve customer benefit still further!”