Machine tools and automation systems

The machine tools and automation systems division made substantial progress in the past business year: turnover rose by 35 million € or 16.9 % to 242 million €.

In 2015 the German machine tool industry received orders slightly above the previous year’s level. According to the Association of German Machine Tool Manufacturers (VDW), orders both from the domestic market and those from other countries rose by 3 %. In the USA, orders were significantly below the 2014 level.

Liebherr’s turnover from machine tools, and in particular from automation systems, rose significantly. Tool business maintained the same level as in the previous year.

The division’s turnover dropped in Western Europe, with a marked reduction in Great Britain and Germany, but a significant increase in Sweden. The business year progressed positively in Eastern Europe, in America and above all in the Far East and Australia region. Exceptionally strong growth, primarily obtained from the automation systems product area, was recorded in China. Growth rates were also very high in South Korea and India.

Further options were made available last year for the LGG 180 / 280 gear grinding machine introduced in 2014. They included new grinding heads in response to ongoing market demand, and the ‘clean factory’ option for drip-free workpiece production. In the machine control area, the division prepared the LHGe@rTec gear milling operator’s interface for introduction in the current year.

The product highlight in the automation systems area was the new PHS 10000 heavy-duty pallet handling system. It can move workpieces weighing up to 16,000 kg under process control from the pallet store to the machining point and back. In this way, automated production without personnel or extended production shifts becomes possible even for large, heavy workpieces.

At the 2015 “EMO” trade fair in Milan, Italy, the division received a major order for 22 gear shaping machines from the South Korean DIC DAE-IL Corporation. Most of the machines will be operated by its Chinese subsidiary company.

The division’s product development work was mainly devoted to further development of a gear shaping process for the aerospace industry.

Important options for the LGG gear grinding machine programme were also completed and a further priority was a gear milling machine with reduced entry-level cost; this is to have its market launch in 2016.

In the automation area, Liebherr added the LP 100 version to its loading gantry product range. To satisfy customer requirements in the light-duty area – i. e. in the automobile industry – the loading gantry can represent a lower-cost automation application. The bin picking automation system is used to pick up parts arranged at random in the transport bins. In cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute, the user-friendliness of the system’s operating interface was further enhanced.

Last year the division’s investment was primarily devoted to machining centres automated by a heavy-duty pallet handling system developed in-house. The production area also received a new grinding machine and a new trimming press.

The division extended its sales channels successively in all product areas. In the spring of 2015, Liebherr concluded a agreement for local representation of its gear shaping machines on the Mexican market. A new joint venture in South Korea began in April 2016. From the second quarter of the year onward it enables the division to offer industrial services in the gear shaping area directly on the local market.

In Japan, the automotive industry has become a promising market for gear shaping machines. Therefore, Liebherr Japan Co. Ltd. is going to open a sales and service office for the division’s products in 2016. For gear shaping tools, it there are plans to explore new potential in North America and China by means of partnerships with leading toolmaking companies.

For 2016 the German machine tool industry expects only a slight increase, whereas the outlook for the US market is more positive. For the current business year, the division expects turnover to reach the previous year’s level.