The visit focused on success factors for strengthening the EU’s competitiveness and facilitating sustainable and ecological growth. These include Festo Didactic’s global concepts for technical education, cutting-edge manufacturing concepts for the factories of the future and completely new approaches in the field of energy efficiency with the aid of bionics. The EU’s main research fields and their implementation in public-private partnerships and cross-company networks are becoming an increasingly decisive factor for sustainable growth.
Global challenge: keeping locations competitive
"Only those who invest in the future today will be able to successfully compete in future. This applies to both companies and business locations such as the EU," stressed Dr. Eberhard Veit, Chairman of the Management Board of Festo AG. He went on to emphasize that efficient and productive approaches – as well as often completely new manufacturing technologies – were required in the EU as enablers for the successful market implementation of new research results and key technologies, such as biotechnology. "With the aid of cutting-edge technologies, we aim to make our facilities more productive and achieve future success together with our lead customers," explained Dr. Veit.
Festo supports this aim with the know-how it has gained from supplying automation technology to over 200 industrial sectors – including highly specific regional industries in certain EU states, such as cork production in Portugal. Festo helps its customers comply with machine guidelines, as well as safety and quality standards. Only the perfect interplay of technical solutions with consulting expertise, services and training programmes can guarantee optimum customer networking. This enables the perfect integration of solutions into the customer’s machine and manufacturing concepts throughout various facilities in the EU and around the world.
"Our products and solutions help customers reduce costs and improve the efficiency of their machines. We want to make the engineering process simpler, faster and safer for our customers; in Germany, Europe and around the world. We highlight opportunities for increased productivity, helping companies and business locations become more competitive," adds Dr. Ansgar Kriwet, Member of the Management Board Region and Sales Europe.
Education is the future
Competiveness, innovative strength, knowledge and learning are all closely linked within the company. With increasing globalisation, they will become the key factors for manufacturing excellence in the 21st century. Education and training are the foundation on which societies can achieve sustainable development. They help secure peace, prosperity and jobs in an increasingly complex environment. Education and training are the raw material for global success – today and for coming generations.
Leading industrial companies need technical and technological quantum leaps to generate sustainable growth. Sharpening this technological edge has become a key priority for many companies. Innovative solutions are required which ensure that skills are continually adapted to the growing demands of technical progress and globalisation. The decisive challenge for economies, companies and educational institutes is to achieve a knowledge-based lead by making sustainable investments in the field of education. This applies in particular to the EU as a business location.
"Education and skills training also need business to take a sustained initiative. Festo can draw on its expertise in over 200 sectors to provide training for skilled employees. Companies and universities around the world rely on Festo’s modern training solutions with cutting-edge practical components to enhance their competitive standing. They know that innovation and productivity begin with training," stressed Dr. Theodor Niehaus, Managing Director of Festo Didactic, and added: "We must take aholistic view of the manufacturing process. Simply looking at the performance of products and equipment is no longer enough. Actual productivity gains can only be achieved if you also consider organisational expertise and staff skills. We have to provide answers in the three fields of People, Technology and Organisation. The training and consulting provided by Festo Didactic represent a key component in this respect."
"Blended Learning Solutions" is the term applied to the tailored knowledge transfer of the future, based on a wide variety of formats: from modular learning systems simulating industrial plants, to software, e-learning, web-based training, on-site seminars and the accompanying specialist literature. Only the right blend of these tools makes learning both effective and efficient. Some 42,000 customers are trained every year at seminars or in Festo’s own training facilities – in 176 countries around the globe. Festo sees its contribution to society as part of a corporate educational responsibility.
With its Festo Education Fund and involvement in the European (EuroSkills) and international (WorldSkills) vocational skills championships for Mechatronics and Mobile Robotics, as well as many other international, national and regional projects, Festo promotes technical skills among young people, supports international training standards and encourages outstanding technical achievements.
Research excellence strengthens EU locations
"Our high investments in R&D, future technologies and Future Concepts form the basis for sustainable global success. Despite the economic crisis, Festo has reached a record R&D investment ratio of 9.5 % of turnover since 2009. The main focus of our R&D activities is placed on the areas of man-machine cooperation, energy efficiency, ease of operation, machine availability and process reliability," explains Dr. Veit. Over 700 R&D employees are currently working on long-term new product development, as well as on customer-specific projects. In this way, the company aims to achieve a further lead in the global competition for production technology. "As the highest accolade, or technology Oscar, the ‘Deutscher Zukunftspreis’ (German Futures Award) 2010 for our Bionic Handling Assistant was a clear vindication of our strategy," stresses Dr. Veit. Cross-company collaboration in networks and clusters is also becoming increasingly important.
Dr. Peter Post, Head of Research at Festo and Speaker of Manufuture Europe, also underlined the significance of the EU initiative Manufuture in this respect. "Within the framework of the European Manufuture initiative, Festo is working on application-oriented concepts for the manufacturing technology of the future. The engineering industry is one of the largest employers in Europe and a guarantee for growth and prosperity in the EU. We can only rise to the challenges of the future if we invest enough research funds in this sector and if companies cooperate across borders," he explained.
Sustainable growth with energy-efficient innovations
"Festo attaches great importance to environmental protection and resource efficiency. Increased productivity, reduced costs and energy efficiency are critical factors for efficient automation – both for us and for our customers around the world," said Dr. Veit.
The engineering sector was hit hard by the economic crisis in 2009. The economic, technological and ecological challenges were higher than ever. But the crisis also illustrated one fact: only companies acting in a sustainable manner could compete on the market and be a true partner for their customers and employees, as well as for the environment.
As a family-owned company, Festo takes a holistic approach. It assumes global and local responsibility for its actions and aims to conserve resources and enhance the quality of life wherever it operates – with the aid of new technologies, knowledge and education.
"Our research also focuses on making production processes safer, more eco-friendly and more efficient – at our own facilities and those of our customers.
This is why our production processes and products have made us such an important pioneer in automation technology over the years. This is also how we are seen by the general public. This is particularly true, for example, in the field of bionics – the transfer of biological principles to technology. Nature can provide us with completely new insights into how we can achieve more performance with less energy. With our Bionic Learning Network, we have created a platform for the energy-efficient drive systems of the future.
We want to set new standards with regard to energy efficiency and green manufacturing. With the aid of our self-developed Energy Saving Services, for example, companies can save up to two thirds of their compressed air consumption during production. The Environmental Technology Award 2009 for our Energy Saving Services, as well as the strong demand from our customers for energy-efficient solutions, are confirmation that we are on the right track. We also regard the international Energy Efficiency Award we received at the Hanover Fair in 2008 as further motivation to enhance our company’s buildings, production methods and industrial plant," adds Dr. Veit.