Dr Jochen Peter, president and CEO, Industrial Metrology Business Group, Carl Zeiss Industrielle Messtechnik GmbH, Zeiss Group, Germany, was in Bangalore last month to launch new products at IMTEX 2018. He spoke to Autocar Professional's Kiran Bajad
Carl Zeiss caters to many industries globally. What is the level of contribution from the automotive sector?
The automotive industry, the division that I represent for the company globally, is the single-most important customer. We have been growing double-digit rate over the past few years, especially with our automotive customers. The automotive industry is going through rapid technological changes and we see them as an opportunity. There is certainly need for high-productivity products and quality will not go away. Therefore, as a leading supplier for quality, the technology is going to shape new trends and we are investing heavily in new technologies. For example, our CT technology is quite relevant and also constantly investing in our car body division. We are also pushing very hard with hybrid vehicles where the challenge is of two drivetrains that need quality inspection.
How is the changing dynamic of the automotive sector impacting companies like Zeiss over the near-term?
We always wanted to be our customer’s first partner of choice, driving new technological trends in the automotive industry. So far we have been quite successful; I think the whole industry is seeking for orientation. No one knows 5-10 years from now which will be the leading technology for the drivetrain and we are here with our customers to shape these trends to make our customer more successful. In India, we see the upcoming BS VI emission norms as one of the drivers of business in the automotive business.
In your global scheme of things, what role does India play?
As an automotive market and a supply base, India is still relatively small compared to China, USA or Europe. But at the same time, there is huge potential and, as a result, we are consciously putting our latest technology in India.
Today there are not many customers who can afford and invest in the same technology like an OEM in Europe does but this is a matter of time. Hence we want to be the first to showcase our latest technologies; this could help our Indian customers outgrow the best competitors.
On the metrology side, Zeiss has only four assembly facilities globally and one is located in Bangalore, India. This factory in India is the fastest growing and has doubled the machine count in the past two years. We are adding machines to the portfolio to assemble them locally. On the software and R&D front, we started a little over two years ago with one rather small software program with Indian engineers, this is growing rapidly. We will continue to invest in these areas because India is not just an interesting market but a key part of our supply chain and innovation of the global network.
You have experience of working in several global markets. Do you see India being different in terms of seeking solutions and technologies compared to the global market?India is certainly catching up fast compared to the developed automotive markets and the automation is relatively low. But we see this as an opportunity and help our customers to achieve a higher degree of automation. We believe this is the right time to introduce innovation to the Indian market by now and not wait a few more years.
In the meteorology business, India is already the No. 5 market globally and soon expected to become No. 4. If an automotive Tier I, Tier II companies or small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are willing invest to technologies, they have a huge competitive advantage.
I think the Indian companies are not only getting ready for the local market but striving to become global suppliers. Our Tier II customers know this and they are going to be the real winners in the next 5-10 years and we will help them on this journey.
How do you foresee the manufacturing industry and automotive industry, in particular, in view of the fast approaching disruptions?
It is always very tough to predict the future, especially the transition that is taking place in the automotive market globally and how quickly this will change. However, there are a few patterns we believe will emerge. One thing is clear that this transition is going to be different on the regional basis.
Our assumption is the Chinese industry would probably move towards a higher share of electric drivetrain much quicker than other major markets. Secondly, for some years to come, there is a coexistence of technologies and it is here we see a superior opportunity emerging. It is not that one technology like electric drivetrain will replace the IC engine. No, it will not and they will coexist for decades and the OEMs will be forced to keep innovating for all three technologies, especially for the battery operated vehicles where the battery is a key element of the value equation that need quality assurance. Hence we see this as a huge potential driver for our business. As a result, we keep innovating to be competitive in all the major fields including tighter tolerance and lower emissions in the IC engine.
In your previous role, you were part of the core automotive industry. Therefore, what is your prediction of the electric vehicle industry in the net 10-15 years?
Without going into a specific number, I would say it is obvious battery electric vehicles are looking for higher growth in next 5-10 years. But I honestly believe hybrid will have the biggest market share in this period. For a market like India, I would not underestimate the investment in infrastructure that India needs to put in for purely battery electric vehicles supporting grid. But the key thing is the coexistence of technologies where the battery electric vehicles will be used inside the city where the emission problem is higher and they have the biggest advantage due to zero emissions.
What was the Carl Zeiss' focus at the IMTEX 2018 exhibition?
The market is looking at productivity increasing solutions, the focus is on enhancing productivity and solutions like automaton and robotics are fast catching up. Therefore, to produce better quality equipment, for example, better passenger cars there is a need to eliminate human error. This can be done by using smart machines and this has been our focus, trying to showcase futuristic solutions for the Indian market. Most of these solutions are absolutely new in Europe and we are bringing them to the Indian market. A lot of our customers are very interested in these machines and also surprised to see the speed at which certain solutions are getting done.
At which sectors are these new machines targeted?
Usually, we have a product-centric focus but one particular business we have created completely independent – our car body solutions. We offer solutions right from sheet metal inspection in the press shop to the body shop where inspection of all the welding can be done. We will soon add a product which will detect defects after the paint shop. This is all combined with our software solutions through which all the defects can be traced from the entire production process.