The Growing Retrofit Market
“Why not digitally breathe new life into old machines and keep using them?,” wrote the Handelsblatt newspaper in its online edition on October 10, 2016. What were they talking about? Bosch CEO Werner Struth had used a 129-year-old machine as an example in his announcement that the Stuttgart-based company was entering the retrofit business. Bosch’s technicians had equipped the old workbench with four sensors and a minicomputer, casually catapulting the museum piece into the 21st century, the era of Industry 4.0, in the process. The thrust of the article was that Bosch wanted a piece of the retrofit pie. The company from Stuttgart assessed the market potential in Germany alone as being in the three digit million euros – per year, mind you.
And Bosch isn’t the only company active in the field – an increasing number of equipment and systems manufacturers offer retrofitting services. This is because experts calculate that comprehensively retrofitting a machine tool costs significantly less than a brand spanking new machine. Not to mention the considerable costs that come with a new machine for setting up new processes and workflows, training employees, and so on and so forth.
Retrofitting as a Service
When asked, the VDMA (Germany’s Mechanical Engineering Industry Association) stated that in a survey conducted in 2016, German equipment manufacturers rated retrofitting and rebuilding services as the field with the highest growth rates. According to the survey, a total of 50 percent of the companies expect strong growth, 35 percent medium growth, and only 15 percent said they did not expect any growth. Retrofitting and rebuilding services’ share of total service revenue (which includes spare parts, assembly, and commissioning) totaled 7.0 percent, according to the VDMA survey in 2016. A total of 52 percent of the VDMA members surveyed actively offer retrofitting as a service, 36 percent carry out retrofitting measures upon request, and only 12 percent of the companies surveyed haven’t had anything to do with retrofitting up until now.
Retrofitting at Haas Schleifmaschinen
It goes without saying that it’s also possible to retrofit Multigrind® grinding machines from Haas Schleifmaschinen. We frequently carry out a wide variety of retrofitting measures for our customers. Sometimes they are more complex, sometimes less so. Sometimes it’s “only” a cleaning and functional test, sometimes a complete technical overhaul with comprehensive hardware and software modernization.
A Sound Investment
Steffen Schmidt heads up the Used Machines and Retrofit department at Haas Schleifmaschinen. Here at Haas Schleifmaschinen, a retrofitting project usually begins with him examining the machine in question at the customer’s place of business, and then discussing what the customer expects from their system. In other words, what should the machine be able to do after retrofitting, and to what extent should the grinding machine be modernized?
Based on this briefing, our engineers and technicians determine what’s possible. Afterwards, we prepare a detailed project plan and schedule and a quote. The retrofitting work is then either carried out at the customer’s place of business or the machine pays us a visit in Trossingen – this is something our technicians decide in consultation with the customer. Over the course of the retrofit project, we regularly update the customer on our progress. At the end of the project, the user has an overhauled, technologically state-of-the-art Multigrind® grinding machine of the highest quality. The advantage here is that the modernized grinding machine offers additional precision and productivity, but costs significantly less than a new grinding machine. On top of that, retrofitting doesn’t just make financial sense, but is also a sound investment when it comes to conducting business in a resource friendly, sustainable manner.
Steffen Schmidt has overseen numerous retrofit projects at Haas Schleifmaschinen, so we decided to ask him a couple of questions:
Schleifblog: What services does Haas Schleifmaschinen offer in the field of retrofitting?
Steffen Schmidt: Mechanical and electrical overhauling, automating the grinding machine, retrofitting with robots or other handling systems, upgrading hardware and software components like grinding spindles, dressing units, grinding software, etc.
Who can benefit from retrofitting and what are the benefits exactly?
Steffen Schmidt: Overhauling and retrofitting are an attractive option for all customers and industries. The technological and financial arguments are obvious – depending on the scope of the measures, retrofitting can increase performance, add flexibility with regard to the tools a machine can be used to grind, increase productivity, and reduce manufacturing costs thanks to state-of-the-art technology, lower susceptibility to failure, no need to retrain users, and no need to modify a customer’s existing production environment.
What Multigrind® grinding machines are suitable for retrofit projects?
Steffen Schmidt: With the exception of our latest grinding machine, the Multigrind® CU, we can retrofit all Haas machines that operators are still using. So this means the Multigrind® HT, Multigrind® AF, Multigrind® CB, and Multigrind® CA. Our experience retrofitting the aforementioned models has been entirely positive.
What type of retrofits does Haas Schleifmaschinen offer?
Steffen Schmidt: We modernize systems exclusively on the basis of what the customer needs. We don’t think it makes sense to offer “off-the-shelf” retrofitting services, since the customer also wants to produce their own specific components. This needs to be taken into consideration when planning the retrofitting measures. With regard to demand, we receive inquiries both from new customers looking for a used machine as well as inquiries from existing customers that want to update their Haas grinding machine to the latest technical standard.
How long does a retrofit project at Haas Schleifmaschinen take?
Steffen Schmidt: That depends on the what the operator wants to achieve with their machine in the future. Depending on the scope, you can expect these projects to take anywhere from six to twelve weeks, sometimes longer. In this context, it goes without saying that we closely align the time we need with the customer’s production planning. Thanks to our many years of experience, we can estimate how long a project will take with pinpoint accuracy.
Does Haas Schleifmaschinen plan, in the future, to buy back machines, modernize them, and then resell them, similar to what other suppliers are already doing?
Steffen Schmidt: Upon purchasing a new Multigrind® grinding machine, we do take old Haas machines as trade-ins. The used machines are then comprehensively retrofit in Trossingen and then put back on the market with certified quality and a Haas guarantee.
How many retrofit projects does Haas Schleifmaschinen carry out per year?
Steffen Schmidt: At the moment we carry out between six and eight retrofit projects per year, whereby the scope of the projects varies widely. I expect the retrofitting business here at Haas Schleifmaschinen to continue growing, since it makes both financial and environmental sense. After all, a grinding machine is not a disposable product, and in this day and age, companies need to get behind every approach that moves toward sustainability and resource conservation.
We would like to thank Steffen Schmidt for the interview!