Automation The strategy of innovation-driven development

From Zheng Li* |

An exclusive interview with Hans Beckhoff, Founder and Managing Director of Beckhoff Worldwide; and Ma Xingkai, General Manager of Beckhoff China.

Hans Beckhoff, Founder and Managing Director Beckhoff Worldwide
Hans Beckhoff, Founder and Managing Director Beckhoff Worldwide
(Source: Beckhoff Automation)

Accuracy, efficiency, flexibility, cost and speed are core features of automation technology and is used to enhance manufacturing value. In recent years, the integration of digitalization and automation technology has been rapidly put into practice in the manufacturing industry. Intelligent values help users improve their competitiveness through various innovative applications across numerous industries.

“If you want to love your own value, you have to create value for the world”, a famous saying from the ‘Aphorisms’ of Goethe is also the motto of many automation companies which specialize in serving the manufacturing industry, of which Beckhoff is an outstanding representative.

Looking back at 40 years of development, one can not only feel Hans Beckhoff´s enthusiasm for automation technology, but also realize his real passion for innovations and facing market competitions. Beckhoff started from scratch with only one person and today it is a major representative of PC-based control technology. The company has brought its innovative values to the manufacturing industry and changed people's lives.

The PC-based control technology perfectly convergences information and communication technology (IT) and automation technology (AT) and will undoubtedly usher in a broader space for development in the digital age.

The company has achieved valuable growth despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Beckhoff Automation generated a global revenue of 1,096 million dollars in 2020. This corresponds to a slight growth in turnover of 2 % compared to the previous year. The firm currently has approximately 4,500 employees worldwide. Beckhoff China also made a remarkable achievement. It realized sales income of 1.4 billion yuan with an impressive growth of 27% in 2020. At the beginning of 2021, Ma Xingkai officially took over as the General Manager of Beckhoff China.

How will the firm seize market opportunities in the ‘post-pandemic era’? How can the company promote the continuous growth of Beckhoff's business and share the innovative values with its users? Through this interview, we look forward to exploring the thinking and actions behind Beckhoff's success.


Grow against the trend and expand production capacities to seize opportunities

Beckhoff Automation has been taking the best possible precautionary measures since February to protect the health of its employees and to maintain continuous and stable production operation. “At the same time, we significantly increased our orders to the suppliers to ensure a regular supply of components, which were required for production. Despite the impact of the pandemic, our positive attitude and effective measures allow us to keep everything under control. Beckhoff's production capacity is not restricted at any time, and R&D as well as sales activities are stable. We are operating at full capacity and have the confidence as well as the ability to provide optimal services to our customers worldwide,” reports Hans Beckhoff.

He continues, “The benefit of being a family-owned private company with a healthy financial background is that Beckhoff can take decisions for long-term development. For instance, Beckhoff is investing in its warehouse stock level. By stocking raw materials and components for an additional 4 – 6 months, Beckhoff can guarantee regular production and delivery. Meanwhile, Beckhoff sensitively keeps monitoring any disruptions in the supply chain of core components, such as electronic components and takes rapid reaction. It is this kind of proactive planning that helped us to get through the hard times."

According to Ma Xingkai, Beckhoff China was among the first companies to react to the Covid-19 pandemic. The company decided to significantly increase the product stock levels in China by renting a new 1,000 sq m warehouse at its headquarters in Shanghai, China. The stable supply of products, reflecting the power of Beckhoff, is the key to winning orders in special times.

In terms of product applications, Beckhoff is involved in around 30 high-profile projects worldwide, for example, the development of respiratory and testing equipment, N95 mask machines as well as vaccine production and filling machines; six of which are implemented in China. In addition, Beckhoff’s components are widely used in many respiratory protective equipment and mask production facilities. In the global fight against Covid-19, Beckhoff is playing an active role and fulfilling its social responsibility.

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Although it is still too early to tell if the global pandemic is going to be stabilized, measures such as setting areas for temporary quarantine and vaccination will gradually bring the pandemic under control and a result, market rebound will become inevitable.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has had a huge impact on the manufacturing industry, but it has also unexpectedly become a catalyst for accelerating the digitalization process. Opportunities and challenges co-exist under the changes, and the critical period of manufacturing transformation may have arrived quietly. For 2021, Hans Beckhoff sees a very positive business development worldwide with double-digit growth rates.

All its subsidiaries around the world have resumed business expansion and attained dynamic growth! Beckhoff plans to expand production capacities for individual product ranges by up to 30 % in 2021. In addition, Beckhoff will continue its investments in research and development and training with full intensity. After 20 years of development, the Chinese market is becoming increasingly important for Beckhoff.