Leading automation-solutions provider seizes the day with major expansion of its Canadian operations and product range
As an integral part of one of the world’s leading industrial automation companies, Bosch Rexroth Canada is not the type to mark its major milestones and accomplishments in half-measures.
From using a collaborative robot to perform the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to conducting informative on-site guided tours showcasing the company’s expertise and innovation, the recent opening of the company’s new Customer Experience Centre in Burlington, Ont., was a resounding display of the parent company’s commitment to the Canadian market and an impressive showcase of its prowess and know-how in the field of factory automation.
Accounting for the bulk of a $20 million capital investment allocated by Bosch Rexroth AG to upgrade its Canadian operations this year—including retrofitting and expanding the company’s Quebec and Edmonton locations—the opening of the new building provided a fitting occasion for the hydraulics powerhouse to unveil its True North strategy focused on growing the company’s North American market share and customer base.
Attended by the company’s senior executives—including Trevor Osborne, general manager of Bosch Rexroth Canada; Gregory Gumbs, chief executive officer and president of Bosch Rexroth North America; Karl-Philippe Clement, vice-president of sales development at Bosch Rexroth in Germany; and John Mataya, chief financial officer and director of operations, finance and administration at Bosch Rexroth Canada—the open house event provided plenty of opportunity for invited customers to get close and personal with the broad range of automation technologies offered by Bosh Rexroth to help make their manufacturing operations more efficient, productive and competitive in the global marketplace.
“It marks a really new day and a new chapter for us in the Canadian market,” Gumbs declared in his opening remarks.
“One of the key pillars of our growth strategy is factory automation, where we have made significant investments.”
“With packaged goods, transportation of goods from one station to the other, or from different areas of the factory—we can handle it all ,” Gumbs stated.
“Liquids with different temperatures, frozen foods, temperature-sensitive foods… we have the solutions for all these applications right in our backyard.
“The Canadian business has a very bright future,” Gumbs stated, “and we’re investing heavily both in people and products, and in organic R&D (research and development) to grow it further.”
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Bosch Rexroth’s North American business currently accounts for about US$1.2 billion of the company’s annual global turnover of about US$7 billion, while employing over 2,500 people at 20 locations across the continent, including four sites in Canada.
Having completed five strategic acquisitions in the last year, the company has built up a vast distribution network comprising 32 partners across the U.S., 33 in Mexico, and 10 in Canada to service its North American client base.
Gumbs said he expects the Bosch Rexroth North American business to increase its revenues to over $1.6 billion next year, as the company continues to explore new business opportunities in the semiconductor, medical, life sciences, electrification and factory automation fields.
Having recently conducted a tour of the company’s distribution network, “I walked away really blown away and impressed with the capabilities that our collective partners have in the markets that they serve,” Gumbs said.
“I really think it’s part of our extended value proposition to our end markets.
“I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to work with two of our major competitors in the past over my 30-year career,” Gumbs related, “and I would say I our team and our capabilities stack up well against anybody else’s in the market.
“From my point of view, I think the sky’s the limit in terms of possibilities for us in the future,” said Gumbs, adding that the new Burlington facility will offer a useful footprint for the company’s ambitious plans for further expansions in the U.S. markets, where it plans to have its manufacturing operations focused solely on serving their selected end markets.
“What we’re doing here [in Burlington] is really what we’re trying to replicate in all our strategic locations around the region,” Gumbs noted, citing the company’s upcoming expansions of similar Center of Excellence facilities in Pleasanton, Ca., Hoffman Estates, Ill., and Dearborn, Mich.
“We have a really talented and capable team of sales, application engineers and technical experts that are very focused on the industry verticals they serve,” said Gumbs, again reiterating the company’s commitment to growing its factory automation business.
“We are all really focused on getting closer to our customers by supporting their markets and bringing our expertise and domain competence to those verticals,” said Gumbs, adding that the company’s True North strategy is based on close cooperation between its different sites to come up with the best solutions for its customers regardless of application or geographic location through collaborative virtual testing, simulation and commissioning capabilities.
“So if a customer has an application that may not be served in Canada because we don’t have the expertise, we can meet their needs at any one of our other sites by getting in touch and collaborating with their experts,” he said.
“This way we can solve any application challenges brought forward to us with the depth and breadth of our product portfolio,” he stated.
“We’ve been on a hiring frenzy over the last year-and-a-half,” Gumbs noted, “making a really huge investment into our factory automation business by staffing up with application engineers and sales expertise to support our customers and to help grow our business with a focus on solving problems and delivering solutions and outcomes in the verticals they we fall into,” Gumbs said.
“Our vision of the ‘Factory of the Future’ is not just words on paper—it’s really coming to life,” he asserted.
“We are also investing heavily in our web and e-commerce capabilities,” said Gumbs, citing the company’s vastly expanded Rexroth Store online platform.
“It’s not perfect, but it is getting better every day, as we’re working on getting all of our content out there,” Gumbs said.
“The idea is to make it easier for our customers to find what they need and do the research that they need to do before engaging and helping them through the buying process.”
Said Gumbs: “Our factory-automation business has been really taking off, and it is growing exponentially.
“It’s not as well-known as our industrial hydraulics equipment, which still accounts for about 70 per cent of our business,” Gumbs acknowledged, “but we are seeing fast-growing demand for our servo drives, motors, controllers, linear motion control, assembly technology and other factory-automation solutions.”
According to general manager Osborne, final completion of the state-of-the-art, 75,000-square-foot Customer Experience Centre facility has faced numerous challenges, including COVID-19, city permits, labor strikes, and last-minute requirements to get the formal occupancy sign-off from the municipality.
Mark Wilson, Bosh Rexroth Canada’s national sales manager, noted the new building is now fully equipped to provide the company’s customers “the capability to duplicate or replicate whatever is happening at the customer’s location” through the company’s powerful remote process control, equipment monitoring and diagnostics, and process simulation capabilities.
“We are casting a vision of the future [and] we’re building up our capabilities to enable that future,” Wilson said, citing the company’s concerted recent foray into next-generation AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) and collaborative robots, as demonstrated by Bosh Rexroth’s recent acquisition of leading Denmark-based robotics manufacturer Kassow Robots.
“There are many progressive companies that are starting to adopt some of the newer technology and experimenting with it,” Gumbs noted.
“And once they learn and get comfortable with taking on that technology, and as they transform their workforce to adopt this technology, then it will all start to move at a much faster pace.”
Added Osborne: “We will soon see a lot more AMRs with cobots moving around the factory workspace—replacing humans in some of those applications.
“We now have a new control platform, called CtrlX, which will be featured across all of our product areas,” Osborne added.
Developed to meet the requirements in markets that are characterized by ever shorter product life-cycles and ever fiercer competition, the modular and scalable ctrlX Automation platform is structured to provide all the building blocks for complete flexible automation solutions with the ctrlXWorld ecosystem, according to Bosch Rexroth, while exploiting the potential of digitization and networking by combining control technology, IT and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) in a meaningful way.
“It is backward-compatible with all our legacy products,” Osborne said, “as well as being used and developed in for all of our product areas.
“It’s kind of based on a mobile phone type of platform with apps, giving us compete flexibility and control to embed it into any fixed operating system or any of our products,” he explained.
“We always look very closely at where our customers are headed,” Osborne summed up, “as we try to understand all future developments that will allow our customers to gain a competitive advantage.”
“It all about s us having the application knowledge to be able to help our products and our technologies combine into full solutions that will make our customers more competitive and successful.”