TOP COMPANY GUIDE 2021 /Specialist contribution
Johann Ecker – CEO, Tekfor Group
Increasing shares of electrified and hybridized vehicles are not bad news for the Tekfor Group: As a specialist for forged and machined parts, we have long been developing components for e-mobiles – and in the future we will be represented with components in one of the largest e-vehicle platforms. Innovations have characterized the company for decades.
We may not have invented the wheel, but we invented the wheel nut – at least the two-piece one used in trucks. Every 40-ton truck has around 100 of these fasteners. As before, 90 percent of the two-piece wheel nuts installed in trucks in Europe come from us. More than 40 years ago, this was a Tekfor innovation. Since then, many more have been added. We hold over 50 patents and are a sought-after development partner in the automotive industry – especially in times of electromobility.
Our roots are in Hausach in the Black Forest, where the company was founded as a precision machine parts manufacturer in 1942. Never being satisfied with what has been achieved and constantly improving products is the recipe for success of many companies in this region characterized by craftsmanship. This is exactly what distinguishes us: The Tekfor Group sets as a responsible innovation leader trends in the industry. As a result, we are usually among the first and fastest to implement valuable ideas for the future.
With our international presence and the clout of a medium-sized company, we react flexibly to our customers’ new production sites. We are quickly at the customer’s site and provide targeted support through worldwide know-how transfer of our technologies and production processes. With locations in Europe, South and North America, the Tekfor Group is currently a leader in the design, development and production of innovative solutions for transmissions, engines, drive trains and safety nuts. We currently employ almost 1,400 people at our German sites in Hausach, Rotenburg an der Fulda, Schmölln and Eschborn near Frankfurt am Main. Around 2,100 employees worldwide work to supply our international automotive customers and their suppliers reliably and on time with products worth approximately 300 million euros. With a double-digit EBITDA margin, we are in a position to finance the necessary investments from our own resources and are clearly focused on growth and increasing the value of the company. We invest around 25 million euros in production and new products every year.
For hot, semi-hot and cold forming and the skillful combination of these processes, we use precise, heavy-duty forming tools and modern forming equipment. Subsequent, metal-cutting finishing and assembly turn the manufactured components into precise, high-quality individual parts and assemblies. With our surface treatment equipment, we can adjust specified friction values or provide parts with high-quality corrosion protection. Our machinery is designed for high flexibility. This enables us to cover the entire portfolio of high-performance machining and to produce the most complicated parts with process reliability – from prototypes to large-scale production. Testing and assembly systems are designed and manufactured in-house. The advantages: The systems are individually adapted to our parts and assemblies, and high availability is guaranteed. Our products include gear wheels and shafts for transmissions, camshafts and their components, constant velocity joints, wheel hubs and many other components for modern vehicles. Tekfor is benefiting from the trend toward downsizing, the reduction and increase in the specific power of the internal combustion engine. Other trends such as the variable valve control, for which we supply components, or the increased number of gears boost our product sales. As a rule of thumb, the more complex the drive, the more parts we supply. Our competence team for e-mobility has already developed numerous innovative solutions that have now led to orders for various customer programs.
Hybridization and electrification of the drive open up more opportunities than risks for Tekfor, because we also demonstrate our innovative strength in this area – in this respect, e-mobility does not present us with any major challenges. For the rotor shaft of an e-drive, we generate roughly the same amount as for a complex, assembled camshaft of a 4-cylinder combustion engine. Even though we expect that 70 percent of cars manufactured worldwide will still have an internal combustion engine on board in 2030, we are positioning ourselves in such a way that we are independent of the drive mix. Although the proportion of internal combustion engines will decline in the coming years, this will be more than compensated for by growth in the area of alternative drive systems and the general growth in the automotive market. The bottom line is that the Tekfor Group will continue to grow. We supply around 40 percent of our products to car manufacturers and their suppliers, and around 20 percent to the commercial vehicle industry. In the past, the focus was clearly on vehicles with combustion engines. A camshaft constructed from several parts, manufactured using a process developed at Tekfor and now used by many engine manufacturers, is an example of our engineering expertise. This expertise has also been used to develop new concepts for alternative drives together with customers.
Because our core competence is the same regardless of whether an electric motor or an internal combustion engine powers the car: We have an engineering understanding of the parts we develop and supply. For a well-known German car manufacturer, we will be represented with the rotor shaft of the electric motor in a large number of vehicle models that are currently being launched and will be launched in the future. For two other OEMs, we supply the parking lock of the e-drive, which prevents the vehicle from rolling away. We also supply shafts for transmissions in electric cars, and we help secure the heavy battery packs in the vehicle with our solutions.
Further innovations are in the pipeline – in line with the motto: How can we use our know-how and products for electrified vehicles of today’s and future generations? Tekfor will also be needed in the electrified future: Wherever high torques are transmitted – and that is the case with an electric car – you need formed and machined parts from Tekfor.
The mobility of the future can come. Tekfor: Driven by Excellence.