As part of a thematic tour on the transformation of the automotive industry, Minister of Economics Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut MdL visited the company ARADEX in Lorch. Special circumstances such as the consequences of the Corona pandemic, exploding raw material and energy prices as well as the effects of the Russian war against Ukraine, lead to a change, a transformation. Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut wanted to learn first-hand how companies in Baden-Württemberg are facing these challenges. In the Ostalbkreis district, the minister stopped by the ARADEX company in Lorch.
“The paths ARADEX is taking are exemplary,” mentioned Dr. Hoffmeister-Kraut in her welcoming speech. “ARADEX has been a reliable and competent partner for over 30 years as a pioneer of high-performance drive technology, not only for industry in the state,” said Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Minister of Economics, Labor and Tourism, on the occasion of her visit to ARADEX. “ARADEX AG creates attractive employment for nearly 80 employees here in Lorch. We need medium-sized companies like ARADEX, which are actively tackling the transformation of the automotive industry and can optimally integrate alternative drive components such as batteries or fuel cells in addition to the drive itself as part of a holistic powertrain optimization,” the Minister of Economics continued. ARADEX’s participation in the “e-mobil BW GmbH” cluster is also commendable. The Baden-Württemberg cluster landscape, a special feature in the state: The opportunity for networking and basis for cooperation.
In a company presentation, Dr. Stefan Hellfeld (CEO ARADEX) introduced the company’s products, markets and highlights: “Our most important target markets are commercial vehicles, mobile machinery and marine applications”. Hardware, software, technology modules and comprehensive services are the so-called “added values” for customers. Dr. Hellfeld cited examples where ARADEX had mastered the transformation to electrification, including a battery-only solution of a 120-ton dump truck that generates more energy downhill when loaded than it needs uphill when empty. “We have a lot of levers in motion when it comes to electrification and “softwareization”” continued Dr. Hellfeld about increasing the added value of electrification through the efficient use of software, and customers refer to ARADEX’s PC tool for commissioning as the best tool on the market. Finally, Dr. Stefan Hellfeld explained some fields of application for ARADEX’s Virtual Sensor Technology. Thomas Vetter (one of the founders of ARADEX) sees this as probably the most important game changer in the electrification and controllability of applications. Similar to the 60s with excavators, when new, hydraulically moved excavators made the previous rope excavators disappear from the screen.
Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut then wanted to know what ARADEX was doing to recruit personnel. “Surrounded by some global players, we are in strong competition here,” explained Dr. Hellfeld, but due to close contacts with surrounding universities and the offer of two dual study courses, the company is well positioned. Among other things, the internal software department is growing, and Dr. Hellfeld was optimistic that he would also be able to master these challenges.
“We also regularly have students doing their bachelor’s theses with us,” added Jens Müller. Müller, a long-time employee of ARADEX AG, grew from studying into the company. When asked by the minister how Müller felt about the change, he explained, “We clearly backed the right horse with electrification.” The biggest change, he said, has been in customer demands and the legal regulations that have to be taken into account, depending on the application. Jens Müller is also emblematic of the transformation at ARADEX; he had his beginnings in the hardware department and now oversees the “Application and Development” department together with Thomas Hartmann.
Next, Dr. Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut wanted to know how ARADEX is positioned with regard to cooperations and partnerships outside the cluster. Dr. Hellfeld added that there is mutual support between partner companies. One example is the cooperation with a Dutch company, where there is a lively exchange between services and hardware. In this way, one also gets a feel for what makes customers tick. Since ARADEX does not manufacture its own motors, it works with experienced partner companies in this area. Dr. Hellfeld left the European terrain and explained the synergy in cooperation with the Chinese group WEICHAI: “The Asian approach is faster, one accepts mistakes, which can be an advantage in many developments. Whereas in Europe, we assess the risks more. In Europe, we are perhaps a bit too thorough here.” A happy medium of the two approaches is certainly ideal, he said. WEICHAI is also supporting ARADEX with important components in production after a previous supplier did not promise any goods.
Franz Loogen, Managing Director of e-mobil BW GmbH (State Agency for New Mobility Solutions and Automotive Baden-Württemberg), thanked for the exciting insights regarding the current cooperations with China on engineering level and finally inquired about the further exchange with WEICHAI. “The first big challenge is the different time zones. But with currently two projects we are in daily exchange with WEICHAI and we have five Chinese employees on site”, Dr. Hellfeld answered. Dr. Yupeng Wang (CTO ARADEX) even moved to Lorch with his family.
Marita Funk, mayor of the town of Lorch, was very pleased about the visit of Dr. Hoffmeister-Kraut, a special appreciation for the medium-sized companies in the district. The Minister then solemnly signed the Golden Book of the town of Lorch. Before the minister’s journey continued to Leutenbach, Thomas Vetter had another surprise in store: an old but still very well functioning scale from the Bizerba GmbH & Co. KG factory in Balingen. Balingen is also the hometown of Dr. Hoffmeister-Kraut. Vetter weighed a letter first on this scale and then with the help of an electrically driven car wheel. This wheel drive demonstrates the performance of ARADEX’s VirtualSensor technology, implemented with proprietary software. The technology as well as the results surprised the minister. A company, by the way, in which Dr. Hoffmeister-Kraut has been a shareholder since 1998 and also served as a member of the company’s supervisory board for three years.