Bernd Schwengsbier is president of TII Sales, which forms the Kamag, Nicolas and Scheuerle group of companies. IC spoke to him about its products and plans
The group began when well-known German business entrepreneur Senator E.h. Otto Rettenmaier acquired Scheuerle Fahrzeugfabrik in 1987. Nicolas Industrie was integrated into the group in 1994 and, 10 years later, the Ulm-based Kamag Transporttechnik completed the trio of subsidiaries in the TII GmbH - Transporter Industry International Group. In turn, TII Group forms part of the Rettenmaier family's larger group of companies.
Schwengsbier makes it clear, however, that there are no plans to integrate all three companies under a single banner. "Scheuerle, Nicolas and Kamag will remain standalone companies and of course standalone brands. The holding TII Group, however, gives the three companies the combined strength they need to face the challenges of an ever-changing market, while still allowing them the freedom to be individual. This cultivates a strong innovation culture."
This innovative approach is vital in fast moving times. "For example, 20 years ago, the wind industry did not exist. Now this sector of the market is quite big and still has a promising future and we try to get our share out of this market by developing superior systems at Nicolas and Scheuerle for economic prices," comments Schwengsbier.
On the other hand, there are more challenging sectors of the transport industry. "For example, the shipyard industry is totally affected by the international crisis and the market demand is very low. Therefore, we react and try to compensate the turnover with a bunch of new product developments."
Each company has its own distinct standing in the field, explains Schwengsbier. "For example, Nicolas in France is very strong in manufacturing special in-plant transportation and transfer systems for Airbus Industries. In addition to its traditional strong international standing in the worldwide platform trailer market, it is providing special solutions for the agricultural sector and military transportation solutions."
Kamag, on the other hand, is a German market leader for in-plant transportation systems aimed at terminals and yard logistics, with the so called Wiesel and its terminal tractor TruckWiesel. It also supplies equipment for steel mills, including slag transporters, pallet carriers and scrap transfer cars worldwide, says Schwengsbier.
"Additionally, the Kamag Type K24 - the Kamag SPMT - is currently under re-development and will soon be equipped with a complete new electronic system in addition to a new steering technology and a reinforced steel frame to allow for an increased payload of 48 tonnes." The first units are due by November 2010.
The group has also decided to develop a new platform trailer, named the K 25, for the "next century," says Schwengsbier. "This is a big step for the TII Group on its way to gaining even higher market share in the international market sector of conventional trailers."
Scheuerle has manufactured more than 5,000 self-propelled and electronically steered axle lines. "Since Scheuerle invested in the development of common steering electronics, all SPMT, back to 1986, can be coupled together and be operated with one remote control," explains Schwengsbier. "This gives customers a huge advantage in operating their fleets worldwide and allows for economic cross hire rental."
At April's Bauma 2010 exhibition in Germany, launches included the InterCombi Power Booster. It supports large transport compounds on uphill transports, around sharp bends and narrow areas, or comes as a self propelled transport combination using a mobile control unit. A multi-compound coupling unit was also shown at the exhibition, consisting of four Scheuerle and Kamag units operated with one remote control. "You can even couple a Scheuerle SPMT unit with a width of 2,430 mm within this compound," adds Schwengsbier.
Under the wind
A major focus area for most crane and transport manufacturers is the wind turbine industry. The TII Group offers a range of products. The Scheuerle SPMT 3000 is a popular option for in-plant operations with its 3 m wide electronically-steered platform trailer with 280 degree steering angle, as is the SPMT 2430 in side-by-side configuration to transport 360 tonne nacelles or heavy tower sections, says Schwengsbier.
Nicolas also has a strong showing in the wind sector. "The new Nicolas telescopic adapter technology is a weight-optimised adapter that can move more than just wind towers. It is also designed to transport Vestas V90 nacelles, for example," says Schwengsbier. The adapter has special clamps that enable secure transportation, while wind tower segments up to 120 tonnes with an internal diameter of 5,500 mm can also be moved. The adapter is adjusted to the individual segment using remote control, and the whole system - adapter, support frame and swivel bolster - weighs in at 19 tonnes.
Another innovation is the Scheuerle side loader. "When delivering tower segments to the place of assembly, portal deck combinations are frequently used. Due to waiting periods regarding the crane, as well as strong winds, these combinations can very often not be unloaded immediately," exaplains Schwengsbier.
The side loader is connected twice in each case between two self-propelled vehicle units which are then operated in loose coupling mode. The individual units are positioned independently from each other parallel to the portal deck combination by means of a remote control - in front of the tower flange. Subsequently, the support legs are folded up hydraulically and the side loader is then lowered and telescoped outwards. After fastening the retaining head to the tower flange, the side loader is raised alongside and telescoped inwards. In doing this, the take up of the tower section is carried out on the self-propelled units: the portal deck combination has been unloaded and can leave the jobsite. (See www.khl.com for more details about this product.)
The transportation of sensitive loads like rotor blades is another challenging transportation task. The new Scheuerle blade adapter has a lifting, lowering and turning device. "This function moves one side of the blade upwards in tight curves, so that the tip of the blade points upward at a maximum angle of 23 degrees. It can then be moved to the left or right, meaning that it can 'float' over supporting walls, trees, buildings or other obstacles. In addition, the blade can be turned on its own longitudinal axis and moved out of the wind - taking wind loads into account. This guarantees the vehicle's stability," says Schwengsbier. The system can be used for semi-trailer combinations or for self-propelled transporters.
Technological leaps require continuous development from transport manufactures to meet requirements. "For example, we are currently working on the second generation of the blade transporter. [Designed] for the new shaped blades it can turn and lift and lower the blade in any desired position to achieve safe operations, for example in tunnels and galleries," explains Schwengsbier.
If wind energy is a growth area in the industry, so too is modularisation. "To save money in regard to international logistics, the industry is trying to make modules bigger and bigger. When we developed the first SPMT with one of our main customers in 1982, we thought in dimensions of maximum payloads of 1,000 tonnes. At the moment the world record is approximately 16,000 tonnes - all moved on rubber tyres."
There are a number of challenges in achieving these requirements, Schwengsbier explains. "As you can imagine all systems - electronics, hydraulics, mechanic supervision - have to work in perfect harmony to avoid a disaster for the transportation company as well as for the owner of the very expensive cargo. An accident could stop the project for one year or more and millions of dollars could be lost."
It is not just payloads that have soared over the years. At one time 36 axle lines seemed like a major project, now the group couples anywhere up to around 600 axle lines. This can cause issues when companies own a range of machines from different eras.
According to Schwengsbier, when he suggests linking a computer from 1990 to a current computer network, "everybody is laughing." However, Schwengsbier adds, "This is exactly what we do; we implement different development levels of nearly 30 years into one system. This is not easy as all subcontractors have changed their systems."
Times have changed indeed, and Schwengsbier points to the diesel engines from those years ago. "When we started nobody thought about a motor management system, controlled by a electronic supervision system - we sometimes have over 10 power packs synchronised in operation activated by one man - one remote control."
Looking ahead, Schwengsbier feels assured. "The TII Group is economically a very healthy organisation. [We] received early signs regarding the crisis and tried to sell all stock equipment and cleared up all international contracts.
"TII Group does not have high levels of stock from over-production and is, therefore, not that negatively affected like other companies, although, of course, we have problems in single markets like the shipbuilding industry, which is still in a process of recovery."