ZF Friedrichshafen AG, headquartered in Friedrichshafen, Germany, has announced plans to invest €800 million in its plant at Saarbrücken, Germany, over the next four years. The plant is the lead location for ZF’s transmission technology, and the investment is expected to add production plants, systems and infrastructure and expand its supplier network to make the facility fit for the transition from conventional to electric car drives.
Wolf-Henning Scheider, CEO of ZF Friedrichshafen AG, stated, “The share of hybrid drives in production will increase tenfold over the next few years – from five to fifty per cent.” The ongoing electrification of the powertrain is both an opportunity and a challenge for the plant, Scheider added. “We see the increasing market penetration of advanced hybrid drives as an opportunity, which in our view is much more than just a bridge technology. With longer ranges between 80 and 100 kilometers, they can complete the majority of all journeys electrically and thus help e-mobility to achieve a breakthrough more quickly.”
ZF commented that its order books show hybrid technology to be in great demand. The company is responding to this boom in demand with an investment programme worth more than €3 billion for the further development and sustainability of these products. If the development towards pure electromobility progresses as is currently forecast in several studies, however, ZF forecasts that sales for Saarbrücken will decline in the longterm, resulting in a decreasing workforce.
In view of this development, ZF has launched a number of activities in Saarbrücken that are intended to significantly increase the plant’s international competitiveness. These include, for example, a series of projects relating to the Internet of Things (IoT). These initiatives will also make use of artificial intelligence to provide quick and valuable decision-making aids for employees and thus increase efficiency.
“The fact that these effects will only occur in a few years’ time gives us the opportunity to prepare for them today,” explained Stephan von Schuckmann, Head of ZF’s Car Powertrain Technology Division. “We want to prepare our employees for the mobility of the future with a wide range of training and qualification opportunities and more agile work structures.”