Bosch to make billions with green tech – 5G, IoT, AI subsumed in green Industry 4.0 push
German industrial giant Bosch has shifted its messaging, perhaps, in time for Hannover Messe, Europe’s big industrial trade fair, which sees its return next week after three calendar years of pandemic and disruption. Very squarely, the message from Bosch in its pre-show strategy update is that green-industry equals healthy-industry, both in terms of bottom-line profitability and headline sustainability.
Bosch has generated about €800 million already (in 2021), it says, from the sale of “climate-friendly” industrial tech; it reckons revenues from “green tech for industry” will top €1 billion by the year-end (“by 2023”). This is big business, then; but the latest in Bosch’s line of now-periodical strategy briefs about playing both sides of the Industry 4.0 line, as user and seller of this magical new tech, says hardly anything about tech itself, at least not by name.
There is nothing about 5G, nothing about IoT, and next to nothing about AI – despite the fact Bosch has put major focus recently on all three tech-types. Actually, AI gets referenced three times in a characteristically wide-ranging missive, which covers Bosch’s broad Industry 4.0 interests; Industry 4.0, that other well-used (and useful) catch-all to describe the new pyro-tech-nical inputs and outputs that will drive digital change, also gets referenced three times.
Of course, the content is the same: Bosch will marry together new connectivity, sensing, and analytics technologies in its factories and products, as it is already doing to great business-effect, it says. In fact, Bosch said in 2019 it would achieve €1 billion in incremental revenue from €1 billion by 2022 from using and selling its own Industry 4.0 solutions, and said in 2020 it was generating annual sales of €750 million from the same.
So its newest results and targets imply a slight delay, even if they also describe a well-executed strategy. Indeed, €800 million represents almost 14 percent of its total ‘industrial tech’ sales (€6.1 billion in 2021). The green tech market is growing by 8 percent annually, it said, quoting BMU. But the interesting angle, we think, is that the inputs and outputs of its three-way tech pursuits are being described primarily in terms of their green business impact.
In the end, says Bosch, pound for pound, every Industry 4.0-geared improvement drives lower energy usage – which is a happy money-spinner, as it goes. And Bosch is unabashed. “Bosch aims to generate billions in sales with green tech for industry”, says the headline. “Bosch is employing smart Industry 4.0 software to control climate-neutral manufacturing operations,” says the bullet-point in the deck, missing-out a more-overt message about AI.
“Bosch is developing modular, energy-efficient systems and machinery for sustainable factories,” says another deck-line, effectively describing connected-IoT. Rolf Najork, on the board, responsible for industrial technology, said: “Industry will become a driver of ecological transformation in business and society. Bosch is mobilizing all its resources, technological know-how, and manufacturing expertise. Bosch is growing faster than the market.”
Bosch already claims to be the “first global industrial company”, as of February 2020, to achieve carbon-neutral production. Its (mainly) AI and IoT strategy, which the company has already re-worked as AIoT in its marketing, plus its sometime-5G engagements in its own factories, are helping it to develop (AI and IoT) solutions to help (its customers within) the industrial sector to “conserve resources, reduce energy, and mitigate global warming,” it says.
This is in line with marketing from the rest of the Industrie 4.0 sector. VDMA, the association of German industrial manufacturers, says green tech can cut industrial CO2 emissions by almost 90 percent. Again, green business is big business, especially in industry, which accounts for about a fifth of global CO2 emissions. The green-tech market will be worth €300 billion per year by 2050, says VDMA; German firms comprise 15 percent of it today, says BMU.
Najork commented: “Industry must and can play a crucial role in environmental and climate action. Far from being a pipe dream, green factories are a reality. All we need now is more of them… Establishing a green economy hinges on industry. It’s where the innovations will be developed that sustainably shape not only industry, but also a variety of other sectors… Industry is opening the door to a climate-neutral future.”
At Hannover Messe, Bosch will showcase various IoT and AI (sorry, green-tech) initiatives. It has energy management software, called Energy Platform, which goes with its Nexeed Industry 4.0 software, to manage heat, electricity, and compressed air in factories – to predict consumption, avoid peak loads, and correct deviations in individual machines. The platform is used at 120 Bosch factories and 80 customer factories, it says.
Its flagship (yet another) Industry 4.0 plant in Homburg, in Germany, has seen energy usage fall by 40 percent “per manufactured product”. A statement says: “AI (there you go) offers even more possibilities”, and cites the work at its Eisenach plant to pilot an energy balancing solution to optimise energy usage of individual (1,000 different) machines. The software correlates production data, weather info, and energy prices, and recommends actions.
Private 5G – always private 5G with Bosch – plays a part, too. It says: “Connecting machinery and processes intelligently and dovetailing them with information and communications technology creates the basis for energy-efficient production. Increasingly, this involves relocating functions from hardware to software, augmented by digital twins.” At Hannover Messe 2022, its Hannover Messe 2019 line about fold-up factories is still relevant.
It says: “Bosch takes a modular approach. The only static elements of such a factory will be the floor, ceiling, and walls. Everything else will be dynamic and variable, with machines constantly rearranging their constellations and changing their configuration, depending on the job in hand. As a result, plant and equipment will last longer, and the amount of raw materials used in the production of new hardware will decrease.”
Private 5G will enable factories to design, develop, and test production systems in simulated digital twins. Najork said: “Virtual copies of physical assets in the real factory allow us to simulate and optimise workflows and processes – and this without interrupting operations.” Bosch is pushing its app-based ctrlX Automation control software, from its Bosch Rexroth division, which it claims can automate factories with 50 percent fewer control components.
“The drives weigh up to one-third less. The lighter the hardware, the less drive power and energy are required,” it says. Three hundred customers are using the solution, which launched in 2019. It is showing new hydraulics, too, with variable-speed pump drives to reduce power consumption in machine tools, injection moulding machinery, and presses. Bosch Rexroth’s CytroBox offers load-dependent control (with standby) for better power usage.
It has a range of energy storage battery modules, “sustainably produced and then recycled”, for factories, too. It is working with Volkswagen to develop factory equipment for producing new battery cells. It will create a brand new company for the task by the end of the year. Bosch will showcase electrification equipment for the automotive sector, including for excavators, forklifts, and tractors. “Volume production” for off-highway vehicles will start in late 2022.
It is supplying factories with manufacturing and testing technology to produce hydrogen-based fuel cells, for automotive and aviation. It is about to equip an Arizona manufacturing facility belonging to Nikola with production lines to assemble fuel-cell systems for trucks. Bosch Rexroth has hydraulic drives and electric controls for hydrogen compressors, which raise gas pressure to 900 bar; it wants to equip 4,000 hydrogen filling stations by 2030.