Technology leadership and speed is a core strategy of Bekaert. Our activities in this field are aimed at creating value for our customers in order for our business and all our stakeholders to prosper in the long term. We co-create with customers and suppliers around the globe to develop, implement, upgrade and protect both current and future technologies. We listen to our customers so we understand their innovation and processing needs. Knowing how our products function within their production processes and products is key to developing value-creating solutions.
Transforming steel wire and applying unique coating technologies form our core business. To strengthen our technological leadership in these competencies, Bekaert invests intensively in research and development, and sees innovation as a constant, driving factor in all our activities and processes.
In order to sustain and strengthen our technological leadership, we continue to explore new possibilities in steel wire transformation and coating technologies. Through the combination of these competencies, we influence the properties of steel such as strength, ductility, fatigue, shape, adhesion, and corrosion resistance.
Even after 140 years of expertise, there is still much to be discovered in our search for the optimal bulk and surface properties of steel wire. By maximizing the synergies between the competencies of our technologists and those of our research and business partners, we can make a real difference and draw infinite possibilities.
The Research and Innovation department is the center of expertise for Bekaert’s core technology domains: physical metallurgy, fatigue & mechanical performance, corrosion & metallic coatings, and organic coatings. In addition, it also focuses on data modeling and sensor technologies in close cooperation with the engineering and IT departments.
In 2019, we continued to invest in the fundamental research domains that will enable us to detect and explore new opportunities for Bekaert in the future.
Bekaert actively seeks opportunities for cooperation with strategic customers, suppliers and academic research institutes and universities. The academic partnerships particularly focus on physical metallurgy, metallic coatings, modeling, and on special laboratory analysis techniques that are not available in-house.
To accelerate the creation of new technologies, products and solutions, we have implemented a set-up in line with the new organizational structure.
More key customers are testing tire cord with our revolutionary coating TAWI® or ‘Ternary Alloy Wire’ coating. This tire cord coating enables tire makers to make their processes cleaner as it eliminates the need to add cobalt to their rubber compounds.
Bekaert has created a double hose reinforcement wire that allows hose manufacturers to add twice the number of wires to a bundle without extra machine investments. Hose manufacturers are limited by the number of spool positions on their rewinders to create wire bundles. By offering a double wire, Bekaert removes this limitation and allows its customers to add two wires per spool to the bundle. An additional benefit is that the wire tension and length are more controlled. This reduces the need to tune the rewinder, while resulting in more consistent processing during braid hose manufacturing.
The Intellectual Property department of Bekaert takes care of patents, designs, trademarks, domain names and trade secrets for the whole Bekaert Group, including the Bridon-Bekaert Ropes Group and the joint ventures in Brazil, through its teams in Belgium and China. It also advises on IP clauses in various agreements such as joint development agreements and licenses.
Reliable IP protection policies have made Bekaert a trusted partner of customers and suppliers around the world. In the course of 2019, the patent position of the newly developed Murfor® Compact was strengthened with patent grants worldwide. We also stopped various trademark infringements on Dramix® and Bekaert in Turkey, Vietnam and on Chinese websites.
In 2019, we filed 29 first patent applications. At the end of 2019, the Bekaert Group had a portfolio of almost 1 800 patents and patent applications.
Bekaert’s in-house engineering department plays a key role in the optimization and standardization of our production processes and machinery. In addition to designing, manufacturing and integrating available engineering solutions, this department installs and services the critical equipment in our production plants worldwide.
Bekaert can quickly react to capacity adjustment needs thanks to its engineering department. Because the technology needs are well known and understood, lead times are short and flexibility is high.
Newly designed equipment always combines innovative solutions for performance improvements in various areas, including product quality, production excellence and flexibility, and cost efficiency. Our main focus areas are machine safety, ergonomics and the environmental impact.
Bekaert Engineering makes make-or-buy decisions based on various factors, including cost-effectiveness, technology lead, and IP protection. To this end, the team actively screens the market for new technologies and trends and explores partnership opportunities to constantly improve Bekaert’s equipment and manufacturing excellence.
Our engineers and technicians use their broad experience to participate in creating the “Bekaert factory of the future”. They do this by working on high performing, innovative equipment at a low operational cost, machines that require minimal changeover time, and ensuring maximum automation and robotics. Great effort is taken to automate equipment, allowing machine operators to optimally use their expertise on tasks with added value.
In line with the better together philosophy, the engineering teams interact with and stimulate each other to develop and deliver the best solutions for and together with the business. Under the umbrella of Bekaert Manufacturing System, the engineering department collaborates with IT and Research and Innovation to explore Industry 4.0 innovations that offer new inroads for product and process improvements. We are looking at how these advances may enable a new manufacturing set-up in the long term and a vision for servicing the equipment along its lifetime in our plants.
Factory automation and a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) are enablers to optimize productivity. The interconnection and digitalization show in the increased use of sensors and robotics. Advanced sensors and measuring tools are increasingly being integrated into Bekaert’s manufacturing equipment in order to control the specification tolerances during various production steps. This enhances Bekaert’s product quality testing capability in all critical process stages and guarantees fault-free products for the customers.