When a company has been in business for more than 70 years, the list of extensive services and innovations it can offer is both detailed and long.
It’s also a testament to the longevity and ingenuity that has been at the center of Liebherr for decades.
“Currently, Liebherr offers hobbing, shaping, skiving, chamfering, and both generating and profile-grinding machines along with gear metrology, cutting tools, clamping solutions, and a full complementary line of automation solutions,” said Gary Chatell, president of Liebherr Gear and Automation Technologies, Inc. “We are also leading the way with digitalization and connectivity solutions related to Industry 4.0.”
The importance of automation
Liebherr is highly invested in the advancement of Industry 4.0, as many smaller shops are in need of assistance in a fluctuating workforce, according to Chatell, and Industry 4.0 innovations being developed by Liebherr will be able to take those smaller shops to a higher level of efficiency.
“They’re having a hard time finding employees,” he said. “They want to take advantage of when they make a big capital investment for a machine, so being able to run over the weekend, lights out, and have the equipment fully utilized is a big selling point.”
With Liebherr’s research and advancements into more automation, it’s important to see how the company has pushed its innovative products throughout the industry, according to Chatell.
“Since the beginning of our gear business, Liebherr has been leading the way with innovation,” he said. “Much of that innovation was driven by our desire to serve our customers who have come to us with their challenges over the years. Examples include dry-hobbing, twist-free grinding, chamfer cut as well as large platform machines combining hobbing and milling.”
That includes Liebherr’s LGG generating gear grinding machine series, which has been specially designed for universal use, as well as for large serial production. It combines generating grinding, profile grinding, and internal grinding in one machine.
According to a brochure on the machine, the LGG is the most powerful generating gear grinding machine of its class on the market. With the new GH 320 CB gear grinding head, it can machine workpieces up to module 14 mm to excellent quality in a highly economical way. The extended travel range allows the machining of long shafts and, at the same time, improves the internal grinding of deep workpieces. The LGG 700 M is a manual gear-grinding machine that can generate workpieces up to 500 mm and profile grind workpieces up to 700 mm.
Excellent customer relations
These innovations Liebherr offers wouldn’t be possible without a detailed relationship with its customer base, according to Chatell, especially when one comes to Liebherr with a challenge.
“Liebherr looks at these challenges as opportunities,” he said. “They are opportunities to innovate, and they are opportunities to build and strengthen our relationships with our customers. These opportunities can build stronger and more solid relationships with our customers when we help them out with their challenges. Over the years, a lot of our innovations have come through solving customers’ issues. It’s hard for our engineers to work in a vacuum and try to figure out these things for the future, but when our customers present us with real-life challenges, that’s when we’re at our best.”
As an example, Chatell pointed out a time when Liebherr developed some of its skiving tools for SIAP, an Italian gear specialist company.
SIAP had been using five broaching machines for large quantities. Since broaches can be expensive for low volumes due to the high tool and sharpening costs, SIAP used broaching for straight gears. But by using Liebherr’s skiving technology, SIAP was able use it for large tooth gears in lieu of broaching. And with skiving, the quality remains consistently excellent for the lifespan of the tool.
70-plus years of experience
One of many reasons why Liebherr has been going strong since 1949 is its founder, Hans Liebherr, who invented the first mobile tower crane to assist in rebuilding Germany, according to Chatell.
“In the late 1950s, gearboxes were still difficult to source, so Hans Liebherr, with his entrepreneurial spirit, decided to build his own gear-hobbing machine,” he said. “After the war, our division started when he had a hard time finding gearboxes for his cranes, so he decided to make his own gearboxes, and then he had a hard time finding gears, so he decided to make his own gears. When he had a hard time finding machines to make gears, he made his own machines to make gears. He was a very entrepreneurial man.”
In 2021, Liebherr achieved more than $12 billion in revenue and has approximately 140 companies with 50,000 employees around the world, and it still remains a family-owned company.
Liebherr has been able to achieve this amazing growth over the decades by incorporating a set of core values that are used in everything the company does — from long-term strategies to daily decisions, according to Chatell.
“We have six main core values,” he said. “We are independent, which means we’re still family owned. We can make good long-term decisions for our employees and for our customers and not be beholden to the quarterly shareholder meetings that public companies have to do. We accept responsibility. We strive for the highest quality in everything we do. We’re a trustworthy partner. We’re innovative, and our employees are a key to our success. What we really try to touch on is that, through our independence, we’re really able to focus on what’s best for our employees and for our customers. It’s a family-owned company, but there’s a family culture here, too.”
That was particularly evident during the COVID pandemic, according to Chatell.
Looking to the future
As Liebherr enters its next 70 years, Chatell said that sustainability will continue to be an area that will affect most industries moving forward.
“That’s going to be the driving theme,” he said. “The issue of sustainability will drive the gear market over the next couple of decades. We can already see the impact created by electrification with increased requirements for noise reduction, reduced friction, and power density. Connectivity and digitalization in manufacturing will allow manufacturers to increase productivity, reduce scrap, and energy consumption and is, therefore, also connected to the issue of sustainability. Through Liebherr’s innovations in gear manufacturing, metrology, automation, and connectivity, we are in a unique position to help our customers achieve success in the challenging years to come.”
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