Right from the start

After a long, pandemic-related dry spell without trade shows, Alexander Geis, Chairman of the Management Board and CEO of SAF-Holland Group, is pleased to welcome guests once again at the upcoming IAA Transportation event in Hanover, Germany.

Q:How is the business tracking with its long-term strategic goals?
A: On both the regional and global level, our long-term strategies are tracking extremely well with the direction and demand of all our markets.

We intend to increase the capacity for trailer axles at our Turkish plant in Düzce by up to 70 per cent. This will allow us to react even more flexibly to seasonal fluctuations in demand and supply our customers in EMEA even faster.

At our Mexican site in Querétaro, we have completed the first stage of the expansion of the fifth wheel production lines for the spare parts business in the Americas region. In the next step we will expand the capacities for the original equipment business in Mexico and the United States of America.

In India we intend to realign our production this year and expand production capacity. It is not just the market projections that remain bright, but also an increasing demand for our sophisticated products using disc brake technology and air suspension. With our additional production capacities in Pune, we are perfectly equipped to meet customer wishes in the OE business and the aftermarket and to grow profitably.

In addition, we are constantly developing our portfolio of mission-critical products and digital solutions. Our current focus lies on the digitalisation of trailers and the electrification of trailer axles. In terms of digitalisation, the focus of development activity lies on optimising operating time and improving safety. New laws and regulations are additional drivers for both digitalisation and electrification.

SAF TIRE PILOT is already in use, a system for systematically monitoring the tyre pressure of semi-trailers and trailers and making automated adjustments if the pressure is too low. Return on invest is achieved in less than a year. Our TrailerMaster telematics system provides the relevant operating data to drivers and fleet managers in real time. Fleet managers are able to view the condition of the entire fleet at a glance and can document and optimise their trailer and transport processes. As a result, we now offer the first digital solution which customers can subscribe to for a monthly fee, regardless of use. Such continuous revenue streams are new for traditional commercial vehicle suppliers and at the same time offer new opportunities for retaining customers.

In the field of trailer axle electrification, series production of our SAF TRAKr e-axles is about to kick off. This axle uses recuperation to generate energy during operation and thus reduce fuel consumption, CO2-emissions and trailer noise. In addition, the SAF TRAKe electrified trailer axle provides traction assistance for the last kilometre and noise restricted areas. The strong demand and success of test trailers already equipped with the new systems on board has confirmed that our customers are eagerly awaiting these solutions and already appreciate the benefits of electrified axles. With our solutions for the digitalisation and electrification of trailers we will permanently secure our excellent market position and at the same time increase the content of SAF-Holland products installed per vehicle.

We are also in the process of refining our sustainability strategy and are building on what we have already achieved. The latest ESG ratings show that we are on a very good path. For example, we were given the second-highest rating of AA from MSCI and a grade of 13.4 (low risk) in the ESG risk rating from Sustainalytics.

With our Sustainability Roadmap which lays out numerous short and mid-term action plans through to 2030 we have set course for our sustained success in future. In our 2021 CSR strategy workshop, we defined a plan to concentrate on the two fields of environment and social engagement, thereby supporting the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. On the one hand, our goal is to position ourselves as an employer of choice worldwide and, on the other, to establish trend-setting goals for CO2-emissions and the circular economy. We intend to roll out this strategy globally.

SAF TRAKr e-axle.

Q: How has SAF-Holland adapted to the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and disruption in the supply chain?
A: First, I want to thank our excellent employees for the effort, commitment and hard work and their willingness to work together in steering SAF-Holland on a stable course through this difficult time. We have managed the challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic and the disrupted supply chains very well.

Due to our forward-looking health management – comprising self-testing kits and masks, the set-up of test centres and company vaccinations – we have succeeded in keeping the Covid-19 case rate in our global workforce at a very low level. At the same time, we have been able to adjust our production flexibly to match the demand of our customers and prove our outstanding delivery performance. This was only possible because of the tremendous team spirit and dedication of the entire workforce.

In addition, we enabled mobile working for our employees. Work can be performed with full office support, from a variety of remote locations through a mobile end-user device (smartphone, tablet, laptop). The results were very encouraging and we have therefore concluded a corresponding company agreement.

Thanks to our multi-supplier strategy, we were able to secure our mate-rial inflow even when individual suppliers had difficulties providing us with their products. At the same time, we made a conscious choice to increase our inventories. This way, we ensured that we could always deliver enough spare parts to our customers.

Q: SAF-Holland has a broad portfolio of road transport equipment and components. Are there any new products on the horizon that you can mention? Alternatively, which core products will you be focusing on at IAA?
A: At the IAA Transportation, we are bringing a whole range of new developments and product innovations that address and reflect the current megatrends in the industry: As far as digitalisation is concerned, we will be presenting the concept of the networked SAF Smart Axle and the new SAF-Holland I.Q. Customer Portal at the trade fair. The new SAF TIRE PILOT I. Q., a digitised tyre pressure monitoring system, can be optionally connected to the TrailerMaster telematics.

In the area of electrification, we are focusing on our e-axles, with the emphasis on the SAF TRAKr recuperation axle, which will start series production this year. Our Automated Coupling concept takes up the trend of autonomous driving, with the aim of automating and accelerating coupling and uncoupling operations via a sensor-based process. For the spare parts business, we will be showing the new NFC technology for the first time in Hanover, with which spare parts can be identified even more easily and securely.

Q: Are there any production milestones that you would like to celebrate?
A: A milestone for us and a great opportunity for the transport industry is our recuperation axle SAF TRAKr. It reduces noise and CO2 emissions and has experienced a strong interest and benefit to refrigerated trailers. After intensive development work and extensive, successful tests in real haulage operations and on test rigs, the trailer axle for recuperation is now ready for series production. Pre-series production has been in full swing since June 2022, and series production is scheduled to start before the end of 2022.

Q: This edition of the magazine is also reflecting on 10 years of Global Trailer. Would your team like to share any reflections from the past decade about the SAF-Holland business? It would be interesting to compare the company’s growth journey from 10 years ago to today.
A: We can look back on an eventful decade, with growth and innovations in all our business areas worldwide. For Global Trailer, which also has a global claim, SAF-Holland has been a partner from the very beginning. Since the first issue, we have worked together in a spirit of trust and appreciate the internationally oriented, well-researched reporting – we will continue to rely on this in the future.

Q: Also, has your team thought about what the next 10 years might hold? Are there any megatrends we should monitor going forward?
A: First of all, even the recent global distortions haven’t changed existing megatrends. They will still be valid and we hope that we will serve them with our e-axle family, our connectivity solutions, our smart products and our automated coupling like we do today with our existing product portfolio. The recent developments on the markets show a shift towards alternative drives especially e-mobility and the autonomous driving projects are pushed a little bit further out.

Secondly, we see a rising need for more localised products that minimise the carbon footprint of our products and we expect that in the CV industry this trend will influence the whole supply chain. Another trend we see on the horizon is the touchless technologies that are gaining momentum and that means for us that our end customers – fleets, spare part dealers and workshops – will seek for a seamless integration of digital services into their daily business. Therefore, we are already working on first enablers like NFC and RFID technologies that empower the customer to digitise workflows, processes and to further optimise uptime and minimising downtime with a fully automated supply chain.

This will become more and more important as autonomous vehicles will be able to operate 24/7. This finally leads to data driven business models for example pay by mile requiring predictive and preventive maintenance solutions from our side.

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