Interviewing Federico Decio, Pleasure Craft Product Line general manager at ZF
ZF Marine in Italy and in the world Italy recorded a growth of 10 percent in 2016 and 5 percent in 2017. How about 2018? «The trend of the Italian market, one of the main in the world for the production of pleasure boats, has certainly contributed to the welfare of our company. But ZF […]
ZF Marine in Italy and in the world
Italy recorded a growth of 10 percent in 2016 and 5 percent in 2017. How about 2018?
«The trend of the Italian market, one of the main in the world for the production of pleasure boats, has certainly contributed to the welfare of our company. But ZF marine is not exclusively recreational. ZF products for marine applications are also very successful for commercial vessels, such as transport of goods and people, but also for work applications such as fishing boats, cable-laying vessels, etc.
This type of application is particularly developed outside Italy: especially, the United States, Northern Europe, and the Far East have a dominant role. For this reason, the growth of the Italian nautical market, rightly highlighted by you, only partially influenced the results of ZF Marine. In fact, the Italian market currently accounts for about 10-15 percent of the entire ZF Marine business».
How did things go, moving to the global scale?
«2017 has guaranteed us results beyond expectations both in Europe and, above all, in the United States. We found some struggling in the Far East, South America, and the Middle East. In 2018 the positive trend was extended to the areas that had suffered most in 2017 and therefore, in terms of units sold, we confirm a positive outlook. Unfortunately, the effect of the euro/dollar exchange rate will penalize us in terms of turnover despite the growth in production and sales. In any case, we believe that 2018 will also end with a positive result».
Apac and Nafta areas and the Chinese market
The Padua – Friedrichshafen – Krimpen production axis represents a strength for ZF. Is it possible to imagine a form of partial relocation in the Apac and Nafta areas? Is the Chinese market still not ready to feed the numbers of the leisure market in the Far East?
«The marine business has a small impact within the ZF galaxy, but ZF Marine has access to the know-how, production resources, sales and after-sales of the mother company. Thanks to this, ZF Marine boasts a sales and service network in the world that has no rivals in the marine sector. Already today ZF Marine also produces in Asia: in particular, in the Kaohsiung plant, we manufacture components for shaft lines and propellers.
Regarding leisure boating, the Far East is growing, albeit slowly, as an outlet market for European, American and Australian shipyards. ZF Marine closely monitors the rise and growth of the shipyards for leisure boats in that area, and today we confirm that the marine business in those areas is still strongly linked to commercial and work applications».
Pod product solution
Don’t you consider it strategic to embrace an integrated offer ‘pod+engine+maneuvering propellers+JMS’ in order to reduce Volvo’s advance (and as a possible response to Mercury-Zeus)?
«We know very well the Pod product: we were the first to develop a solution of this type for high-power ranges (1,200 horsepower) and even today we supply our products to Mercury for Zeus’ Pods. We monitor the evolution of different markets in relation to the demand for this type of propulsion that seems to grow in some markets, geographical areas and applications. Elsewhere the opposite happens: traditional axis lines and high-powered outboards are gaining market share. We’ll see. Never say never».
The ‘hybrid ready’ formula, and the electrification strategy
How do building sites react to the hypothesis of hybridization of the axis line?
«Hybrid and electric propulsions still represent a niche among marine applications, even if the operators’ interest is undeniably in continuous growth. ZF Marine does not want to be caught unprepared: thanks to the possibility of accessing the mother company’s know-how in the various automotive interpretations, we are experimenting with the most appropriate technological approaches to the marine environment.
To give an incontrovertible focus on electrification and autonomous driving systems, ZF has created the E-mobility division. This division (among the seven in the group) operates transversely and has the task of developing advanced solutions for future mobility in every field of application. So even in the marine environment».
ZF TECHNOLOGY DAY. E-MOBILITY AND 4.0
The Supershift technology
«The Supershift is the latest evolution in grafting technology for our transmissions. It guarantees speed and softness of graft without equal. The product has received such a broad consensus among our customers and users that the company has decided to offer only this type of solution starting from 2019».
Remote control, digitization, 4.0, and autonomous driving
What will be the next products and trends that ZF Marine will import from the automotive division?
«Surely the technologies of the assisted and autonomous drive are already today followed with extreme attention. The use in the marine field is certainly different from that on a car or any other vehicle on wheels, but sensors and control units developed for ‘road’ applications can find their right place even on products for marine applications.
Similarly, the same approach for hybrid and electric propulsions will be replicated. The know-how of the ZF group allows us to have access to technologies and products that are difficult to approach for companies linked exclusively to the marine sector».