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Bauer's Survival Guide

German pile equipment maker and foundation contractor Bauer is growing steadily having ridden out 2008’s world downturn. Adrian Greeman reports.

Bauer Maschinen, the equipment division of Bauer, has continued to develop its range of well regarded piling and diaphragm wall equipment.

Several new models were on display at the end of April during the in-house exhibition that the firm stages every year at its Schrobenhausen headquarters in Bavaria north of Munich.

A key aspect for continuing growth, says CEO Professor Thomas Bauer, is the development of Bauer’s equipment range, which now includes Klemm anchor
drills, RTG piling rigs, ABS trenchless pipe installation equipment and Prakla water drill rigs, among other brands.

But despite the addition of acquired names, Bauer has also focused more and more on developing its own equipment.

Bauer points especially to the range of cranes offered by the company since 2007, which has just been extended with the MC 96 model, a 130t crane to join the small MC32 40t unit, the MC64 90t model and the large MC128 200t.

Others in the mid-range could be added later.

The cranes find their first purpose in replacing the carrier and base units for diaphragm wall cutters and grabs, which have previously been built up on units from German makers Sennebogen or Liebherr.

“But despite our co-operation with them, those makes have their own priorities for their ranges,” says Dirk Burkert from the diaphragm wall product management.

“The need for us is for very heavy duty functions, to deal with the lifting of the cutter head and an excellent hydraulic performance to drive the cutter wheels and bentonite pumps.”

“But despite our co-operation with them, those makes have their own priorities for their ranges”

Bigger engines, robust welding and a more solid undercarriage are the priorities, in a more compact machine than usual, along with extras such as drilling support components and features including hydraulic hose handling brackets and booms.

Thomas Bauer adds that customers prefer to have the equipment from the same manufacturer.

However, Bauer continues to co-operate with various makers for some of its equipment.

The company is working with Hyundai for example on a “Value” range of machines from its BG drilling and bored pile rigs, the fundamental equipment line the firm began with.

The machines are a new line to the existing BG machines which will become the “Premium” range.

The two separated ranges were launched this year with the more economical machines aimed especially at the Asian and Indian markets.

These machines dispense with interchangeability of function and are for “kelly-based” operations only, for users who make large numbers of bored piles.

They use the traditional hydraulic control system for the cab levers, as supplied by Hyundai, “but with a few additional elements added into the cab.

A BG 20 was on show at the Schrobenhausen exhibition in late April and the range includes a BG30.

“The Premium line will include most of the main BG range from the small BG 12 to our very large BG50” explains Gordian Ulrich, Bauer product line manager for the range.

For the moment most of these will be the existing models of multi-purpose rigs, which can use a range of interchangeable attachments for CFA piling, for ground mixing and other work.

These will gradually be upgraded.

“There is a new borehole visualisation and kelly visualisation for example and day and night displays to improve visibility”

A first example is the new BG30 rig which is a development of the BG 28 machine.

It features an enhanced engine, winch and hydraulics capacity fitting inside a redesigned base carrier unit with more space for a larger power unit and other components.

Driving the change particularly are new European exhaust emission standards which demand new catalytic exhaust filtration.

The base carrier for the existing models of BG machines was too small to accommodate this and has been enlarged, the change allowing the other upgrades.

The cab is also different, an all electronic version that has been developed for the European and North American markets where these machines will be aimed.

Like the Airbus aeroplanes these new cabins have “fly-by-wire” controls with no direct hydraulic links from the operator to the machine; rather the small controls operate via an onboard computer.

The cabs feature the Bauer B-tronic system of on board programmable displays which are all aimed at increasing operator comfort says Ulrich.

Though this was first launched two years ago it too has been redesigned with a new interface, which simplifies the display for the driver, focusing on the key task he is doing.

“There is a new borehole visualisation and kelly visualisation for example and day and night displays to improve visibility”.

The new cabs will be standard on the Premium range and on the cranes.

The Premium range will also be able to use a wide range of attachments.

BauerMay__10May2011_0097

A new attachment on show at the exhibition was a high masted ground mixing trench cutter which produces a rectangular section of mixed ground.

Used with a cement injection this can be a cheaper alternative to a diaphragm wall where a reinforcement cage is not required.

Among other equipment on display at the exhibition was a newly designed counter-rotating ground mixing unit for the RTG piling rigs.

This takes advantage of the RTG rigs’ capacity to drive both a casing and an augur with two interacting heads driven in opposite directions to achieve a full mixing effect.

‘We knew the boom would have to come to an end’

When the Bavarian foundation equipment maker and groundworks contractor Bauer became a public company in 2006, it immediately shot up in the share price ratings.

From a launch price of €16 it jumped quickly to €60. After 2008 and the banking crisis that dropped back considerably, though it has climbed since to around €35.

“Things are a lot calmer now,” says the company’s CEO Professor Thomas Bauer.

“At that time there was a lot of activity particularly as a result of international changes and the development of world building, a lot in developing countries like Russia, China and Eastern Europe.

It was a boom period in foundations work in 2006, 2007, 2008.”

Despite the financial hurricane building in 2008 it was an exceptional year for both the equipment side of the business Bauer Maschinen and the contractor, Bauer Spezialtiefbau.

The firm posted a turnover of €1.5bn, a very healthy number in the foundations sector.

“But we knew this would not last and that boom conditions would have to come to an end,” asserts Bauer. “It just did not happen quite as we expected.”

The factors worrying the company were more the kind of issues that “green” politicians focus on: energy depletion, limited resources and environmental degradation.

To plan for that Bauer diversified from foundation construction into environmental and energy work, he says.

“It just did not happen quite as we expected”

One basis for this was to extend the water well drilling capabilities of its equipment to which water processing was added; another the development of deep drilling equipment for oil and water exploration; another the extension into mining of techniques such as deep diaphragm walls.

“We always stay in the groundwork or groundwater area,” emphasises Bauer. “But brought things together in a new division three years ago, with water, oil, geothermal drilling - all under the environment and resources umbrella.”

The division has branched out into such things as water processing - the company recently won an award for a reed bed treatment system it has installed in Oman to treat contaminated groundwater emerging with oil extraction.

Potable water production from borehole to pumping to treatment is also important for markets such as Africa he says.

Some of these new sectors will bring the company into competition with older established firms, particularly in the oil industry for example.

“Okay, we are a small player in this area and some years from being in the top league, but that gives us a chance to offer something different from our technology,” says Bauer.

In the event it was the unexpected, financial rather than environmental, catastrophe, which caused the crisis he says.

But the new division has helped ride through this area anyway, particularly as the countries like China and India and “to some extent” Russia, have come back early.

This division contributes about 20% to the business with equipment and contract work each contributing 40%.

The three components of the business will continue to contribute in roughly the same proportion, he says.

Each is growing in its own way and pressing further out into the world, especially in countries like China and India.

Brazil, the fourth of the BRIC countries, remains “a closed market really”, he says.

“At that point we were hit like everyone else, losing some 25%”

Growth has come back steadily, if not at the febrile levels of the middle of the noughties.

Calm is better, he says, and he likes much more the kind of steady growth which he says has followed the big drop in 2008.

“At that point we were hit like everyone else, losing some 25%.”

Last year turnover was €1.3bn and next year or the one after, Bauer believes the level will return to the 2008 high point.

 

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