Dieter Adam June 19, 2023
We hear more and more about threats to and opportunities for manufacturers posed by the way customers, governments, and the general public respond to climate change. When it comes to opportunities, there are generally two options. You can ‘pivot’, meaning substantially changing your product range (and/or business model), or ‘augment’, meaning you add new products (and services) to your range.
A good example of ‘pivoting’ is the German company MAN, part of the Volkswagen Group. Most of us know the brand for its trucks and buses, but that part of the business was actually split out into a new company, Traton, that produces commercial vehicles under a range of brands, including Scania and Navistar. What remained was a new company, MAN Energy Solutions [MAN ES], a global market leader in large diesel engines for commercial vessels. Initially, MAN ES was struggling financially, and the VW Group threatened to sell off the company. Since then, however, the company has changed focus. Among others, MAN ES prepared its large internal combustion engines used in naval propulsion and power generation for the use of different fuels (Methanol, hydrogen), and is focusing on using its engineering skills and production capacity to expand into new areas, including large-scale heat pumps and compressors for CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage), for example. “Moving big things to Zero – decarbonize industries that are crucial for the world economy.” is their strategic motto, and they are on track to double sales.
A large heat pump in the Danish town of Esbjerg that will provide home heating for 100,000 people.
When it comes to ‘augmenting’, we can stay much closer to home, and look at an example in a much smaller company, in a related category – marine propulsion systems. With design features modelled after the world’s most energy-efficient natural marine propulsion system, the moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita), Hamilton Jet’s new waterjet model, LTX36, promises to be the world’s most efficient propulsion system on the market for low to medium speed workboat applications (https://workboat365.com/power-propulsion-news/hamiltonjet-unveils-a-new-range-of-high-efficiency-waterjets/ ).
Again, the development of this product was a direct response to changing customer demands – better energy efficiency – and the introduction of new motive powers for workboats in the form of hybrid and electrical engines that demanded a matching propulsion system. Worth noting is also the messaging here: a more sustainable engineering design based on ideas gleaned from nature itself! What’s not to like?