Stories from over 90 years of SEW-EURODRIVE: Josef Schmidt

Research at SEW-EURODRIVE: Making future concepts reality

Josef Schmidt, Head of Research Technology Germany
Josef Schmidt, Head of Research Technology Germany

I am 60 years old, and I am married with three children. I joined SEW-EURODRIVE in 1981. This was also the year when the management announced for the first time that SEW-EURODRIVE was the leading manufacturer of gearmotors in the world.

Perfect career start with far-reaching consequences

I still remember my first day at SEW-EURODRIVE very clearly. I was a student at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University in Karlsruhe at the time, where I was studying electrical engineering. My first job was in the apprentice workshop and motor test field in Graben. My experiences there made a lasting impression. The company was still very compact at that time, and I was able to build up a very extensive network. I am still in touch with some of these people to this day.

Always keeping the costs in mind

I am particularly proud of the first job I completed myself. In 1984, Ernst Blickle asked me to develop a new braking system. Along with my colleagues, I presented the first prototype for the new braking system in February 1985. Mr. Blickle was very impressed by the solution, pulled a banknote out of his wallet and said, "It mustn’t cost any more than this!"

This was no easy task to achieve, but together with my colleagues I managed to overcome this challenge. The brake group we developed back then is still part of the product portfolio and remains the number one selling electronic part. The cost targets for this component were then met fully with the automation of our production facility.

Always looking for the right answers

In 1988-1989, there was a lot of discussion at SEW-EURODRIVE about our way forward. One of the major tasks was to re-structure electronics development. Lots of different groups were launched – power electronics, construction, BOM and device configuration, signal electronics: communication, operator panels, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), CAD software programs to support development work, electronic layout and simulation. This was very challenging, and remains so today. Broader structures were created for electronics and a lot was invested in qualified personnel, new technologies and tools.

What I particularly like about my work at SEW-EURODRIVE is the opportunity to play a personal part in developing concepts. It is also highly motivating to be able to work on these independently and always receive the full support of the partners and management.

The future belongs to AC technology

Motor manufacture in 1940
Motor manufacture in 1940
Motor manufacture in 1940

Back then, we had to deal with fundamental new product ideas. We saw the move from direct current to alternating current as the future of technology. We therefore developed new concepts and got to grips with technologies that were new to SEW-EURODRIVE. Lots of new products were created during this period, for example the MOVITRAC® 31C frequency inverter with its own profile. We went on to develop several sizes and thus an entire inverter series. MOVIDRIVE®, MOVIDYN® and MOVIMOT® followed. These products were very successful, and still are.

Like their father Ernst Blickle, Rainer and Jürgen Blickle have always been supportive of new ideas and the development department. Their trust and vision really helped us at the time. SEW-EURODRIVE invested a lot, and this drove forward the development of new products. We are still reaping the benefits.

What will come after decentralized technology?

Since 2001, the new "Innovation Mechatronics" main department, which I led, has been working on the acceptance of new product ideas to find answers to trends such as modularization, flexibilization, reusability and mobility.

This phase also gave rise to successful, modular and flexible products – MOVIFIT®, MOVIPRO®, MOVIGEAR® SNI, our own radio technology: slotted waveguides, a whole family of specially developed encoders, mobile technology: MOVITRANS®, the electrified monorail system, our own control systems: MOVIMOT®, and safety-related control structures.

In 2008, we began concentrating on the subject of Industry 4.0. Issues such as human-machine interfaces, assistance systems and smart factories are now on the agenda. SEW-EURODRIVE has built up its own expertise and developed both special products and tailor-made solutions.

Living and working in the future

The focus of my life has gradually moved to being SEW-EURODRIVE. We are always having to solve new and different problems, deliver ideas and protect them with patents, as well as develop structures that will continue to move SEW-EURODRIVE forward. This all helps safeguard SEW-EURODRIVE’s future. This is exactly what makes my job so varied, diverse and interesting.

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