Batteries Paving the Way for New Jobs

Expert Interviews – Thursday, March 26, 2020

7 questions for VDMA’s Managing Director of EMINT Thilo Brückner

As the Managing Director of EMINT within the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA), what topics and companies do you represent and what are your most important goals in 2020?

The sector association EMINT (Electronics, Micro and New Energy Production Technologies) covers such areas as photovoltaic production equipment and battery production – two particularly innovative areas of mechanical engineering which are relevant for The smarter E. The VDMA also represents the other sectors that are the focus of the exhibition, such as fuel cells and Power-to-X. Whatever it takes to achieve the climate targets of PARIS21, the German and European mechanical engineering sector can deliver the production technologies needed. We want to highlight this to help us stand out even more from the international competition.

The smarter E Europe, which unites four exhibitions as the continent’s largest platform for the energy industry, benefits from a cross-sector approach opening up potential for growth in all of the branches represented. Do you find that cross-sector cooperation is gaining in importance?

From where I stand, it’s absolutely indispensable for exploiting new markets. This is also reflected in the work of the VDMA. The association’s members work in close collaboration with each other, utilizing their synergies in the name of sector coupling – especially in the growth areas already mentioned.

New production plants for battery cells, battery modules and electric vehicles are currently cropping up all across Germany and the rest of Europe. How does the mechanical engineering sector in Germany (and the rest of Europe) stand to benefit from this?

The VDMA noted early on that domestic battery cell production would offer particular strategic advantages for Germany as a hub for automobile manufacturing. For the German and European mechanical engineering sector, access to large series-type production is essential to stay competitive internationally. This requires local references, so we are pleased that cell production has started gaining real momentum here in Europe.
The European battery engineering sector covers the entire supply chain and scores big in quality (thereby avoiding steep failure costs!), sustainability, and automation solutions. This makes our suppliers the number one choice, as we will demonstrate at our battery roadshow event in Brussels, organized in collaboration with the European Battery Alliance.

Energy storage systems are just as important for renewable energy supply as they are for the transportation transition. Demand for batteries is therefore expected to increase dramatically. What sorts of employment opportunities do you think this will create in Germany and the rest of Europe?

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI) conducted a study on behalf of the VDMA looking at the jobs that could be created as more battery cell factories are established in Europe. The study concluded that, under certain conditions based on the assumed capacities in an initial phase leading up to 2033, as many as 155,000 jobs could be created. This estimate assumes a maximum market potential of 50 percent for mechanical engineering in the EU as well as a boost for export business. This would mean 30,000 jobs in the factories themselves, 9,000 in machine and plant construction thanks to investments in cell factories, 100,000 in the materials supply chain, and 16,000 in machine and plant construction in the supply chains upstream. The study is available for download here (in German).

The VDMA Roadmap Battery Production Equipment 2030 is set to be reissued this year. What weight does the roadmap carry in the industry?

The role of the roadmap is to issue an update every two years on the challenges that the battery engineering industry faces and what can be done in production to keep reducing costs and improving quality, safety and sustainability. It proposes solutions for greater throughput, energy efficiency, and automation. In light of the wide variety of battery cell, battery module and battery pack formats, flexibility is also an important aspect of production solutions.

Machine and plant construction companies will address technological trends in battery production at The smarter E in Munich. Meanwhile, the Production Technology Stage in hall C1 of ees and Intersolar Europe will feature expert presentations with the support of the VDMA. Could you give us an idea of the topics that this expert forum will explore during the exhibition (from June 17–19, 2020)?

Leading battery engineering companies will be sharing their production solutions in the battery production session. For example, teamtechnik and VITRONIC will be discussing cell, module, and battery pack production.
teamtechnik offers a wealth of experience and excellent processes for assembling and testing battery modules.
VITRONIC is a major name in production process quality assurance. Visual inspection is useful in many steps of the process and can contribute to major increases in the quality of the final product.

The VDMA will have its own exhibition booth in hall C1, right near the Production Technology Stage and the departure point for the battery production guided tours, which will be offered in English twice daily by ees Europe in cooperation with RWTH Aachen University’s Chair of Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components. What else will you be offering your members before and during the exhibition in order to maximize the benefits of attending?

Our booth won’t be the only opportunity for networking. A workshop on the VDMA’s International Technology Roadmap for Photovoltaics (ITRPV) will be held as part of The smarter E, with participants from around the world. And in the spirit of cross-sector collaboration, we will be using the Production Technology Stage to discuss not just battery-related topics but also other areas represented by the VDMA – photovoltaics, fuel cells, and Power-to-X. We look forward to getting to know the exhibition visitors!

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