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Technology leadership and speed

R&D visual

Our third core strategy is about accelerating Bekaert’s technology leadership and speed in alignment with our strategy to drive value-creating growth. Co-creation is one of the leading principles: we help our customers differentiate themselves in their markets. 

Acknowledgement

We wish to thank the Flemish government’s Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) agency, as well as the Belgian federal government. Their subsidies and incentives for R&D projects involving highly educated scientific staff and researchers in Flanders are essential for maintaining a foothold for R&D activities in Belgium.

Innovation in practice: continuously redeploying our core competencies

In order to sustain and strengthen our technological leadership, we continue to explore new possibilities in steel wire transformation and coating technologies. Through the combination of these competencies, we influence the properties of steel such as strength, ductility, fatigue, shape, adhesion, and corrosion resistance.

Even with almost 140 years of experience, there is still much to be discovered in our search for the optimal bulk and surface properties of steel wire. By maximizing the synergies between the competencies of our technologists and those of our research and business partners, we can make a real difference and draw infinite possibilities. 

Mordica Memorial Award

Senior Technology Manager Walther Van Raemdonck has won the 2019 Mordica Memorial Award organized by Wire Association International (WAI), which is seen as the wire and cable industry’s most prestigious award. The Mordica Memorial Award is presented to an individual to honor their contributions to the wire industry's base through research, development, innovation, or other technical pursuits. The Wire Association International, Inc. is a worldwide technical society for wire and cable industry professionals that collects and shares technical, manufacturing and general business information. 

Walther VanRaemdonck

Intellectual Property

The Intellectual Property department of Bekaert takes care of patents, designs, trademarks, domain names and trade secrets for the whole Bekaert Group, including the Bridon-Bekaert Ropes Group and the joint ventures in Brazil, through its teams in Belgium and China. It also advises on IP clauses in various agreements such as joint development agreements and licenses. Reliable IP protection policies have made Bekaert a trusted partner of customers and suppliers around the world. 

In 2018, we filed 31 first patent applications. At the end of 2018, the Bekaert Group had a portfolio of more than 1 700 patents and patent applications.

Co-creation and open innovation

Bekaert actively seeks opportunities for cooperation with strategic customers, suppliers and academic research institutes and universities. The academic partnerships particularly focus on physical metallurgy, metallic coatings and modeling. Two partnerships were added in 2018: University of Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and University of Prague (Czech Republic).

Technology partnerships

Innovation & Venturing

Bekaert’s Innovation & Venturing department discovers and transforms ideas into opportunities that bring value to our customers. The team supports the technology department and business platforms in their search for new products and solutions. In 2018, polymer & composite reinforcement and digital business models joined the existing focus areas of superconductivity and additive manufacturing. True to its name, the Innovation & Venturing department uses different operating modes to explore these areas, such as investing in venture capital, organizing innovation campaigns within the company, or participating in trials.  

While we have very close ongoing collaboration programs with our key customers, and display technology leadership in various domains, we haven’t been as successful as we wanted to be in speeding up the go-to-market process. We are convinced that the new organizational structure, implemented in March 2019, will enable shorter development cycles and drive faster results from new developments.  

Technology is a strategic differentiator for Bekaert and plays an important role in both our short- and long-term value proposition.

  • In order to drive our near-term technology leadership and speed, Bekaert intends to integrate the business-relevant technological development and testing activities within the respective Business Units. This set-up would bring new technologies into the market faster because the Business Units will work with dedicated teams and will be able to set clear priorities for technology development based on the deep knowledge of their customer segments.
  • Ensuring Bekaert drives evolution in its technology leadership for years to come, a central research and innovation center of expertise would remain accountable for activities that span the enterprise. This team’s main role is to safeguard consistency in driving Bekaert’s cross-unit core technology competencies, as well as to drive innovation in relevant solutions that we do not currently have in our business unit portfolios.  

Digital business models
Bekaert looks at start-up companies that offer unique solutions for challenges faced by our customers. In 2018, Bridon-Bekaert Ropes Group invested in VisionTek Engineering Srl., specializing in rope performance monitoring based on the 3D measurement of ropes. By collecting and analyzing data on installed ropes, customers receive on-site and online recommendations relating to the preventive maintenance of the rope. The aim is that they will no longer need to replace the ropes according to pre-set times, but based on a complete rope integrity and asset management model.

Equipped for Excellence

Bekaert’s in-house engineering department plays a key role in the optimization and standardization of our production processes and machinery. In addition to designing, manufacturing and integrating available engineering solutions, this department installs and services the critical equipment in our production plants worldwide. It co-operates with other Bekaert departments, such as technology and manufacturing excellence, and with external partners. 

Newly designed equipment always combines innovative solutions for performance improvements in various areas, including product quality, production excellence and flexibility, and cost efficiency. Other key elements in new machine design are safety, ergonomics and energy efficiency.

The Bekaert engineering teams are located in Belgium, China, India, Slovakia, USA and Brazil. The Belgian and Chinese teams focus on the conceptual design of new equipment. The teams in China, India, Slovakia, USA and Brazil provide on-site services to the Bekaert plants worldwide.

Bekaert’s engineering team is constantly looking for internal and external opportunities for total cost reduction. It also looks for disruptive innovative engineering solutions for new products and processes. Furthermore, Bekaert Engineering ensures assembly, installation and maintenance services, and coordinates global spare parts management.

Bekaert Engineering