How important is the design department at Blickle?
As designers, we have a key role in the product development process. We are not only responsible for the technical development; we also bear the cost responsibility for the economic manufacturing of the products. Our main tasks include, on the one hand, the development and design of new products and, on the other, the optimisation of existing products.
“Every branch of industry has its own characteristics and requirements. In intralogistics, the focus is increasingly on ergonomics and reliability.”
A total of around 50 employees work in our design department, each in one of the seven specialist areas. In each specialist area, the product design is coupled to the design of the corresponding production equipment. In the area of classic wheel and castor design, we at Blickle rely very heavily on our internal know-how. On the other hand, in the area of new technologies, we also rely on external institutes and providers who support us with their expertise during the development process.
What special requirements apply to wheels used in intralogistics?
Every branch of industry has its own characteristics and requirements. In intralogistics, the focus is increasingly on ergonomics. At the same time, there is often a combination of manual actuation of the logistics units and towing over longer distances, which entails high dynamic requirements. Our task is to combine both and to make the operation as ergonomic as possible for the operator. Of course, there are other challenges in this industry, such as small component heights coupled with high speeds and load capacities. In addition, the wheels and castors must be extremely reliable. The logistics units are often used in three-shift operation in intralogistics. The wheels have to function maintenance-free under these conditions for between five and seven years.
What does Blickle do in particular when it comes to safety? How do you guarantee the reliability and safety of Blickle products right from the design stage?
The standard requirement for safety arises from the standards for wheels and castors, which Blickle also actively helps shape through participation in the responsible standards committees. In general, it is increasingly the case that we not only offer a product, but also that the customer wants input through joint development. In such cases, we are happy to contribute our specialised competencies and take responsibility for the result. To ensure a focus on safety right from the start, some customers, such as vehicle developers, involve us in their development process at an early stage. We are responsible not only for the developing the wheels but also the entire running gear. In this field, we are considered very competent and reliable, as we have a wide range of experience. This experience enables us to design the individual components of the running gear in such a way that it works safely in the finished application. Since we precisely know all the interrelationships in product development and production at the design stage, we can actively put safety into practice and also help shape safety practices.
What is the difference in the design of special solutions compared to series products?
We receive almost 1,500 development orders per year, ranging from small adaptations to completely new developments. In contrast to in-house development, special solutions are customer-driven, i.e. the customer defines the desired application in the form of a specification sheet. On this basis, we design a solution for the customer. This is checked by the customer and often tested directly with samples. Overall, Blickle forms part of the customer’s development chain in this respect. Series products, on the other hand, are based on the requirements of different market segments. Based on this, a new product is conceived together with our product management. Then the design is defined, typically in collaboration with an external designer, especially in the area of design and plastic castors. The resulting prototype is then further optimised in a release process by product management, sales and senior management and finally released.
What will the design department of the future look
like? Where will the focus be compared to today?
For a number of years, it has been apparent that the trend
is towards simulation. The classic approach of designing,
building prototypes, modifying and releasing them is very
time-consuming and costly. In addition to strength calculations,
simulations are also used for design issues since
many visual aspects can be represented quickly and reliably
with 3D printers. By integrating simulations of the manufacturing
processes, we can predict and calculate the behaviour
of products relatively accurately. This enables us to
accelerate the development process as a whole and to implement
customer requirements accurately. It is becoming
evident that the requirements placed on the performance of
products are getting higher and higher.
“Our experience enables us to design the individual components of a
running gear to work safely in the finished application. Since we
precisely know all the interrelationships in product development and
production at the design stage, we can actively put safety into practice
and also help shape safety practices.”
In the field of industrial
trucks, for example, drives are growing ever more
powerful. This results in higher demands on our wheels and
castors in terms of speed, traction and resilience. In addition,
the topic of ergonomics is being brought to the fore
and the demand for running gear with optimised rolling resistance
is increasing. Another trend is intelligent drive
solutions. Electric drives should provide support wherever
human strength is no longer sufficient.
What was your most exciting challenge?
I am always excited about the variety of application areas.
We are represented in industries where you would not typically
expect Blickle to be found. From hatchery facilities
with a laboratory-like environment and the highest demands
on the cleanliness and purity of the facilities to running
gear for milking systems and storage robots that require
the highest performance. Of course, the simulation
and implementation of running gear with a load capacity of
several hundred tons for the wind power industry was also