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Perfect fit

Perfect fit

01/09/2010 | Channel: Infrastructure, Rolling Stock

With a growing specialisation in the retrofit market, Vossloh Kiepe is continuing to expand its reputation as a premier HVAC supplier.

With roots dating back to 1959 focusing initially on electrical equipment for public transport, Vossloh Kiepe Vienna is now a recognised heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) expert in Europe. As a daughter company of Vossloh Kiepe Dusseldorf, it functions as the centre of competence for HVAC within the Vossloh Group and is the number one for such within trams and light rail vehicles (LRV) in the European rail arena.

Since its strategic realignment in 2002, the Vossloh Group has focused on specialist fields within transportation technology, manufacturing high-grade rail fastener and switch systems, constructing new stretches of track and maintaining many existing lines such as the Eurotunnel. The organisation’s modern diesel locomotives are employed in hauling numerous trains every day with their notable advantages lying in cost efficiency, flexibility and attractive financing arrangements, while the Group also supplies train protection and warning equipment, electronic interlocking boxes, as well as passenger information systems for trains, stations and airports.

Vossloh Kiepe in Austria operates across the two main sectors of new-builds and HVAC retrofits, with the latter posing greater challenges as new units have to be installed and electrically applied to older vehicles and existing systems. This broad capability ensures the organisation enjoys lucrative relationships with a number of industry leaders including Bombardier, Siemens, Alstom and the Vossloh Group itself. This is especially significant considering that for new build contracts HVAC solutions are always ordered by the company responsible for a vehicle’s electrical systems. Joint ventures are also quite common in this area of the industry with corporations such as Siemens approaching Vossloh Kiepe Dusseldorf for the electrical aspect of a project, which in turn employs Vossloh Kiepe to supply the HVAC element.

Hubert Dlaska, managing director of the company, outlines its main markets today: “Typically our solutions are required in warm countries and we often supply manufacturers that construct the final vehicle for delivery to areas such as South Korea, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Turkey. In Vienna we tend to get more engineering prototype and smaller sized orders, while outsourcing the manufacture of bigger contracts. Our interests are increasing in the retrofit market especially with regards to the fact that when a city council orders new vehicles equipped with modern air-conditioning, passengers then demand that older facilities are more comfortable and updated, generating additional business for us.”

With an annual turnover of 25 million euros for HVACs, Vossloh Kiepe is continuing to grow in progress throughout the industry and has survived the economic crisis through its essential link with public transport. The aforementioned pressure on transport authorities and local governments to improve transport facilities is unlikely to abate, giving the company a solid platform for growth. The organisation also knows its strengths and fails to compete on a level where orders for air-conditioning units might reach more than 1,000, but instead tailors its solutions for those with smaller fleets in the light rail market. Such customers require customised solutions
that ideally fit the age and model of vehicle, as well as the environment in which it runs. Vossloh Kiepe has become highly specialised over the years and is able to fulfil a substantial quantity of different key specifications with emphasis being placed on units that are more reliable, lighter and make less noise. It is also vital that the company’s portfolio remains flexible as vehicle interfaces frequently change and customers often require a tailored HVAC solution to match their new train or tram.

However, the recession has not been without its challenges and the company has recently been investigating ways to reduce its overall cost base, as Hubert highlights: “Since we last spoke to Railway Strategies at the start of 2010 we have increased production in low cost countries. Because of the competitive nature of our business we have had to approach areas such as Turkey and Slovakia for the manufacture of our essential HVAC components and complete units. The fundamental focus is on obtaining lower rates that we can pass on to our end customer without compromising on the dynamism and quality of our product. We are also driving efficiency throughout the rest of our business with cost-driven engineering and lean production being the core elements. Bearing in mind that over 60 per cent of our HVAC units are made up of materials from external sources, such as compressors, we are working closely with our suppliers to develop better and more innovative products at a more reasonable price.”

At present the company is involved in various challenging and far-reaching contracts for Siemens like the tramway for Vienna - the so-called ULF (ultra low floor). For Bombardier, Vossloh Kiepe has recently delivered solutions for contracts in Germany and Turkey in areas such as Bursa, Kassel, Karlsruhe, Krakow for example, which will be equipped with the efficient technology and temperature control systems of Vossloh Kiepe.

Moreover, the recent completion of a lucrative modernisation project consisting of 50 ultra-modern tramcars for the city of Munich has furthered the company’s reputation for state-of-the-art solutions. At the end of 2009, Stadtwerke München (Munich Municipal Utilities) commissioned the consortium of Vossloh Kiepe and IFTEC for the advancement of 50 six-axle, low-floor type-R2.2 articulated tramcars that have been in use since the mid-1990s on all Munich lines. The Vossloh Kiepe Group delivered the overall package in mid-May 2010 that included carrying out the pre-delivery inspections, putting the vehicles into operation and furnishing them with driver air-conditioning units supplied by Vossloh Kiepe Austria. In addition, the company has gained a contract for the modernisation of 25 B100S light rail vehicles for Bonn Transit Authority (Stadtwerke Bonn) built between 1974 and 1977 they are typical of Vossloh Kiepe's capabilities within the upgrade arena.

As a market leader within the field of premier HVAC systems, the organisation has become involved in a considerable research programme linked with the University of Vienna, transport authorities of Vienna, Wiener Linien, Rail Tec Arsenal, SCHIG and Siemens. Known as EcoTram its focus lies in the optimisation of technology to reduce power consumption with regards to heating, air conditioning and ventilation in trams to create a more environmentally friendly and modern mode of public transport. The research project is being sponsored by the ‘New Energies 2010’ initiative using resources from the Austrian Research Promotion Agency’s climate and energy fund. Currently Vossloh Kiepe is discovering ways to reduce the weight of HVAC units so that they require less energy to run, yet are still efficient and improve the comfort of passengers.

Looking to the future of the industry, Hubert outlines his vision for the company: “We have hopes to extend our influence into the regions of Poland and mainland Turkey, founding strategic partnerships and lucrative alliances along the way. In our business it is all about taking small steps and growing together with our customers while creating definite platforms for expansion in the future. Within the next five years we want to double our revenues through the development of the light rail industry. We anticipate that this mode of transport will grow in popularity in Arabic countries as well as middle Europe over the coming years. Service is our success and we will continue to advance our capability within retrofit and electrical integration to keep up with market demand.”