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Motion market`s `lack of quality` attracts Danaher

01 June, 2001

The Danaher Corporation plans to take a leading role in the European motion control (MC) market and to grow faster than the market as a whole. Revealing this at the recent Hanover Fair, Thomas Gross, head of Danaher`s MC business, explained the reasons for the company`s interest in the market - and its plans for the future.

In recent years, Danaher has made a flurry of MC acquisitions - including Kollmorgen, Pacific Scientific, Atlas Copco, and API.

A key attraction of this market for Danaher is the company`s belief that the MC sector has not done enough in the past to satisfy its customers. "There is huge quality, cost and delivery performance potential," Gross says.

He believes that by applying the techniques that Danaher has used in other sectors, it can transform the industry. "The motion control market doesn`t take quality seriously enough," says Gross. "Application of the Danaher Business System should solve this." Under this system, all employees are given tasks related to aspects such as quality and delivery.

Gross describes motion control as a "very attractive market" that has a high value because it defines the performance of a machine. It has replaced PLCs in this role.

Even in a flat economy, motion tends to grow, he adds, partly because of the continuing conversion of machinery from "fixed" elements (such as gears, cams and pulleys) to flexible, programmable controls.

Although motion control represents a $25bn market in the US and Europe, Gross emphasises that Danaher is only interested in the $5bn precision motion part of the business. It will not be targeting the machine tool market, focusing instead on what it sees as high-growth segments.

John Stroup, president of Danaher Motion`s General-Purpose Systems group, admits that has been "a considerable challenge" bringing together the company`s collection of around 20 brands and names. "It`s a complicated jigsaw puzzle."

He says that the names will be kept, but the Danaher identity will grow in importance. "We will act slowly - part of what we have bought is brand equity".

The company is working on a common product platform which is due to appear early in 2002. Danaher will provide a migration path from its existing products. "We don`t want to leave customers unsupported," says Stroup.

He does not rule out further acquisitions. "If companies in our space were to become available, we would look closely at them," he says. Gross reports that the company now has "a very strong portfolio with fewer gaps than 12 months ago", but he adds there could be room to expand in, for example, the mechanical field, and in Asia where the company`s presence is "not satisfactory".

Danaher Motion has been split into four market-based groups:

• General-purpose systems, focusing on factory automation applications such as electronics assembly, and packaging;

• Special-purpose systems, targeting the electric vehicle, robot and power tool markets;

• Motion components, dealing with specialised motors, linear actuators, clutches, brakes and resolvers; and

• Precision systems, handling positioning applications in laboratories and in the semiconductor industry.

Danaher wants to be the leader in each sector but Gross concedes that "we have a long way to go to being a clear leader in all of our segments". Danaher claims that 60% of its companies become leaders in their markets.

Gross does not expect much change in staff numbers - now standing at 5,700. "We are trying to deploy our resources more intelligently," he says.

Gross believes that Danaher is "unique" in being "committed to the entire motion solution". He points out that "customers do not have a motor, or a drive, or a PLC problem - they have a motion problem."

"For motion control, you have to be good at a lot of things," Gross adds. "Not many people in a plant have the necessary expertise; we have more than our fair share."




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