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SSD sales climb under Parker`s ownership

01 July, 2006

SSD sales climb under Parker`s ownership

It is now a year since Parker Hannifin bought SSD - the former Eurotherm Drives - from Compass Partners. Although the company has kept a low profile since then, general manager Peter Vos reports that sales have risen, which he describes as "a tremendous achievement after a buyout".

Vos (pictured above), who was one of SSD`s two executive directors under the previous ownership, has been with the company for 26 years. In an exclusive interview with Drives & Controls, he explained Parker`s reasons for acquiring the company and gave an insight into some of his plans for the future.

Vos says that when Compass put SSD up for sale, three years after a $150m management buyout from Invensys, it was "deluged with interest", resulting in four "serious" bids. Parker`s interest was unexpected, Vos reports: "We thought we would be bought by another drives company".

Parker`s rationale was different from the other bidders. The company wanted to provide an electronic upgrade path for its traditional hydraulics and pneumatics customers, especially in Europe. "It wanted to give old Parker a new face," says Vos.

There is "huge opportunity" for converting fluid power customers, Vos believes. "We hadn`t seen it coming." There is also potential for combining fluid and electronic technologies in applications such as wind turbines, where Parker is already strong.

Vos says that the overlaps between the Parker and SSD ranges are "modest" and mainly affect their servo products. But even here, the conflicts are limited by Parker`s focus on precision technologies for applications such as semiconductor manufacturing, while SSD targets more general-purpose servo applications.

SSD now employs around 900 people worldwide - about 400 of them in the UK. It produces more than 150,000 drives and motors a year and generates sales worth some $165m. It also makes around 35,000 servo motors and drives.

The company has manufacturing facilities in France, Germany and the US as well as the UK, and plans to move some manufacturing to China - but only to serve the local market. "It doesn`t make sense to move manufacturing for the European market to China," says Vos.

At present, SSD`s main plant in Littlehampton, West Sussex (shown above), is operating 96-hour weeks and is in the process of upgrading its surface-mount machines. It is also adopting Parker`s meticulous manufacturing management procedures. The UK now represents only about 15% of SSD`s business.

The DC drives market remains important for SSD, especially in Asia where the costs of maintenance and hand-winding motors are much lower than in Europe. DC still represents about 15% of SSD`s UK business and seems to have plateaued at this level. "Those who are going to change, have done so," Vos suggests, adding that some customers still insist on analogue DC drives. He says that SSD will continue to develop new DC products.

Over the past two years, SSD has been developing its 890 series of system drives with ratings up to 1.2MW. A new higher-powered version is planned for later this year. This will operate at 690V, which is a new area for SSD. The company is also working liquid-cooled drives (incorporating Parker-developed technology), which are due on the market in the mid-2007.

Vos believes that there is "tremendous potential" for SSD in future, and says there are "strong plans" to develop the business. These include working more closely with other Parker businesses to cross-sell products, and taking advantage of Parker`s financial strength and global reach.

Parker Hannifin has bought the French electromagnetic shielding and thermal management supplier, Acofab, for an undisclosed sum.




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