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Bosch thriving after local manufacturing

Future focus: Bosch has refocused its Australian division on emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles after the wind-down of local car manufacturing.

Engineering and automated systems development key to local Bosch business

11 Jun 2019

AUTOMOTIVE component-maker Bosch is thriving in Australia in the aftermath of the local car manufacturing industry’s closure, with the company attributing its success to a strong engineering base and a focus on connected and automated vehicle technology.
In an exclusive interview with GoAuto, Bosch Australia regional president of chassis systems control Chris Woods said the company was well prepared ahead of the car-maker exodus – with Ford winding up in 2016 and Holden and Toyota following a year later – and had adapted early to emerging trends that have shored up its future. 
“The Bosch Group probably saw the writing on the wall a bit earlier than some other companies in the Australian space and we were able to adapt earlier,” he said. 
“We kind of went through our sort of ‘the trough’ a bit earlier than everyone else, and we’re on the way back out.
“But there’s also the challenge … (that) the future of automotive is different to the past. So, having a high skill, high value-add engineering team that is solving algorithms for automated driving is probably of a higher benefit to Australian society then punching out steel parts.
“It’s probably an awkward truth, but that’s the future we’re headed to.”
As the world’s largest vehicle component manufacturer, Bosch is headquartered in Germany and also features operational centres in Britain, North America and India, with its business extending into consumer goods and industrial technology.
The Australian division was focused on vehicle safety systems for nearly 30 years, during which time Bosch developed the ABS and ESP systems for vehicles such as the locally made Ford Territory. But Mr Woods said the attention would now turn to emerging trends.
“We’ve branched out into many different areas here,” he said. “The Internet of Things is an area of the business that we’ve looked to branch out in, smart agriculture we think is something really relevant to Australia and Bosch has been playing a big role in that.
“Part of the business here is also looking at Industry 4.0 (increased automation and data exchange in manufacturing) and the other part of it is this automated driving topic that is, as I said, a development race.
“There’s a need for hundreds and thousands of engineers around the world to support this topic, so that’s a really big opportunity for us that we’re looking to take advantage of as well.”
As such, Australia’s global position and high skill level make it a desirable site, according to Mr Woods.
“Australia is quite a unique engineering location in that we can work when our colleagues in Europe are asleep and we can do 24-hour development, which is quite attractive for a large multinational company,” he said.
“Also I think both the new talent coming out of universities and existing talent out of the passenger vehicle manufacturing sector actually makes us quite a unique location for getting good people to work on interesting topics.”
Ford and Holden’s local operations have also pivoted away from vehicle manufacturing into more engineering-based roles, with an interest in autonomous technologies, in the form of the Ford Asia-Pacific Product Development Centre and GM’s Advanced Vehicle Development division respectively.
When asked if there had been contact between Bosch and the local car-maker outfits, Mr Woods said “we always talk to the people in the industry”.
“We have the anti-lock brakes and ESP business for the current Ford Ranger, Ford out here do the global engineering responsible for that platform, so we have a good close relationship with them,” he said.
“And hopefully we can take that into automated driving in the future.”

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