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For a lighter future

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Georg Fischer Automotive, or GF Automotive, is a division of Georg Fischer AG. GF Automotive develops, produces and markets highstrength cast parts made of light metal and iron which are used in passenger cars and commercial vehicles that are both lightweight and safe.

The other two divisions are GF Piping Systems, which is focused on making the worldwide supply of drinking water easier and enabling the safe transport of liquids and gas, and GF Machining Solutions which is specialized in machines and system solutions for producing the moulds, tools and parts for a wide range of manufacturing applications.

Headquartered in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, the group comprises 124 individual companies, including 48 production facilities, in 32 countries across the globe. GF is extremely rich in tradition: The company’s foundations were laid by Johann Conrad Fischer back in 1802 – more than 200 years ago.

Today, the global player employs more than 14,000 people and generates annual revenues of 3.77 billion CHF. Like its parent company, GF Automotive is headquartered in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, too. The company has nine manufacturing plants, all of them foundries, with a total of 5,000 employees and turns over 1.5 billion CHF.

GF Automotive is specialized in the development and manufacturing of highly stressed castings for the automotive industry and its suppliers. It has long-standing experience in all modern casting processes, such as sand casting, high-pressure die-casting and spheroidal graphite iron casting, as well as in machining a wide range of materials used in automotive applications, including iron, aluminum and magnesium.

In many areas in Europe, GF Automotive is the technology and market leader. “The European market in general contracted last year,” says Achim Schneider, Head of Business Development and Sales for GF Automotive. “Nonetheless, we were able to gain additional market share due to innovative technologies that were very well accepted by our customers. For instance, the new Euro 6 emission standard for commercial vehicles, which was introduced in 2013, required the use of new casting technologies.”

GF Automotive is focused on lightweight automotive construction. “Our credo is ‘Passion for your lighter future,’” explains Mr. Schneider. “We make this a reality through the use of high-strength materials, bionic product designs and tailor-engineered casting processes for increasingly thin walled components.”

GF Automotive has, for example, developed a novel steering knuckle in bionic design that weighs 32% less than the original part. “We are among the world’s leading foundries in the area of bionics,” states Mr. Schneider.

The product portfolio of GF Automotive covers the entire range of cast automotive components, from steering knuckles and wheel carriers to engine components and transmission housings, structural parts, exhaust manifolds and turbochargers.

The comprehensive product range splits into three segments: cast chassis parts, drive and motorcomponents and structural parts for cars (60%), body parts for commercial vehicles (30%) and components for construction equipment, agricultural machinery and other industrial applications (10%).

Major customers include the car makers Audi, BMW, Porsche, PSA and Volkswagen, the automotive supplier ZF and ThyssenKrupp as well as the commercial vehicle producers DAF, Daimler, Scania, Volvo and MAN. With nine production locations in Europe and China and two research and development centers in Switzerland and China, GF Automotive is always close to its customers.

“Our nine plants form a production network with standardized casting processes,” explains Mr. Schneider. “This ensures maximum reliability for our customers.” GF Automotive is also constantly investing in state-of-the-art production technology to further expand its competitive position.

The company has just invested in a cutting-edge, new iron casting moulding line at its foundry in Singen, Germany, for the production of first-rate lightweight truck components, which will start production in 2016. And the group’s research and development centers are continuously searching for even more high-strength materials and more efficient processing technologies, always with close attention to present and future customer requirements.

GF Automotive is also strongly committed to the principles of sustainable development and reducing its environmental footprint as far as possible. “A foundry like ours is actually a recycling business,” says Mr. Schneider. “All metal scrap is melted again and reused. And the process heat is used, too.”

GF Automotive has particularly strong market positions in Europe, North America, where the company has a strategic alliance with the iron foundry Grede Castings, and Asia, where it has two own manufacturing plants and a strategic alliance with the Japanese Riken Group.

“With the exception of India and South America, where we do not have partners yet, we have a global footprint,” states Mr. Schneider. “Being as close to our customers’ manufacturing locations as possible is one of the greatest challenges and a major prerequisite for sustained competitive success.”

In addition to further developing its global presence, the goal of GF Automotive is to increase its penetration per vehicle, supplying an increasing share of components, and to further grow its competence in lightweight construction by continuing to innovate with new materials such as SiboDur®, a new high-strength casting material for bionic design lighweight components which achieves a weight reduction of over 30%. For all of this, GF Automotive depends on skilled and motivated labour.

Given the growing skill shortage, the company is a strong advocate of the dual system of professional education and has vocational training programmes in all of its European and Chinese plants. In addition, GF Automotive cooperates closely with leading technical universities to recruit foundry engineers and materials science specialists.

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