Speaker interview: Gordon Bach, Senior Engineering Manager at the EU Engineering Center at CATL
Gordon has held several positions within CATL. He began leading the product development team of CATL Europe responsible for 48V and HV products, before becoming Principal Engineer in the Advanced Product Development department at CATL China, working on next-generation designs and technologies for automotive storage systems. Since 2018 he has been Senior Engineering Manager responsible for the Engineering Centre of the CATL Europe organisation.
What are the biggest challenges/opportunities you face as a business and as a sector?
The recent challenges are the disruption of the automotive market from ICE towards electrification, as well as simultaneous technology trends e.g. autonomous driving, connectivity, etc., which drive the market continuously to new business models and end-customer mobility experience. In close collaboration with the automotive OEM customers and our suppliers, we are focused on maximising the competitiveness of our products, technology and cost to master the ambitious market pace and find new value-adding assets in battery design. For CATL it is the opportunity to become a global battery supplier and to extend its battery market footprint with various localisations in EU and NAR within the next decade.
How will the convergence of electrification, autonomy and connectivity impact battery design?
To me, an integrated, service-based business model of all three factors will very soon be the kick- starter to narrow the battery to a TCO-driven hardware element of service-based business models (as a key cost driver of future mobility units).
Market wise, this will demand different assets from the current automotive market, such as changed value creation at the end customer and an IT-market convergence with competitors from non-automotive industries.
Technology wise, the battery design will be challenged to transition from energy-density based towards TCO based while still overlapping with the ongoing ICE-electrification transition and its product roadmaps. From that, the key competition in battery design in the near future might be highest modularisation/standardisation levels, integrated commodity concepts for mobility service fleets, and maximisation of integrated and predictive maintenance.
How do European and Asian battery manufacturing process approaches differ?
The fully established battery manufacturing supply chain in Asia is the backbone of an accelerated mass industrialisation and a maximum shrinkage of time-to-market moves. The manufacturing process approach is developed to serve the fast pace of market development along the complete supply chain. On the other hand, the established and sophisticated engineering of European OEM products is still the benchmark in the automotive market, coming from highly standardised and automated process and supply chains. In a long-term view, the harmonisation and stirring of both manufacturing process approaches will be the key success factors to create a true global champion in battery manufacturing.
How does this impact compact the organisation of the production line?
Well, compact organisation of production line design and operation are major common targets of lean and cost-competitive production driven by highest throughput and OEE targets to realise best product prices on all sides. To me, the utilisation of individual strength designing and operating production lines in Asia versus Europe will be in second place after smart and well-adapted product roadmaps/portfolios that meet the market transition demands and find a sweet spot in flexibility versus standardisation and quality versus throughput.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
As a boy I wanted to be Michael Knight, so that I could be the one who could drive K.I.T.T. in the name of justice. I guess somehow in the near future the key features of good old K.I.T.T. will be found in almost every autonomous vehicle, so somehow my dream still might come true in a more common way.
Gordon will be speaking at The Battery Show Conference Europe on 'Ramping up Battery Assembly to Meet Future OEM Demand: Building Gigafactories in the EU' on Thursday 09 May 2019 at 14:00.