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Digging deep to expand worldwide

Digging deep to expand worldwide

Bauer Maschinen GmbH develops and manufactures specialist foundation engineering equipment.

As well as rotary-drilling rigs and trench cutters, subsidiaries manufacture anchor drilling rigs, pile drivers, mixers, diesel-powered hammers, well and geothermal drilling rigs, and a wide range of accessories.

Bauer Maschinen operates a global sales network, and in addition to its Schrobenhausen mother plant also has manufacturing facilities in Germany, China, Russia, the US, Malaysia, Italy and Sweden.

Since 2001 Bauer Maschinen has been operating as an independent entity within the Bauer Group, and since 2006 Bauer AG has been a publicly listed company.

Bauer’s roots date back to 1790, when Sebastian Bauer acquired the right to set up a coppersmith’s in Schrobenhausen.

However, the origins of the group’s machinery design and manufacturing operations are more recent, extending back to around 1969, when there was a lack of suitable anchor drilling and pile driving equipment on the market to support Bauer’s construction activities. As a result, Bauer Maschinen built the first anchor drilling rig to its own specification, the UBW. In 1976 came the first rotary drilling rig, the BG 7.

Both rigs represented major innovations, driving forward the application of the respective construction methods significantly.
Having originally intended the machines solely for in-house use, in the mid-1980s Bauer Maschinen then began selling them on the open market. The reasons for this were, firstly, that major construction companies were asking for Bauer equipment and, secondly, the high development cost could be offset by producing high volumes.

Since the early 1990s Bauer has been incorporating more and more equipment into its range – in some cases by acquiring existing businesses, in others by establishing new specialist companies – and today is able to offer the full range of specialist foundation engineering equipment.

In 1998, Bauer acquired Klemm Bohrtechnik GmbH, a leader in the development and manufacture of anchor drill rig technology for overburden, injections and micro-piling drilling.

In 2001, Bauer Maschinen bought Eurodrill, a specialist in designing and producing hydraulic drifters and rotary heads.

In 2004, Bauer, took a majority holding in Prakla Bohrtechnik, a specialist in well-drilling rigs. Prakla also manufactures geothermal energy and drilling rigs for exploration.

“This variety of different companies is why Bauer feels quite confident that it can come through the current tough times,” Bauer Maschinen marketing director, Manfred Schoepf, says.

In addition, other subsidiaries of Bauer Maschinen include: ABS Trenchless, producing machinery for horizontal drilling; Hausherr System Bohrtechnik, developing hydraulic drilling rigs and accessories; MAT Mischanlagentechnik, offering systems for mixing and separation of slurries, as well as centrifuges and pumps; Bauer Pileco, based in Houston, Texas, adding low-frequency piling equipment to the group’s range; and RTG Rammtechnik GmbH, building telescopic piling leaders and high-frequency vibrators.

In terms of new improvements, the majority of Bauer companies are working on their products in terms of parameters such as size, weight and drilling range, while MAT is constantly working on new types of mixing arrangements.

At RTG the company has developed its largest pile driver, the RG25. RTG’s other rigs are typically telescopic rigs for the installation of sheet pile walls, but the RG25 is a new 6-litre rig which is more akin to a universal piling machine, rather than just a carrier for pile driving. The RG25 can be used for rotary drilling and soil-mixing due to its large engine and stiff mast.

Safety first approach
Adaptations made to improve operator safety are an ongoing process at Bauer Maschinen, and at the moment are mainly conducted on BG pile drilling rigs.

“We are reacting to the market, especially the UK market. We have to apply the guarding, not only around the machine but also on top of the upper carriage,’” Mr Schoepf says.

“From a certain height onwards the upper carriages in this range need this railing and guarding. It’s complicated to install but that’s something we have to do. Of course, many of these regulations start in one country and then others will follow.”

Bauer is also installing, more as a standard these days than an option, cameras for enhanced rear-view of machines. Because the size of machines is increasing this therefore increases safety. In terms of comfort of the operator, Bauer has recently designed a completely new operator’s cabin that will now be installed more or less on all its drilling rigs as one basic unit.

The cabin enhances visibility, makes improvements to doors and rearranges buttons, switches and screens in a more economic, logical and ergonomic manner.

As machines get larger then more electronic components are also included in the design. However, Bauer Maschinen is conscious that such devices should act as “assistants” to the drilling process rather over-ruling the decisions of operators.

The modular type of system means that longer masts are possible, and with a bigger range the mobility of the mast increases. But with increased winch capacity comes the danger that mishandling could cause problems for the stability of the machine.

To help prevent this, in the first instance, an electronic system warns the operator when it is not advisable to proceed with extreme reaches and loads. However, a second step kicks in if it becomes apparent that the situation has reached a critical stage, and then the machine will stop itself.

Additionally, the Bauer Group has opened a 6,000m² training site for drilling rigs and their operators. The training centre is not far from group headquarters in Schrobenhausen, Upper Bavaria.

Specially developed for machine operators and instructors, the object of the eight- to ten-day training programme is to enhance safety on construction sites. By improving safety awareness and encouraging safe driving, the training will also help to cut equipment repair costs and reduce downtimes.

Custom-fit design

Bauer constructs most piling rigs in a modular fashion because some customers need a larger diameter than standard. The need for larger diameters, greater depth and bigger engine power is a global trend that the manufacturer recognises. As well, demand is up for smaller units with torque ranges of 15-18t/m, in addition to high end ranges offering 30-40t/m torque.

This year Bauer customised its biggest rig, shown at Bauma, the BG50, which was to a large extent built according to the requirements of the US customer which bought it, Malcolm Drilling Inc.

The San Francisco-headquartered contractor needed a rig that could drill a maximum of 4m diameter. The new system, where the rotary drive is attached, increases the drill access relative to the mast from 1.5m, the standard, up to 2.5m - meaning that a bucket with 4m diameter can be installed. The client wanted to have the maximum height possible and the mast was built with the possibility to extend it in box-type sections.

This machine was 8m higher than the standard unit and had the maximum possible winch force available on the market at the moment, 60t. The rig is designed for drilling depths of up to 100m, has an operating weight of 240t and an engine output of 706kW. The mast of the new Bauer BG 50 can be extended to an overall height of 35m.

Bauer Maschinen has also modified its trench cutter system for diaphragm walls to work under limited height conditions, with a maximum height of 6m.

“We get a lot of questions and requirements from customers to have equipment customised for their use and it’s always our aim to fulfil as many as possible, but also to have it fit into the basic concept and avoid producing isolated pieces just for one customer,” says Mr Schoepf.

Many ideas come from customer requests but later get incorporated into Bauer Maschinen’s standard design if they are suitable for general purposes, where they can be added as an option.

Alternatively, Bauer Maschinen develops its own ideas, such as new equipment for specialist applications, like the Cutter-Soil-Mixing system for producing soil-mixed walls.

“We designed it, we tested it and then we presented it to the market about five years ago. In some areas of the world it is already the standard system, while other areas are following. The US, for example, has now realised the advantages of the system,” says Mr Schoepf.

Mr Schoepf added that Bauer had over recent years strengthened its patent department to protect its new ideas from those who would seek to copy them.

Global coverage

Bauer believes its sales network is already spread over the key parts of the world, with no current plans to expand to areas where it has no coverage.

“The biggest sales opportunities for orders are in the US and China. However, it’s not the general trend that the whole market is booming, and we expect this situation to definitely persist for another year,” says Mr Schoepf.

“We have to remember that before the crisis the construction industry was at an extremely high boom time. Our current figures are not bad - only if they are compared to the extraordinarily good figures that went before.”

Bauer admits it has been impacted by the global economic downturn, but has avoided making cutbacks in terms of personnel. One of the pillars of the company’s philosophy has been to keep personnel for as long as possible.

Mr Schoepf says of the downturn: “Orders in hand have remained relatively stable since the first quarter of 2009 but, of course, on a lower level compared to the boom years.

“If buildings are not made or delayed then people do not need foundations equipment. But the effect has been less on large equipment because the heavy stuff is needed for big infrastructure projects such as bridges, which are supported heavily by government funds to push the economy.”

This is the case especially in eastern Asia and now the US, with the decline in some European markets by comparison “substantial”.

During the boom times Bauer Maschinen increased its manufacturing capacities to establish ideal conditions for efficient production.
 
The company says this also means a major boost in times of crisis, as all business units can focus entirely on their work at hand.

New fields

One area into which Bauer Maschinen is aggressively promoting itself is the deep drilling sector.

“This is very new to us. We want to produce systems and equipment for the range 3,000-5,000m. If we have the choice we would market ourselves more towards the deep geothermal area, and then go into oil and gas,” says Mr Schoepf.

“In some other areas we are the market leaders, but in this case it’s exactly the opposite. We know how to build good machines, but this market is new for us.”

In the deep drilling market, Bauer’s competitors would be Herrenknecht, domestically, and worldwide “the old famous names in oil drilling” such as Schlumberger and Schramm, as well as other less known manufacturers worldwide.
Courtesy Geo Drilling International
 
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