R & D in figures

RandD in figures

In 2009 we successfully pursued our strategy by:

  • Investing € 63 million in R&D;
  • Earmarking € 10 million capital investments towards expanding and realizing state-of-the-art R&D facilities in Belgium and China;
  • Focusing on greener and more cost-effective solutions both on a product and process innovation level;
  • Recommitting resources for mid and long-term innovation by refocusing on the front-end of the innovation funnel (idea generation; market opportunity identification).

Being at the forefront of technological innovation is one of the key pillars in Bekaert’s strategy to achieve sustainable profitable growth. Our research and development activities are aimed at new products and product applications as well as innovative production processes that limit costs, environmental impact and energy consumption; we also create and design increasingly efficient production equipment in our Engineering department.

Our efforts to develop new materials and products are centered on two major technological core competencies. We carry out research into metal transformation and into the mechanical properties of metal, such as strength, ductility and fatigue. In addition, our research efforts also focus on improving the surface properties of metal with the help of advanced coatings: for example, coatings to improve adhesion and corrosion resistance. The purpose of our technology centers is to continuously optimize the synergy between our metal transformation and coatings knowhow. The increasing cross-functional cooperation between people from technology, engineering and from the business units is a crucial driver for our innovation.

In the economically challenging year 2009 we continued to allocate a high budget to research and development. In the years to come, the current level of R&D investments will be increased. With this commitment, we strive to strenghten our technological leadership, today and tomorrow, in order to contribute to Bekaert’s sustainable profitable growth and further bolster our global resilience.

R&D at Bekaert in figures

R&D is part of Bekaert’s DNA. The resources invested in technology and innovation account for approximately 3% of consolidated sales and 7.1% of the added value we achieve.

Over the period 2003 to 2009, investments in technology grew substantially, both in terms of operating budget and in terms of allocated staff. Currently more than 600 employees are active in technology and innovation at Bekaert, more than 350 (representing 12 different nationalities) of whom work in the Technology Center at Deerlijk (Belgium). Another 250 employees work on developing specific products and providing technological support to plants and customers in China. In 2009 we further developed and expanded both teams. The fact that we filed 39 new patents in 2009 illustrates the success of Bekaert’s focus on R&D.

Engineering focused on lean and green operations

Bekaert’s in-house engineering department designs, assembles and installs production lines, contributes to the development of new products, and globalizes spare parts asset management. In addition to adjusting manufacturing capacity worldwide in 2009, Engineering was also involved in the start-up of the new Bekaert plants at Chongqing (China) and Lipetsk (Russia), and in the installation and commissioning of new production lines for existing plants in Belgium, Brazil, China and India.

In the course of 2009 the R&D activity of Engineering clearly focused on increased energy saving, eco-friendlier equipment and the upgrading of existing equipment in order to reduce energy consumption and put in higher levels of automation. As for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), our Engineering department started the implementation of SAP, with the aim of finalizing the rollout thereof in 2010.

Worldwide Bekaert Engineering employs 470 employees of which 232 are located in Ingelmunster (Belgium). (figures GAMM=Global Asset Maintenance Management not included)

Intellectual property protected

In 2009 Bekaert filed 39 first patent applications. A growing contribution from China was noticed: In 6 of the 39 first filings, a Chinese inventor was designated. 9 of the 39 first filings were drafted by members of the Bekaert Industrial Property department in China. The current patent portfolio of Bekaert comprises 350 patent families with 1916 patent applications and granted patents.

A system of intellectual property protection and confidentiality was rolled out in 2008 in the Chinese steel cord plants of Bekaert. This system comprises heightening awareness in the field of intellectual property, round tables for sharing good practices, use of a balanced score card and audits on intellectual property. In 2009 this system has been extended to also cover the engineering and wire activities of Bekaert in China. In addition a policy around website domain names was implemented.

Throughout the years our in-house engineering department has built up a thorough expertise and specialized knowledge of our manufacturing needs. Thanks to this expertise, our production plants are equipped with the most advanced machines and process equipment. This, in turn, enables us to match our production methods closely to the working practices of our customers.

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