Bernhard Erdl, Managing Director, Chief Developer and Founder of PULS, talks to representatives of the press about the future of connectivity of power supplies and the importance of accompanying the customers in digitization processes. Another topic is the global economic growth of PULS in times of alarming component shortages and US punitive tariffs.
Mr. Erdl, which power supply technology do you consider to be essential in the upcoming years?
Bernhard Erdl: From the user’s point of view, I see huge potential in applying the power supply as a source of information. It's like an interface between AC and DC, in other words between the outside world of the grid and the inside of an application. This means it provides reliable and high-quality data on the actual state of a system or machine.
Today, most of the devices in the control cabinet have been digitized and provide tons of data. Don’t you see the risk of a data overkill for the customers?
First of all it's very important that the collected data is managed and analyzed centrally. Secondly, it has to be clear to the user what he is able to do with this information. He must see his benefit. The information provided by our new DIN rail power supply QT40 with IO-Link port can be used, for example, to optimize the efficiency of the customer's system or machine, to maintain it preventively and ultimately to save costs. This is an absolutely significant benefit we can offer to our customers.
How does PULS develop smart power supplies?
We develop our smart DIN rail power supplies and our digital services in close collaboration with our customers. Therefore we use various Design Thinking approaches, such as prototyping. If our customers are deeply involved right from the start, our developers receive valuable feedback. This helps us to design practical solutions that save our customers a lot of work. Connectivity is an important feature, but it has to be “as simple as possible” for the user. I'm convinced that we are on the right way with this user-focused strategy. This is why Frost & Sullivan has awarded us the Manufacturing Leadership Award 2018.
What further technological advancements do you consider to be relevant in the future?
We see a lot of potential for us in the rising demand of energy in all industries. For example, there is an increasing demand for efficient power supply solutions for high power loads in the kilowatt range. This is certainly a very interesting market for us, in which we will be playing a stronger role in the future.
Could you please give us an example?
We've recently developed a modular and cost-efficient 32kW power solution in a customer-specific project. To achieve that we operate four 8 kW power supplies in parallel. Due to the high efficiency of up to 96% and a sophisticated thermal design, the whole system is still convection cooled. It completely runs without a fan, think about that. This example shows quite well that optimizing the main features of a power supply is the most the important thing in the development process. These features are efficiency, lifetime, reliability and compact design. Every new power supply feature is worthless if these core features are compromised.
Which role does the R&D team in Vienna play, which PULS took over from Artesyn in 2017?
Because of their Artesyn background, these 30 developers bring in a lot of knowledge and experience in the telecommunications industry. This helps us, for example, with the previously mentioned communication interfaces in the area of Industry 4.0. Additionally, Puls is getting completely new capabilities, as the development team grows from 70 to 100 experienced developers in one single step. And of course, our customers will also benefit from this increased competence and capacity.
What further plans do you have for the Austrian engineering team?
Our office in Vienna is not a typical company location. We call it InnovationLab because we use it for testing new concepts and technologies in the R&D process. Approaches that work well will be adopted by our more than 100 engineers worldwide. This helps us to gain more flexibility and speed as a company. All of this enables a very positive start-up dynamic, which we will maintain.
Many electronics companies worldwide are struggling with the continuing shortage of components. Does this have any influence on the availability of PULS products?
So far, the availability of our products and our excellent delivery performance have not been affected. We have built up large warehouses for components and our products which turn out to be a huge benefit for our customers. As an example – in July 2018, we were able to achieve an average delivery rate of 99.8%. At the moment, our customers are well supplied worldwide. However, I don't think that the components shortage will significantly improve in the near future.
What's your long term strategy?
Our strategy is based upon quick decision-making and an international global supply chain management. Our own manufacturing locations in China and the Czech Republic work closely together and align very well. We also emphasize a cooperative and international network with our numerous partners and suppliers. This includes regularly qualifying new potential partners, as well.
You have mentioned the PULS manufacturing location in China. How do you deal with the increased punitive tariffs charged by the USA?
This trend had already emerged earlier this year and we have taken appropriate measures since then. The punitive tariffs apply exclusively to products, which were manufactured in China and imported to the USA. That's why we have further increased our production capacities in Europe. It absolutely pays off that we have simultaneously enhanced our two factories in the Czech Republic and in China. This enables the manufacturing teams to support each other and cope with such massive challenges. And with the acquisition of Etasyn, we already have a third fully equipped manufacturing location in Germany at our disposal.
Will the punitive tariffs imply any price adjustments in the USA?
Yes, we cannot achieve this without corresponding price increases in the USA. We try our best, but the level of the new tariffs is simply to high. The whole issue is a hugh logistics challenge for us that consumes a lot of our resources.
Can you give us an idea of the further growth potential of PULS in China?
The Chinese market is very important for our growth. This year, our turnover in China has increased by more than 20%. The country is focusing on high-quality technology more and more – both in the consumer market and in industrial applications. As a result, our product portfolio is targeting precisely what is needed in China. This means we will continue to strengthen our activities in this region.
Does PULS have any other plans to expand in Asia?
In early 2019, we will found our own subsidiary in Japan. This enables us to offer way more local PULS support. That's a very exciting project. Also South Korea – the gateway to the semiconductor industry – is important for us. There we are cooperating very closely with a local partner.
The Japanese market is considered to be highly competitive. What do you expect from a subsidiary?
The Japanese economy is exceptionally strong in the field of high-tech and has an excellent understanding of international trade. But the successful market entrance is not that easy for Western companies. Japanese engineers scrutinize everything and are usually even more thoroughly in their research as Germans. But they were very impressed by our technical expertise and accurate documentation. However, this business requires intensive, long-term face-to-face support. In recent years, our sales team in Singapore managed the accounts of our Japanese customers. In the meantime the demand for our products and the growth potential are high enough that we need more people on site.
What convinces you that PULS is well positioned for the coming years?
I think we are on the right way because our customers, partners and employees repeatedly confirm this. We trust in long-term relationships that are based on partnership and we actively cultivate them. Last but not least, our success is also reflected in our sales figures, which are very satisfying. In 2018, the PULS Group will achieve about 166 million euros in revenue. And speaking about the next months I also know which new products are currently in our pipeline. There are several highlights, that's for sure. But I don't want to reveal to much right now.
Mr. Erdl, thank you very much for this interview.
CEO, Chief Developer and Founder
Bernhard Erdl founded PULS GmbH in 1980 as a garage company in Munich. By 2018 the company had grown to over 1,300 employees worldwide, two high-tech production facilities and an international sales and support team.