For big gears, the world is small


Pederneschiby Fabio Pederneschi

About one year ago Gleason Works announced the successful installation of a really exceptional gear hobbing machine, by an as exceptional company. But the piece of news, despite its importance for the sector – on a global scale – has gone almost unnoticed.
But it was a giant “hobber” that sees, in the whole world, little/almost no competition: at least for what refers to state-of-the-art machines. It is, in fact, a cylindrical hobbing machine model Gleason Pfauter P 8000/10000, purchased by a brand-new and very aggressive Chinese industry: Changzhou Tianshan Heavy Industry Machinery Co. Ltd, in Changzhou. A company established just in 2002.
A company setup and equipped with the precise goal of conquering the world market of cylindrical gears (with both straight and helical teeth) of big and very big sizes: with external diameter that reaches even TEN metres and in batches that …do not disdain the single piece.
Someone will say, now, that the market already counts some traditional suppliers, widespread in the world. This is true, but it is also true that the market goes where it finds the best, at the best conditions: quality, machining, and therefore delivery, terms as well as – naturally – prices. Prices that, even if aggressive, will anyway allow completely unconceivable margins in other market segments.
It is in fact worth considering that such a machine normally allows reaching the DIN 7 (or better) quality, with machining times that – in the case of an external diameter around 10 metres – drop from one week (on a “conventional” hobber) to 8 – 10 hours!Gleason
The strategy of the above mentioned Chinese company – also and especially in Italy – should be considered with attention, utmost attention.
Already today, in fact, a Chinese company that we can/want to consider at the “state of the art” on a global scale does not exclusively, or mainly, rely anymore on the low costs of labour and infrastructures/services (factors that are anyway very rapidly tending to zero, as it is unavoidable that it happens), but on being sector leaders.
Concerning costs, in fact, it is known that a cylindrical or conical “high quality” gear produced in China is already today in serious trouble – or even unable – to find applications on the international market, in competition just with our excellent and aggressive national product.
In the sector of  “XXXL” gears, to explain it clearly, what counts are only production facilities, the technical competence, the sector experience, the technological and industrial context, as well as the professional correctness of the enterprise, not the mere labour cost.
A 10-metre hobber needs just a skilled operator, like a 10-millimetre one..
The national industry of transmission gears has mainly focused its activity on the automotive and on all other industrial applications that provide for batches of a certain entity. Easy and obvious choice.
Nobody has ever dared undertaking the way towards the world of big and very big pieces, to be produced in small and very small bathes, sometimes unitary.
Nobody has ever dared a huger investment than the customary one, without either carrying out serious and in-depth assessments on possible profits (these much bigger than usual ones!) and on the possibilities offered by the world market.
But this world market, what is it?
The question is legitimate, but not justified, if asked by those who have been living and operating for decades in the sector of mechanical transmission gears.
We draw up, however, a very short and incomplete list and we do it in English language, since they are opportunities on a global scale: Mining Equipment, Drilling Equipment (Oil, Natural Gas, Shale Gas, etc), Port Equipment, Large Industrial Applications, Large Wind Turbine Gearboxes, Large Cableways, etc.
Moreover, this world market is continuously and rapidly expanding.