German Wankmiller
About: German Wankmiller - Chairman of the Board

German Wankmiller commenced his mechanical engineering studies at the Munich University of Applied Sciences in 1978, specializing in design technology. He completed his engineering degree successfully in 1982. Following graduation, he joined Multivac Packaging Machines as a group leader in the development department. In 1989, Wankmiller transitioned to Grob-Werke as an assistant to the Director of Operations and production, later assuming roles as Head of Assembly in 1995 and subsequently as Head of Assembly and Logistics in 1999. By 1998, he had risen to the position of Grob Mindelheim's Production Director. In 2003, Wankmiller was appointed Managing Director of Technology, Design, and Production, and since 2007, he has served as Chairman of the Board of Management at the Grob Group.

1. Before we delve into the specifics, could you please introduce yourself and provide a brief overview of your background, highlighting your role and expertise in the advanced battery and electric & hybrid vehicle industry?

I'm German Wankmiller, Chairman of the Board of GROB-WERKE GmbH & Co. KG in Mindelheim, Germany since 2007, and started my career in packaging machine design before I joined GROB in 1989. With a background in mechanical engineering and a passion for innovation, I've dedicated my career to driving progress in sustainable mobility solutions. At GROB, my role involves overseeing strategic initiatives, fostering collaboration, and spearheading technological advancements in battery manufacturing and automotive engineering. Through our commitment to excellence and relentless pursuit of innovation, we aim to shape the future of transportation and contribute to a greener, more sustainable world.

2. What motivated you to participate as a speaker at The Battery Show Europe 2024? What specific goals or expectations do you have for your participation? Additionally, could you shed light on the key topics you plan to address during your presentation?

Participating as a speaker at The Battery Show Europe 2024, together with our partners Duerr and Manz, was motivated by a desire to address critical industry challenges and contribute to shaping the future of European battery production. My specific goals are to foster collaboration, share insights on overcoming hurdles, and highlight the importance of a cooperative approach in scaling battery production efficiently. During our presentation, we will delve into key topics such as the need for fast, reliable, and cooperative scaling of European battery production. We'll discuss challenges faced by the industry and strategies to overcome them, emphasizing the role of innovative processes, automation, and collaborative efforts between machinery manufacturers, plant manufacturers, and other stakeholders. Together, we aim to establish a competitive battery industry in Europe that meets quality, cost, and ecological goals.

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3. From your perspective, what are the most significant trends currently shaping the advanced battery and electric & hybrid vehicle industry?

From my perspective, several significant trends are currently shaping the advanced battery and electric & hybrid vehicle industry. Firstly, there's a strong emphasis on battery technology advancements, particularly in energy density, charging speed, and durability. Innovations such as solid-state batteries and lithium-sulfur batteries are gaining traction, promising to revolutionize the industry by offering improved performance and safety.

Secondly, there's a notable shift towards sustainability and environmental consciousness. Manufacturers are increasingly focusing on reducing the carbon footprint of battery production and vehicle operations, driving the adoption of cleaner energy sources and recycling initiatives.

Thirdly, the electrification of transportation is accelerating, driven by government regulations and consumer demand for eco-friendly alternatives. Electric and hybrid vehicles are becoming more accessible and appealing to a broader audience, leading to significant market growth and investment in charging infrastructure.

Lastly, there's a growing convergence of technology within the automotive industry, with electric vehicles serving as platforms for innovations in autonomous driving, connectivity, and shared mobility. This integration of advanced technologies is reshaping the way we perceive and interact with vehicles, leading to a more connected, efficient, and sustainable transportation ecosystem.

4. In your opinion, what are the key business and technical challenges facing the industry, especially in areas like next-generation battery development and OEM technology strategies for battery design? Can you share practical examples or case studies related to these challenges?

One significant challenge is the need to balance performance, cost, and sustainability in next-generation battery development. While there are continuous advancements in battery technology, achieving breakthroughs in energy density and charging speed without compromising safety or increasing production costs remains a formidable task. This is one of the reasons why we at GROB invest so much in research and development in the field of batteries. We want to continuously improve our technical processes so that we can ultimately supply our customers with even better battery production systems. This enables us to offer our customers new technologies as quickly as possible. Last year, for example, we entered the cell-to-pack assembly market. With this technology, you skip the battery module and go directly from the battery cells to the battery pack. This is a new, promising technology that we can already offer our customers today.

Another challenge lies in OEM technology strategies for battery design. OEMs must navigate complex supply chains, manage production scalability, and ensure compatibility with existing vehicle architectures while innovating in battery design.

Overall, addressing these challenges requires collaboration, innovation, and strategic investments across the industry to drive progress toward more efficient, sustainable, and cost-effective battery technologies.

5. How do you see innovation and growth contributing to the advancement of the industry? What role do new technologies play in this process?

Innovation and growth are pivotal for propelling the battery and electric vehicle industry forward. They drive progress in several key ways: enhancing performance, reducing costs, promoting sustainability, developing infrastructure, and creating economic opportunities. New technologies, such as advances in battery chemistry, materials science, manufacturing processes, and digital technologies such as AI and IoT, play a central role in driving this progress, in my opinion. For example, AI algorithms optimize battery management systems, while IoT-enabled devices enable remote monitoring of EVs and charging infrastructure. Overall, innovation and growth are indispensable for advancing the industry, driving sustainability, economic prosperity, and technological progress.

6. The conference emphasizes themes such as sourcing, scaling, production, next-gen materials, battery safety, and more. Can you share your insights on a specific theme that you find particularly crucial for the industry's development? How do you see this theme evolving in the coming years?

One theme crucial for the industry's development is battery safety. As electric vehicles become more prevalent, ensuring the safety of battery systems is paramount. This encompasses preventing thermal runaway, mitigating fire risks, and enhancing overall reliability. In the coming years, I anticipate a heightened focus on developing advanced safety features and standards, leveraging innovations in materials science, engineering, and battery management systems.

Additionally, with the advent of new battery chemistries and technologies, there will be a continued emphasis on rigorous testing, certification processes, and regulatory frameworks to address evolving safety concerns. Ultimately, prioritizing battery safety will be instrumental in building consumer trust, fostering industry growth, and facilitating widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

7. With the increasing importance of regulatory compliance, how do you see the industry navigating battery policies, and what regulatory insights will you be discussing at the conference? Can you provide examples of successful strategies in navigating regulatory challenges?

Navigating battery policies amidst increasing regulatory scrutiny is paramount for industry sustainability. Successful strategies involve proactive engagement with policymakers, staying abreast of evolving regulations, and investing in compliance measures. For instance, collaborating with governmental agencies to shape policies can lead to favorable outcomes, as seen in initiatives promoting sustainable battery recycling or incentivizing eco-friendly manufacturing practices.

8. The concept of gigafactories is gaining momentum. How do you envision the role of gigafactories in the future of advanced battery production, considering environmental and sustainability factors? What challenges and opportunities do they present?

Gigafactories are indeed pivotal in shaping the future of advanced battery production. They offer immense potential for scaling up production and driving down costs, which is essential for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles and renewable energy storage solutions. However, it's important to acknowledge that their large-scale operations also come with environmental challenges. Issues like resource depletion, energy consumption, and carbon emissions associated with production processes need to be addressed.

To tackle these challenges, gigafactories must prioritize sustainability. This involves implementing innovative solutions such as sourcing materials responsibly, adopting renewable energy sources, and implementing efficient recycling programs to minimize waste. Additionally, investing in research and development can lead to the discovery of eco-friendly materials and cleaner production techniques, further enhancing the environmental footprint of gigafactories.

Moreover, gigafactories present significant opportunities for regional economic development, job creation, and technological innovation. By attracting investments and fostering collaboration between industry, academia, and government, gigafactories can stimulate local economies and drive advancements that benefit society at large.

9. Conferences provide an excellent platform for collaboration and networking. Can you share personal experiences or success stories related to collaboration at industry events? How do events like The Battery Show Europe contribute to fostering collaboration among battery manufacturers, suppliers, engineers, and thought leaders?

Indeed, conferences play a key role in fostering collaboration and networking within the industry. One particular experience that comes to mind is from last year's Battery Show Europe. We had the opportunity to connect with several key players in the battery industry, from manufacturers to suppliers, engineers, and thought leaders.

During the event we had discussions, exchanged ideas, and explored potential partnerships that have since come to fruition.

In addition, events like The Battery Show Europe provide a platform for sharing knowledge and learning from industry experts. Workshops, seminars, and panel discussions allow professionals to delve into the latest advances, challenges, and best practices in the field. These insights not only help us stay ahead of the curve but also inspire collaboration as we work together to overcome common obstacles.

In essence, The Battery Show Europe and events like it act as catalysts for collaboration, bringing together stakeholders with different expertise and perspectives under one roof. By facilitating meaningful interactions and fostering a collaborative environment, these conferences are instrumental in driving innovation and progress within the battery industry.

10. Looking ahead, what do you foresee as the most exciting developments or breakthroughs in the advanced battery and electric & hybrid vehicle industry over the next few years? How might these impact the industry landscape?

The next few years hold immense promise for the advanced battery and electric & hybrid vehicle industry, with several exciting developments on the horizon.

As mentioned earlier, innovations such as solid-state and lithium-sulfur batteries promise higher energy density and faster charging, which will revolutionize electric vehicles. Advancements in battery management and thermal tech will optimize performance, prolonging lifespan and boosting efficiency. Investments in fast-charging infrastructure and wireless charging technology accelerate EV adoption, while the rise of autonomous and connected vehicles reshapes transportation. Electric and hybrid vehicles, aligning with autonomous tech, lead this shift, enhancing safety and energy usage. These developments signify a transformative shift towards cleaner, smarter, and more connected mobility solutions.

11. Considering the interdependence of technology with market motives, application scenarios, and material availability, could you share insights on the evolving role of Material Science in driving the future of the industrial application battery business? How do advancements in material science contribute to the industry's progress, and what impacts do you foresee on applications and business strategies?

Material science is crucial for advancing industrial application batteries. Innovations in materials lead to improved electrode materials, electrolytes, and separators, enhancing energy density, stability, and charging speed. This translates into longer-lasting batteries meeting evolving industrial demands. Moreover, material science drives cost-effective solutions, lowering production costs and promoting battery adoption across sectors. Sustainable materials, like recyclable electrodes, address environmental concerns. Customization of battery materials ensures suitability for various applications, from energy storage to electronics. Material science also fosters market differentiation through proprietary technologies and strategic partnerships. Overall, material science fuels innovation, boosts performance, and expands battery applications, promising new opportunities in diverse industries.

12. Lastly, what advice would you give to attendees looking to make the most out of their participation in The Battery Show Europe 2024, and how can they stay ahead in this rapidly evolving industry? Additionally, is there anything else you would like to share with the audience as closing remarks?

Attendees should prioritize networking and knowledge exchange at The Battery Show Europe 2024. Engage with industry experts, explore emerging technologies, and seek collaboration opportunities. To stay ahead in this dynamic industry, embrace continuous learning, adaptability, and innovation. Remember, success lies in staying informed, forging strategic partnerships, and embracing change.