The Thermal Process Technology Trade Association of VDMA

Topic of the month - April 2014

© SMS Elotherm, Remscheid

Image © SMS Elotherm, Remscheid

VDMA: Technological know-how and networked thinking

With more than 3,100 member companies in the capital goods industry, the majority of them mid-sized businesses, the German Machinery and Plant Engineering Association (VDMA) is one of the most influential and member-strong industrial associations in Europe.
Machinery and plant engineering is a key technology and the primary motor for the economy.

With a sales volume of EUR 207 billion (2012) and 971,000 employees (2012) domestically, this sector is the largest industrial employer and one of the leading German industrial sectors. The products and services of the machinery and plant engineering industry enjoy an excellent reputation worldwide. Approximately two thirds of German production is exported.

The entire process chain is represented within VDMA – from the component to the complete plant, from the system supplier to the system integrator to the service contractor. Its guiding principles are formed by the central topics networked thinking and acting, future for entrepreneurs, technology for people, and Europe and the World.

Resource Efficiency of Thermal Process Plants

Almost one third of the energy used industrially in Germany is required for thermal production processes, whereas industrial furnaces are responsible for a large portion of the energy consumption. Manufacturers and operators have been working continuously since their inception on improving their energy efficiency.

No wonder: The optimisation of the thermal process chain and its individual modules – including the utilisation of waste heat – holds the greatest potential for increasing efficiency and conserving resources. Modern plants, for example, already consume up to one third less energy as older plants.

Thermal Process Technology: Key Industrial Sector

The vast majority of thermal process plants are unique specimens, having been specially designed according to the customer's specified methods and production processes. Thermal process technology is a key industrial sector and plays a central role in equipping many target industries, for example the steel and iron industry, the non-ferrous metal industry, the automotive and automotive supply industry, the glass industry, the ceramic and cement industry, the chemical and petrochemical industry, and the aerospace industry.

The thermal process plant manufacturers and engineering firms that are affiliated with the VDMA trade association for thermal process technology offer a broad technological spectrum, from laboratory furnaces to induction furnaces to rotary furnaces, as well as the ancillary equipment and components necessary for thermal processes. Due to their expert know-how in numerous application areas, they act as competent consultants for decisions regarding methods, process selection and optimisation.

Innovations with a broad impact – Securing and utilising efficiency potential

Resource conservation is an especially important topic in the thermal process technology field. Minimisation of energy consumption is not only an environmental topic – rather, it is increasingly becoming a critical competitive factor. New machines and plants use significantly less energy. Optimised plant concepts, as well as heat recovery strategies, allow additional reduction of energy consumption.

As a crossover technology, thermal process technology can contribute significantly to efficiency optimisation with its innovations in numerous application areas. This motivated the trade association along with its members to compile a guide on the energy efficiency of thermal process plants, which targets operators as well of designers of these plants and makes clear that energy efficiency is a central topic for furnace manufacturers.

The guide points to the energy-saving potential with burners and firing systems, furnace insulation, integrated process energy use, waste heat utilisation, electricity consumption, auxiliary power units and consumables. With the aid of concrete examples, the guide offers suggestions for increasing energy efficiency in all process steps – from the integration of energy-optimised individual components to the comprehensive examination of the entire process chain and beyond.


The Thermal Process Technology Trade Association of VDMA: A powerful network

The trade association offers its members services and representation of interests, and acts as an informational and communication platform. This includes the involvement in national and international standardisation activities as much as the support of technical working groups, provision of industry-specific market information, organisation of symposiums and support of member companies at important industry trade fairs.

Pre-market research activities are coordinated by the Research Association of Industrial Furnace Manufacturers (FOGI), founded by member companies back in 1967. The European Committee of Industrial Furnace and Heating Equipment Associations (CECOF) represents the interests of its members on a global level under supervision of the trade association.

An additional service feature is the strategic positioning of the German thermal process technology industry among the global competition. Here, the trade association supports its members with the internationalisation of their business activities, for example via studies, symposiums abroad, or participation in the VDMA foreign offices in China and Russia.

Moreover, the VDMA thermal process technology trade association has joined the ranks of the Blue Competence sustainability initiative as one of the first sectors. With this initiative, members demonstrate that they have taken on sustainability as a place from which to operate in regard to development and production, and a commitment to conserve resources and increase efficiency through intelligent technological solutions.

Making networks come alive: Exchange of experience and exhibition

Exchanging ideas and experiences is a knowledge catalyst. At trade fairs and seminars, the thermal process technology trade association promotes exchange of experience along the entire process chain, all the while taking up current issues from all areas of interest in the industry.

This could be, for example, the support of industry trade fairs and the professional sponsorship of a leading trade fair such as THERMPROCESS, which will take place again in Düsseldorf in 2015, drawing an international trade audience. The VDMA thermal process technology trade association will once again conduct the world-class THERMPROCESS Symposium within the framework of the trade fair. Next year's symposium will focus on productivity and resource conservation.

Frank Lindner