Changes in the bearings market and future challenges

9th February 2018
Posted By : Anna Flockett
Changes in the bearings market and future challenges

Bearing manufacturer NKE Austria has been part of the Fersa Group since January 2016, which was established through the merger of Spanish company Fersa Bearings and NKE Austria, who are both are internationally active in the development, production and sales of bearings for the global automotive and industrial markets, with Fersa covering the automotive and NKE the industrial sector. Thomas Witzler (pictured below), General Manager of NKE here talks about the strategic outlook and plans of the Austrian company in the coming years.

Two years have passed since the merger with Fersa Bearings. Can you already draw any conclusions? How will the cooperation develop in future?
“In the near future, NKE and Fersa Bearings will move even closer together than we already have. In 2018, Fersa will exercise its purchasing option to acquire the remaining 51% of NKE, making the latter a full member of the Fersa Group. As a group we will be ideally positioned to extend our production capacities and jointly set up additional factories, as well as to utilise common resources in all business sectors. NKE will also increase its focus on its four strategic industries: mechanical drives, electrical drives, agri-tech and fluid technology. The group has the clear goal of achieving the turnover-milestone of €100m by the year 2020.”

How does NKE see the development of the global bearings market over the next two years?
“The future looks bright. 2017 was an excellent year for NKE: At 20%, our growth in turnover exceeded the growth of the global bearing market by 13% points. Our order intake in 2017 was also 50% up on the previous year, and we expect both our turnover and the overall market to continue its growth at a similar rate in 2018 and 2019.

The bearings market is facing a radical change in the next five to ten years. Especially the automotive market will come under pressure from the growing trend towards electric mobility and the reduced demand for conventional bearings this entails. We expect the capacities that will be freed up through this development to shift from the automotive to the industrial sector, which will result in additional cost pressure.

A further trend is that conventional automotive suppliers are increasingly transforming into system suppliers, as conventional mechanical components are increasingly being replaced by intelligent specialised systems.”

What steps does a medium-sized bearing manufacturer have to take to be able to profit from these trends and developments?
“NKE is investing heavily in the technologies of tomorrow. Because conventional bearing technology is mostly at its limits, profitable growth will, in the long term, be possible only in niche markets. NKE is therefore focusing on the development of intelligent products, like our sensor bearing.”

What goals has the group set itself?
“We are aiming for a profitability of at least ten percent. In addition to customer service, we will also further enhance our flexibility and speed, and aim to generate turnover of €200m in the Fersa Group. In the medium term, this will be achieved both through organic and inorganic growth.”

Thomas Witzler has a degree in business administration and has been with NKE since 2009. Since July 2016, he is General Manager of NKE, which was established in 1996 by leading employees of the former company Steyr Wälzlager. NKE offers both standard and special bearings for all industrial applications.


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