Interview spotlight: Reviewing the launch of Frauscher Tracking Solutions
In 2016, Frauscher Sensor Technology set a huge milestone within the railway industry by launching its DAS-based Frauscher Tracking Solutions FTS. In this interview for Global Railway Review, Michael Thiel, CEO of Frauscher Sensor Technology, explains how this affects the company’s business by reviewing the past year and by giving an outlook on what will happen next…
It seems as if Frauscher has made some major achievements in 2016 – what were the most important ones?
Now that we have closed the past business year, we can state that from a sales and profit point-of-view it has been the most successful year in our company’s history. We were able to increase our order intake by almost 80% from €43.4 million to €77.0 million. That would not have been possible without our worldwide presence, which is growing stronger every year, and it was this that led to another very important decision that was implemented last year: To further support the demand for new investments in technologies and markets, we decided to create a new shareholding structure. Therefore, a management buyout was conducted and the business group was acquired by the current management, in association with Greenbriar Equity Group LLC. This was an important step to secure the persistence and sustainable growth for the entire Frauscher organisation.
Speaking of your global presence, currently how many Frauscher locations are there and how do they influence your business?
On a global level, Frauscher cooperates with a range of sales partners and is represented by 10 locations all over the world. Two of which, Frauscher India and Frauscher Brazil, were able to more than triple their turnover in 2016. Also, the most recently established offices in Australia and USA were able to realise their first major projects. To ensure our capacities will be able to meet these increasing demands in services and products, a new Frauscher Innovation Centre and an extended sensor production have been opened at our site in Austria. Further investments are being made in India where a new building is going to unite offices and a production facility. Additionally, this year we have hired more new talents than ever before all around the globe. This will enable a range of promising and impressive projects based on wheel detection systems and axle counters to be realised before the end of 2017. This trend will continue, which is why we aim to hire another 80 employees across all our locations and open an additional office in France this year.
With your core business doing so well, what has been your drive to introduce a new technology to the markets?
On the one hand, we are constantly monitoring alternative technologies that could benefit the railway industry. With regards to Distributed Acoustic Sensing, we recognised that the whole railway industry was becoming more and more interested in using solutions based on this technology. We investigated the reasons for this and soon we were convinced that this approach has enormous potential, which is why we are the first dedicated supplier within the railway industry to combine DAS with proven wheel detection systems and axle counters. This allows us to provide our customers with one single solution delivering a whole new spectrum of applications. The feedback we received during and after presenting FTS at InnoTrans exceeded our expectations. Operators, system integrators and research institutes from all over the globe are highly interested in developing these new possibilities further. Currently, more than 10 installations have already been conducted – with a rising tendency.
Do you think that your new product line will replace proven products?
We don’t think so. Next to ETCS, CBTC and maybe PTC in the USA, axle counting and wheel detection based on inductive sensor technology has been one of the fastest growing and most requested technologies in railway signalling and automation. In the last few years, Frauscher has grown together with this technology by more than 15% every year – and we see this trend continuing in the future. For sure this is accompanied by increasing competition with new companies entering the market and providing axle counting technology. In parallel to this, existing players are also launching new or adapted products, but this also shows that the market for axle counting and wheel detection is still growing and we expect it to grow even faster in the years to come. We will maintain our position as one of the market leaders in wheel detection and axle counting. We keep focussing on customer needs and on being a reliable and performant partner.