Globalizing technological development

Volker Bräunling leads new technical center of excellence

Being a globally active company does not necessarily equate with acting in a globally coordinated manner. To be truly “global” means structuring your organization in a global manner and ensuring that regional coordination is sustained around the world.

This was the rationale behind creating a new technical center of excellence at Freudenberg Filtration Technologies: the “Global Technical Center Automotive Filter”. The person leading this ambitious new department could not be better suited to the role.


A working lifetime of filtration expertise

After completing his studies in chemical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, Volker Bräunling began his career in filtration in 1986. He joined Freudenberg as an application engineer in 1989 and since then has taken on roles of ever increasing importance. Early in his career, Volker Bräunling was part of the project team that developed the original micronAir cabin air filter. Since then, he has seen – and often overseen – the introduction of successive technological refinements of the original concept. It would be hard to find an individual in the global Freudenberg organization who has a deeper understanding of automotive filters.


Taking on a concrete challenge

While the scale of the challenge facing him is significant, its aim is clear: “We have a huge amount of technical filtration expertise worldwide – my task is to coordinate that, deepen it, and ensure that we pool our resources as a single unit”, Volker Bräunling explained. Freudenberg Filtration Technologies began this journey in 2015, when the Global Automotive Filters division was created. Globalizing the innovation strategy was the logical next step. The world’s automotive manufacturers are becoming more global in their orientation, so it makes sense that as a major supplier, Freudenberg aligns itself to this transformation.

Unlocking international synergies

A further motivation for setting up the new Global Technical Center Automotive Filter was the desire to provide a tangible focus for international cooperation among experts. “There is a fantastic spirit of cooperation throughout the Group – our experts want to share their knowledge and experiences. What has been missing is a focal point. In effect, part of my new role will be to act as a coordination hub for global R&D activities”, said Volker Bräunling. Although the technical lead center for Automotive Filter will remain located in Europe, Volker Bräunling will be proactively driving development in other key regions. There was a time when the majority of innovation in the automotive sector was driven by Europe. Asia R&D centers of the OEMs increase their influence for own innovations.


Staying close to the action

As the center of innovation gravity spreads outwards from Europe, so the focus of Tier 1 suppliers like Freudenberg Filtration Technologies needs to move with it. Volker Bräunling sees clear opportunities to support this: “I will spend more time together with our regional technical teams in front of their customers. Being on site with them, where their products are produced and decisions are made, is very different from exchanging emails.” Customers and colleagues alike appreciate receiving direct input from an expert of Volker Bräunling’s standing. With his enormous experience and knowledge, his presence will accelerate the decision-making process. This in turn reflects the company’s strategic drive to make its innovation processes leaner and more agile. In developing new automotive filtration solutions, it is not just about different markets having different demands. Driven by local conditions and environmental factors, such as urbanization and mobility, OEMs can have different needs within individual markets. “If I am there, personally involved in the conversations with my teams and the customers, it’s far easier to spot where the opportunities lie – what we can do to accelerate the customer’s own development processes.”


Preparing the ground for future growth

The Global Technical Center Automotive Filter was conceived and set up with a long-term perspective, as Volker Bräunling explained: “We need to demonstrate to our OEM partners that we can provide the global technological support they need to build their own competitive positions, far into the future.” Freudenberg was built on innovation. Researching future market trends, anticipating innovation needs and following through with creation and delivery of those products is a core tenet. Volker Bräunling’s new job, and the powerful and creative technical organization he leads, will be crucial in giving Freudenberg the focus and agility to continue to deliver this sort of value for its global customers.