Tectus’ approach delivers peace of mind for high end drivers, and more.
The pleasure of having a really fast car is being able to open it up once in a while, and when you’re hitting a corner approaching 2 Gs with a silly grin on your face, the last thing you want to be thinking about is whether your brakes are going to fail on this turn, or the next, or the one after that.
Zurich firm Proceq’s latest innovation is good news for those drivers, as well as the people who service and manufacture high performance automobiles. The product, Carboteq, promises to make the chore of regularly checking carbon ceramic brake discs more accurate and much less painful. This product is the latest innovation out of the portfolio of a venerable Swiss construction firm previously known for its bridge-building expertise. Tectus Group now includes 7 market segments and is gaining as much a reputation for spanning strategic divides as physical ones.
A carbon ceramic what…?
Carbon ceramic discs represent a major advance for those with ambitions to go fast. They weigh half what conventional disc brakes do, increasing traction and steering control while decreasing fuel consumption. They reduce stopping distance at high speed. And being extremely hard means they can take extreme punishment. Carbon ceramic brakes on Formula 1 cars can withstand temperatures up to 750 degrees Celsius so they deform less and brake evenly over and over again. Hardness also enables a longer lifespan than with steel discs. These characteristics convinced manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes, Maserati and Porsche to fit some of their designed-for-theroad vehicles with the same technology. The downside of carbon ceramic brakes is that, until now, they could only be inspected visually or dismounted, cleaned and weighed. Both methods are time consuming and full of potential for inaccurate readings.
“Old and new discs look the same. The material that’s eating away is inside,” says Oliver Oh, immediate past CEO and current director of Proceq. He says that leads to a lot of guesswork in a visual inspection. Weight analysis is nearly as challenging since a disc only sheds about 1.25 percent of its weight during its lifecycle.
Carboteq was developed to address these needs. About the size of a smartphone, it is the definition of simplicity displaying a single reading when placed against the disc. The complicated bits, based on pulse-induction technology, are all inside where inductive coils and advanced signal analysis detect material characteristics and disc geometries. The process, according to Proceq’s tests, is up to 40 times more accurate than the weight loss method.
Proceq thinks auto owners will recognize the safety benefit and peace of mind afforded by accurately knowing when to replace discs, as well as a cost benefit in optimizing their lifespan. This is no small consideration as Oh noted that carbon ceramic braking systems can be the single most expensive component on a car, roughly equal to the cost of a VW Golf.
Oh reckons carbon ceramic brakes are included on less than one percent of current auto production, but that could change as lower emissions ratings become a more important concern for premium autos right down to the budget models. Harder, lighter carbon discs not only conserve fuel, they also produce less dust than steel brakes, all of which adds up to a savings of perhaps 30 kilos of CO2 over the life of the brakes.
With all those new carbon ceramic brakes on the road a simpler and more accurate method for checking their wear and quality controlling their manufacture will appeal to service technicians, inspectors and manufacturers. Proceq, and its parent company Tectus Group, hope Carboteq will help to drive that transformation.
Companies always take a risk when they offer up a novel product, something for which no market yet exists. This sort of risk-taking is common in some sectors, but a construction firm? And a 70 year-old Swiss one at that! Tectus Group is still owned by the families who founded it in 1944 to build bridges and other large infrastructure projects. But Tectus is no longer just a construction firm. It includes Proceq, the company that developed Carboteq. Over the years it has also developed businesses in property development and management, television, pay TV, internet, biomedical technology and mineral water, as well as a boutique business advisory service.
Tectus leverages its multi-disciplinary structure to promote diverse thinking among its business units with people who float between teams, helping to transfer knowledge and make unusual connections. Oliver Oh, a Tectus Group board member, is one of those people. “We are used to looking at problems— be it business, or technical, or commercial—with different people from different backgrounds, and from different angles,” says Oh. “So you have people from a medical background looking at a construction problem, or people from a construction background looking at an automotive problem. This is the culture we have in our group and the culture we nurture. And I think Carboteq is the perfect example of what you can generate having this multi-disciplinary view.” In their core discipline, construction, Tectus has developed what seems a radical strategy.
“Construction is traditionally a business which is slow-moving and very local, but at the same time it is the biggest industry in the world,” says Oh. That suggested opportunity. When Oh and his team started looking at their construction ventures around the world, they took a barrier-defying approach. “We came up with the idea of franchising. Why not? Look at its success in consumer, hotel, food. The only reason it hadn’t been done in construction is because the industry is traditional. Everybody stays in his box. We sort of broke open this box.”
They thought about what was missing in the business that is common in other industries: the turnkey franchise model, and the needs that all construction ventures have in common: certification, products, a strong brand, references and expertise. They created a package that can be applied anywhere and still keep the flavour of the locale where it is applied.
The concept is now fully implemented in 60 countries in Europe and Asia with franchisees that run the gamut from multi-billion dollar companies to boutique firms.
Tectus and Proceq intend to rely on diverse thinking, lean management and top-notch talent as they drive ever deeper into Asian and East European markets, leaving their more traditional beginnings in the rear view. As long as they can achieve speed and performance, that suits ownership and management just fine.
Article by Peter Carson