The filters are becoming more individual

Interview with Dr. Martin Lehmann

Dr. Martin Lehmann is Vice President Product Champion Air Filtration. In an interview, he provides an insight on how MANN+HUMMEL is driving the holistic development of air filtration and what the air cleaners of the future will look like.

Professional career

Dr. Martin Lehmann studied process engineering at the university of Karlsruhe and in 2005 got his doctoral degree on the study regarding fiber structures of filter media and simulation of particle loading kinetics on a single fiber. He joined MANN+HUMMEL in 2006 and today as Vice President Air Filtration is responsible for the strategic orientation of air filtration across different business units.

Dr. Lehmann, you come from the field of simulation. What has changed for you in the new task and what are you particularly pleased about?

It is exceptionally fascinating to promote a specific product cross-functionally. The focus here is to jointly develop innovative solutions to meet future customer requirements and further expand our market presence. The detailed experience I have from the field of simulation flows into this process. Up to now, my team and I have considered the different aspects of the filter in simulations, from large filter elements down to very small structures in the filter media. We have examined in detail how the design of a fiber structure can be improved and made the corresponding optimizations, starting with a uniform media and ending up with a specially designed one for the application. This approach is part of our strategy and enables us to satisfy specific market requirements.

Does this mean your new task has a more strategic orientation?

Yes, and a particularly wider scope. In fact, simulation already became a strategic task when MANN+HUMMEL established this new area and specifically created filtration models. This in turn enabled MANN+HUMMEL to become a market leader in the field of filter simulation. In respect of the whole company, my current task now has a wider strategic scope, ranging from automotive to industrial applications. We consider all aspects of air filtration for combustion engines or technical processes.

What are the details of your strategy?

‘Leadership in Filtration’ is our vision and motivation. That means we want to offer the customers the best solutions and respectively grow with them. Therefore, we will check each region for its potential to grow. At the moment, we primarily see this in China and India. In addition, the acquisition of the Affinia Group has given us access to a strong aftermarket business. We also would like to position our brands in this market and generate the corresponding growth.

Does that mean the focus is particularly on the Asian market?

This is true for the car sector. In the commercial vehicle sector, this also includes the USA. Our innovative products give us an advantage in global markets. We offer our customers worldwide attractive solutions, and this sets us apart from the competition. Our top priority is to use this strategy to achieve profitable growth. It is my task to elaborate concepts for future developments and next products together with colleagues in the individual departments. For this purpose, an innovation road-map has been set up and work is being done on it at company headquarters as well as in the various regions. In this respect, our measures are oriented towards local market requirements.

Do the requirements vary from region to region?

Yes. For example, they require different filter media. There is a strong demand for non-woven synthetic media in Asia, whereas cellulose is more requested in Europe. Flame retardant media and installation space are further topics which can have different priorities. Therefore, it is important that we can act and respectively produce at a global level in order to supply and serve our customers. In this respect, MANN+HUMMEL is already in a good position. I am now going to act as a framework for the various business areas and to network these. Some solutions, for example, will at first only be available for industrial applications and will be adopted later on in other areas but also vice versa. This will allow us to use synergies to open up new markets.

Do you see any other important topics which require attention?

It is becoming increasingly important to exactly examine the current requirements to design products based on real conditions. Let‘s take the dust holding capacity of air cleaners in automotive applications as an example. Since many years, we have been having an outside test bench for air cleaners where we test our filter media under real conditions. Soot plays an important role here. For this purpose, we developed a soot generator and are engaged in the standards committees of the automotive industry working on this topic.

Are the test laboratories of MANN+HUMMEL therefore becoming more important?

Absolutely. A question which we will have to address more often is how to test it right? In particular, when the issue is the air mass measurement for the engine. Then, it helps designing the filter right for this application. Our core task will be to globally network the testing, design, media expertise and simulation. Our validation team in Ludwigsburg works very well together with the testing teams in China and India. That is our strength and this is how we can offer our customers optimized solutions around the world.

Where do you see the trends in filter media?

On the one hand, there is a trend towards more special materials and on the other hand, there are the costs. The performance we can offer the customer for the respective price is crucial here. Synthetic media and combinations of different media are becoming more important. In future, we will work more and more with filter media which have a number of layers, as it is already the case with our MULTIGRADE filter media in the area of liquid filtration.

 

Our task will be to globally network testing, design, media expertise and simulation.

Dr. Martin Lehmann, Vice President Air Filtration

In your opinion, which new solutions are particularly important?

These are quite clearly Exalife and VarioPleat for the commercial vehicle and industrial sectors and Flexline for the car sector, but also the filter elements with our radial seal which allow us to save installation space. That is the fascinating thing about filtration. It isn‘t always rocket science. Frequently, it‘s the small details which make the difference. This includes sealing geometries or a combination of fibers. In all these areas, we benefit from our systems and filtration expertise. We understand the filter media very well and are a market leader in the area of R&D. This is, for example, apparent with our acoustic solutions and the possibility to offer complete air cleaner systems around the world.

What will the filter element of the future look like? What performance will be required?

It needs to fit in the given cost framework. It will have to ensure the required level of clean air, separate the right particle sizes and have a service life which corresponds to the expected lifetime of the product. When I drive a truck, I want to make sure the vehicle is always in operation. As a car dealer, I would like to have a car coming in for regular service. In a Chinese city, there are different requirements compared to Germany on the highway. In this respect we have to adapt our products. Smart digitalization will come into play. The filter will become more intelligent. This is a particularly important subject in the area of agriculture. When a farmer harvest his crops, he wants to know whether he has to change the filter beforehand. This is the only way he can plan his day efficiently. Therefore, a forecast for the life of the filter element is important. That's what we are working on.

E-mobility is currently a big subject. What does that mean for air cleaners?

E-mobility also requires clean air and clearly defined conditions. In that respect I see good opportunities. The requirements will be partly different, but just as before we will have to separate particles and water. Here we are already in close contact with car manufacturers. We can exploit our expertise and show what we can achieve in this area and that we are well prepared to meet the future. The combustion engine will nevertheless continue to remain important, and we will continue to develop products in this area.