Georg Ruetz was one of the architects of mtu Series 2000 and 4000 engines. When their development kicked off in the nineteen-nineties, he took charge of design. Georg is now retired, but still talks often, and fondly, of the engines.
Ask Georg Ruetz about Series 2000 and 4000 units and you'll be impressed by everything he can teach you about conrods, pistons and the angle of crankcases. Even more impressive is his immense pride. “These were the engines that put our company onto the global stage and made us what we are today,” he said. From their initial conceptualization at the end of the eighties to the launching of series production in 1997 and beyond that, the engines were a big part of Georg's life.
In 1992, Ruetz took his first flight to the US – destination Detroit. He was tasked with thrashing out with Detroit Diesel the details of an engine that they were planning to construct jointly. At that point in time, it was clear both to Ruetz and senior management of MTU Friedrichshafen that the company could not bring a new engine to worldwide markets successfully all on its own. MTU Friedrichshafen was mainly operating on governmental markets, which were in decline, with engines of the highest level of technical sophistication. On these markets, the company was not exposed to the extreme cost pressure prevailing on the commercial markets it was seeking to enter. Detroit Diesel, very successful on the mass market for two-stroke engines, was in quite a different place. Yet it too was in search of a new product, since new emissions standards had already been formulated, signaling the demise of two-stroke engines for off-highway applications.
Two worlds collide
“Our businesses joined forces and learned and benefited from one another. They grew individually, and ultimately they grew together,” said Ruetz. However, there was a long way to go before the engines could finally be unveiled to the public in October 1996. “It was a collision of two very different worlds – not only in terms of ways of working and technical and cultural mindsets, but also the hardware each of our companies used,” recalled Ruetz. American colleagues were already using emails for example, while in Germany fax machines were still the norm.
Together with Larry Kennedy, his American counterpart in engineering design, Ruetz and his colleagues scrutinized each and every engine component. The ongoing question that preoccupied them was whether and how manufacturing costs could be reduced to keep the engines competitive. For example, they modelled the Series 2000 units very closely on the new Daimler-Benz truck engines so that identical cylinder-related components could be used, thereby lowering costs.
At the same time, their target was innovative, fit-for-the-future engines – which they certainly achieved: “The Series 4000 units featured Common Rail injection – at the time a complete novelty which we began to implement even before the automobile industry,” emphasized Ruetz.
With their different mindsets and approaches and the many issues to be discussed, things could occasionally get heated between Georg Ruetz and Larry Kennedy – but those moments have long been forgotten. The memories they cherish are of the leisure time they spent together – including a mountain hike with colleagues. After all, the two colleagues came together every six weeks, either in Detroit or Friedrichshafen. At that time, video conferences were in their infancy and with fuzzy, shaky images a not very efficient mode of communication.
Cow bell as memento
Does Larry still have the cow bell that Georg Ruetz gave him as a present? “One of the things that fascinated Larry during our hikes was that each cow wore a bell. I had a traditional Tyrolean cow bell still knocking around in my cellar, so I gave it to him as a present,” grinned Ruetz.
For the two men, that cowbell came to symbolize a very special working relationship that spawned amazingly successful engines which put their businesses on the global stage. The engines were first put into service in a Hitachi haul truck and in a Reinauer tug vessel operating in the waters around New York – both memorable occasions, not just for the two engineers, but for everyone involved. No-one imagined at the time that these units were set to become unique engines that would remain unrivalled for decades. Since then, the two engine series have generated a total sales volume of one-hundred thousand units and together have clocked up over 320 million operating hours. What does Georg Ruetz feel when he hears those figures? “Obviously, I'm immensely proud,” he said.
“Although it's no surprise, we still feel honored by the fact that 2000 and 4000 engines are frequently the benchmark for other manufacturers,” said Ruetz. “But we built the prototypes. And we continue to set the standard for others to follow because we're constantly developing them. Who would ever have thought that one day they would be built to run on gas or even on synthetic fuels based on hydrogen?”