By John Mesenbrink —
The 300+-page Grundfos textbook was a bit cumbersome in size and weight to take back to the States, but definitely not cumbersome in content. As the group of 11 trade press editors finished its last multi-course meal at Frisholt, the Grundfos guesthouse near its Bjerringbro campus and manufacturing facility, we were thanked with gifts and, well, Grundfos — More than pumps, the textbook rich with Grundfos lore. I elected to take the book to get a better understanding of the history of the company and a glimpse into its founder — Poul Due Jensen. (I might add that Frisholt is a representation of the “Grundfos way” — a retreat for employees, execs, visitors and friends to enjoy the Denmark countryside, great food and spirits, with all the imprints and comforts provided by previous Grundfos leaders, Poul, and his son — an avid outdoorsman — Niels Due Jensen.)
According to the book, Grundfos was founded during a turbulent time. At the end of Word War II, people were exposed in every possible way and an enormous effort had to be made to rebuild countries and cultures. The time demanded technological inventiveness and rational action, as well as shared responsibility and respect for other people. The Grundfos culture revolves around these concepts — advanced technology and productivity combined with social responsibility and sustainability.
First Stop, Denmark
(10.6.14) We originally flew into Copenhagen and were able to experience some of the Danish architecture and canals, and I enjoyed a nice dinner on the water with Contractor editor, Candace Roulo. According to a popular Copenhagen website, up to the middle of the 20th century, Christianshavn, with its canal system, developed into quite a charming and trendy residential area with plenty of atmosphere and remarkable old buildings formed by Dutch architects around 1618.
(10.7.14) The sustainability concepts mentioned above were immediately evident on the first stop of our media tour in Copenhagen the next day. There, we visited the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers, touted as the world’s greenest and most sustainable hotel. (https://mechanical-hub.com/on-location-crowne-plaza-copenhagen-towers-the-worlds-greenest-hotel)
In addition to one of the of the most advanced ATES (Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage) systems, which provided heating and cooling for the hotel, tour guide and applications manager for Grundfos, Jens Nørgaard, explained that all sun-facing facades of the hotel are equipped with ultra-thin solar panels, and the installation constitutes Northern Europe’s largest private array of solar cells, producing annually more than 200 kWh. In addition, Grundfos delivered all end-suction and inline pumps for the building’s air conditioning, heating and water boosting.
That afternoon we flew to Karop, Denmark and headed to the aforementioned, ever-comfortable Frisholt, our sanctuary for our two, individual-day pilgrimages into Bjerringbro, the home of the global headquarters for Grundfos.
Our amazing host, Dorte Maach, Head, Corporate Communications, had us on an itinerary that was efficient as a Grundfos pump itself. From coordinating flights, bus travel, dinners, facility tours and seminars all were planned to perfection. (And it doesn’t hurt to be one of the most helpful and delightful people I’ve met.)
(10.8.14) The next morning, we arrived at the Grundfos Center, Bjerrinbro. To me, this was the essence of Grundfos. To see, experience and be in the moment in the very place where it all began was astounding.
We assembled in front of the Center to take a group photo.
The first order of business inside — meet with newly appointed Group President and CEO, Mads Nipper. Mads gave us the Grundfos “globe of the globe” — or state of the state. To paraphrase Nipper, it was the flat European sales growth that brought Nipper to Grundfos, and I’m sure he’s up to the task.
“We are the global leader in advanced pump solutions and a trendsetter in water technology. We want to improve the quality of life for people,” said Nipper. “It is also our goal to empower our customer to make the right decisions.”
Incidentally, Nipper, who previously was employed with LEGO, said that North American sales has seen steady growth since 2010, with 85% of North American sales in the United States, which established operations in 1973. The largest segment in U.S. sales consists of Building Sales 57%, followed by Industry 24% and Water Utility 17%. The goal is to see $1 billion in sales growth by 2020.
Immediately following a Q&A session with Mads Nipper, Jørgen Bjelskou, Group Public Affairs Director, Grundfos gave his presentation — Grundfos Focus on Sustainability and Energy Efficiency. A couple of solutions stated were pump inefficiencies and water leakages. Pumps consume as much as 10% of the world’s electrical energy and it could be reduced 4% by swapping out the old with the new energy efficient pumps. Also, many cities lose more than 50% of water in the distribution system. Grundfos offers a pressure management system that reduces significant water loss; reduces significant energy loss; and minimizes maintenance costs.
Also, discussed was Grundfos’ social commitment, an integrated part of its corporate values. Currently, 2.9% of staff in Grundfos’ Danish companies is employed on special conditions, with a target of 5% globally by 2020.
Bjelskou also discussed the CO2 Grundfos footprint, which means that the company will not emit more CO2 than in 2008, and the goal is to become CO2 neutral.
In between the presentations of Mads Nipper and Jørgen Bjelskou, we took a break and were able to visit the Grundfos museum, which was located in the Grundfos Center. To see the timeline of events, to the see the very first pump and to see a replica of Poul Due’s workshop was incredible, and it brings you back in time.
Back to the Beginning
Born in May 1912, Poul Due Jensen’s childhood was fraught with hardships. His father managed a poorhouse and his mother passed away when he was just six. He had experienced the global effect and financial crisis of the stock market crash on Wall Street, unemployment and two world wars. According to the book, the extreme conditions of life in both immediate and wider world undoubtedly influenced Poul Due Jensen’s values throughout his life. He witnessed many human fates during his childhood and youth — and most of them sad. In practical terms, the experience formed the basis of the sense of social responsibility, which was practiced in the company from its early days.
Throughout his childhood, Poul had focused on woodwork and carpentry, but physics and chemistry were also top of mind, and during his apprenticeship at Bjerringbro Machine Factory, his activities also included iron, steel and machine technology.
Later, Poul’s boss, Marinus Svendsen, had promoted him to constructor, works manager and other posts. Yet, Poul’s level of activity was growing and his basement workshop was becoming too small to hold all of his inventions and repairs. Nonetheless, he left his collaboration with Svendsen at the end of February 1944 and announced — through and advertisement in the regional newspaper — that he was launching his own company from the two room’s in the villa’s basement.
Poul Due was generous in his offers to potential customers — heating systems, sanitary systems, builders’ hardware, repairs, etc. His new employee recruits were looking forward to the move to the new machine workshop, which was built on the land he had acquired previously.
Let it be known that, according to the book, the explanation of Poul’s great willingness to take risks is partly found in the ballast provided by his wife, Inger Due Jenson, throughout his life. She anchored the family—four children—in a secure framework and traditions, and from this point forward had a far-reaching influence with her social and humanitarian initiatives.
Grundfos Is Born
With Denmark’s liberation in May 1945, trade and industry began adapting to new times. A property in the region gave the company an order for a small, automatic waterworks. At the time, it was impossible to obtain a pump for the waterworks, so in line with his way of tackling problems, Paul Due began to construct a pump himself. When the pump was ready, it was officially named “Foss” or waterfall. The pump was popularly known as “The Pig.” At least forty-odd “pigs” were made before they were replaced by models that looked less like animals within 12 months.
When the centrifugal pump became the primary product, Jensen needed to rebrand. He opened the company with the name Bjerringbro Die Casting Foundry and Machine Factory. Although the foundry was not established until a few years later, Jensen decided to drop the “Machine Factory,” partly out of consideration for Marinus Svendsen at Bjerringbro Machine Factory. In 1954, the named changed again, and to create a connection between company name and product range, Jensen used the name Bjerringbro Pump Factory. However, it was the names of the two key pump types: DYBFOSS and GRUNDFOSS that stood out much more clearly. In the early 1960s, when 70% of the company’s pumps were sold abroad, the company felt it was inconvenient to operate under a Danish-sounding name so the company took the precaution of writing GRUNDFOSS — Bjerringbro Pump Factory.
However, this upset another Danish manufacturer and entrepreneur, Mads Clausen, founder of Danfoss. He believed that the branding of the pump company could be misconstrued as an alternative to Danfoss. The conflict ensued until after Clausen’s death in 1966. For the Bjerringbro company, the result was to drop one “s” so that its global name from 1968 was: GRUNDFOS, while the Danish company was GRUNDFOS A/S.
Back to the Tour
Standing in the workshop replica did indeed take me back to the beginnings of Grundfos, but the coffee break had ended and it was time to learn more. Hans Brink Hansen, Business Development Manger, Grundfos A/S, gave his presentation, “En Route to Smarter Buildings.” Some of Hansen’s talking point centered on what Grundfos can do for the industry:
- Heating and Cooling — Indoor climate optimization; low lifecycle costs and reduced CO2 emissions through intelligent operations; and control modes for all HVAC systems including temperature mode for DHW systems. i.e — MAGNA3
- Water Boosting — Fluctuating pressure avoidance and pressure levels control with start/stop functions and smart controllers. i.e. — Hydro MPC
- Water Disinfection — Safety with chlorine dioxide solutions; high water safety. i.e. — Oxiperm Pro
- Optimizing Lifecycle Costs — Efficiency and reliability through intelligent controls, a holistic systems approach and high efficiency motor technology.
Grundfos has saved EU buildings save 3 billion kWh, which is the equivalent to 600,000 households.
Finally, Grundfos iSOLUTIONS was discussed. This is a holistic approach to buildings through installation, commissioning, operations, monitoring, control and service.
The “i” stands for intelligence, integration, interoperability, insight and interconnectivity.
After lunch, we went on a facility tour of Grundfos Industrial Solutions—CR pumps/impeller production tour—led by our enthusiastic tour guide, Morten Gylling, Global Program Manager. Here we witnessed highly specialized components and equipment machinery through automation. And, I learned that the shaft seal is absolutely critical in the pump design. LEAN assembly processes apply here, and an interesting “Driver’s License” approach, where an employee incentive program—to learn as many stations as possible—to achieve a higher salary. (NOTE: A lot of forklift activity on this tour.)
After the tour, we headed back to a classroom with Rasmus Bloom, Grundfos Director, Grundfos Connect. Here, Rasmus addressed new challenges and demands concerning infrastructures and solutions. With a projected population of eight billion people by 2025 there will be a higher demand for mobility, increased traffic and a higher demand for energy and water. In fact, 10% of the population is living in cities with a population of more than 10 million. According to Bloom, there is a need for solutions, a fast implementation of efficient solutions with physical and intelligent layers of technology. It starts with an intelligent pump system with algorithms optimizing and adapting to the exact needed pressure during day, week, year through a smart grid distribution system with sensors transmitting data on pressure from “critical points” in the water distribution pipes.
The last stop on the tour for the day was the Bjerringbro District Heating Plant, a public/private partnership where Grundfos jointly operates the facility, with the manufacturer Grundfos owning the building and the city owning the heat pumps in the plant. According to host Klaus Christensen, this private/public venture recirculates water from nearby wells to provide heating and cooling for the joint facility. In fact, Grundfos gets the cooling, and 15% of the nearby citizens enjoy the comfort of the hydronic heating produced here.
(10.9.14) The next day, although a little under the weather, was the most fun, I think, for the group. We headed to Budapest, Hungary on the Grundfos corporate jet. Pretty sweet experience, if you ask me!
When we landed, we went straight to the Grundfos Manufacturing Hungary plant in Tataba’nya, Hungary, the second largest Grundfos manufacturing facility with nearly 3,000 employees. According to tour host, Lazlø Torok, the idea behind opening a plant in Hungary was a wish for strategic positioning in Central Europe and a belief that political and economic stability was attainable (with future NATO and EU membership). The infrastructure was good — education system, healthcare systems, transport systems, etc. were all desirable. We were given a tour of the Hungary manufacturing facility where Kaizen improvement processes were stressed.
It was here that I learned about the Grundfos Lifelink water solutions. Grundfos is committed to delivering solutions that strengthen reliability and sustainability of water supply in the developing world. Lifelink combines innovative and reliable technology with professional service networks to support operations on the ground. Grundfos believes that partnerships across sectors and business model thinking are also needed to provide sustainable and scalable solutions. Grundfos addresses the missing link to sustainability in water supply through innovative Grundfos Lifelink solutions that take a holistic and long-term approach.
The Grundfos vision for sustainable water supply links innovative and holistic solutions with sustainability in four dimensions:
Fellow editor on the tour, Gary Parr, was taken with the idea of Lifelink. “One of the Grundfos things that stayed with me is the way they involve their employees, seemingly at all levels. Even more so, they simply seem to care about people in general,” said Parr. And I have to agree. It goes back to the Grundfos concepts of social responsibility and sustainability.
The last night in Budapest was magnificent. We took a boat cruise on the Danube River. The weather was agreeable and the company even better. Photo-ops abound with lighted landscapes and buildings along the Danube.
Throughout his life, Poul Due Jensen thrived on challenges created partly by the opposition he faced so extensively from his youth, partly by the demands and possible solutions he sensed in the future. He matured into a solution-seeking pragmatist and his constant improvements of the processes and the standards of the end products led to the development of a large number of techniques and tools. Data and intelligence are key: enhance the value of products with software; create value through software tools for installing and commissioning of products and solutions and develop new intelligent, data-driven solutions.
As a result, one of Poul’s slogans was: Can it be done better? — which is an example of a kind of opposition that provokes progress and improvements. Even to this day, one management skill involves working with opposition — by challenging colleagues and employees. With several similar variations or permutations, Grundfos hasn’t strayed far from that message. There has been the quasi-Descartian philosophy — Be. Think. Innovate. — to “Demand More” message.
The company has grown from a modest one-man operation to a global group with some 19,000 employees, with 8,000 of these production employees. The Grundfos Group represents great diversity, and everyday attention must be paid to the great number of relationships, which reach across national borders, language barriers and local cultures.
(NOTE: I would like to thank Helen Mubarak, Public Affairs Coordinator, Grundfos North America, for inviting me on this trip. My once-in-a-lifetime experiences will always stay with me. Thanks to Dorte Maach and the rest of the European Grundfos team, making all the media representatives feel right at home.)