Wow! As I reflect on my first trip to Europe and my first time at the ISH trade show, or trade fair as our German friends call it, wow is the first thing that comes to mind.
Last week I had the honor to accompany a great group of boiler engineers from the US market to take in the sights and go behind the scenes of the Grundfos pump manufacturing facilities in Bjerringbro, Denmark. Our group hosts, the OEM Sales team from the US, were extraordinary and made our long distance travel easy and comfortable every step of the way. A true class act all the way. Thank you, Mike & Barry!
In my nearly twenty years in the plumbing and heating industry I have always considered Grundfos as a huge European company, seemingly dominating the pump industry or at least in my own market where I have worked all these years. I haven’t been totally off with that assumption with the exception they are as much of a family owned and operated company as many others in our industry. A fact that was admittedly surprising. There are no shareholders making the decisions for the many thousands of employees at Grundfos. The company leaders and many of the board members are family and those who are not have been employed within the company for many years.
While we were not allowed to take pictures during our tour of the sensor and circulator plant tours I can tell you the robotic machinery, automated packaging and shipping processes have the science of building the Alpha 2 circulators down to only minutes of time from start to finish. If you ever get a chance to tour the floor of an automated manufacturing facility do not turn it down; they are a sight worth taking in.
To say ISH Frankfurt was the biggest trade fair I have ever attended would not put the kind of perspective only attending such an event can lend. Eleven multi-story convention halls, all connected via skyways and moving sidewalks, filled with every possible plumbing, heating, hydronics and technology offering from around the world truly amass at a spectacle of gargantuan proportion.
The majority of European heating systems are hydronics based; panel radiators equipped with TRV’s line the perimeter of every hotel lobby, room and home alike. This being the case you can imagine I encountered little to no forced air furnaces at the show. In fact, any air-side equipment on display was focused on filtration, exchange and intake for combustion. Only dotting here and there were complete VRF systems by the major players like Daikin, Mitsubishi etc.
In the weeks leading up to the show I had been told numerous times of the dominating presence the top boiler manufacturers have on the convention floor. Let me just say that no one was exaggerating one bit. The scale of the Viessman, Bosch, Buderus and Riello along with the theatrics of looming music, large scale video screens and plush lounge areas for relaxation and libations were unlike anything we experience here in the US.
The numbers of manufacturers present showcasing biomass boilers, stoves and cook stoves were one thing that surprised me. All the parts and pieces for wood burning heat plants were there too; powered auger and hopper systems, pellet storage and thermal storage tanks designed specifically for this market segment were well represented. If only I could get my hands on at least a half dozen multi-coil/inlet tanks for use here in the states…
Micro CHP boilers definitely caught my eye and a handful of manufactures had them on display. If you’re not familiar, a micro CHP boiler generates electricity by use of a Sterling engine [typically, although some on display were fit with small internal combustion engines]. These boilers serve two and sometimes three uses; space heating of course, generating 1-5Kw electricity that can be sold back to the utility and if outfitted, domestic hot water. Valliant, Bosch, Viessman and Navien were among the manufactures that I personally saw showcasing this technology. Here’s a short cell phone video of the Navien Micro CHP boiler on display. The quality of the video isn’t the greatest but their cutaway model in motion was pretty cool.
Boilers, pumps and stoves were not the only focus of this major show. Plumbing fixtures play a huge role in rounding out the trade fair. Lavish displays of porcelain, exotic faucets and elaborate bathing & showering displays will have designers and contractors alike spending an entire day testing out the working displays and pining for the chance at testing out the relaxation benefits a champaign bath has to offer after walking miles and miles each day.
I’d like to thank Grundfos again for hosting me. Without their generosity it’s likely I wouldn’t have experienced such an adventure. ISH won’t happen again until 2017 and you can bet that until then I will be looking forward to attending it again.
Take a look at our Facebook page for more pictures from our trip. My partner John Mesenbrink has been sharing his photos and will be sharing his thoughts on the show here on Thu Hub as well. Stay tuned!