With a presence in 56 countries and more than 16 million units produced annually, the world’s leading pump manufacturer proves that innovation is not reserved exclusively for ‘unicorns’.
Regardless of the industry, or the size of the team for that matter, figuring how to constantly create value in an ever-changing market is a demanding task for all companies. But innovation is a hallmark of Grundfos, a deeply rooted approach to functioning that goes all the way back to its beginnings in 1945. Driven by the ultimate goal to improve the quality of life, the company which currently numbers more than 19,000 employees, has managed to always stay ahead of the competition by not letting its size inhibit their appetite for innovation.
Guided by the slogan “Be>Think>Innovate”, Grundfos’ routine cooperation with technology companies and its outstanding research and educational facilities allow the enterprise to experiment, welcome new disruptive ideas and launch avant-garde products on a regular basis. Their main products are circulator pumps, submersible pumps, and centrifugal pumps.
From their early adoption of computer-aided engineering (CAE) in the early 1980s all the way to the company’s intelligent connected water solutions launched in 2018, Grundfos has a strong history of utilizing technology to improve water and energy efficiency for the greater good. Today the enterprise is owned by the Poul Due Jensen Foundation, the employees and the founder’s family, with the Foundation as the primary owner.
A Legacy of Ambition and Big Dreams
What we now know as “Grundfos” was established at the end of the Second World War in Bjerringbro, Denmark when Poul Due Jensen was tasked to supply a pump for one of the farms in the area. After inventing a small, automatic waterworks for the challenge, the technologically gifted entrepreneur started producing pumps in his already existing smithy.
Source: YouTube – Grundfos
Conscious of the employees’ importance for his company, Poul Due Jensen was the first to establish the foundation of Grundfos’ culture of inclusivity and the set of healthy values. His favorite quotation was: “You must believe you are something. And no matter who you are, you have skills that you and we can make use of together”. Motivated by the idea of expansion and global trade, the first courses for employees were set up as a night school in 1962.
As a result of their strive for growth, the company started the production of standard motors in 1976, became the first-ever pump company to introduce electronics in pumps in 1980, and had already developed the first intelligent pump in the world, the X99, by 1991. By now Grundfos has employed 3D printing, cloud connectivity, virtual reality, and IoT in its solutions.
With the goal to promote further development and ensure the company remains at the forefront of the industry as an innovator, the Poul Due Jensen Foundation was established In 1975. They currently own 86.7% of Grundfos stock, and all capital and profits are reinvested back into the foundation, a sizeable portion of which is reserved for research and development.
Moving Water to Where It Should Be
Steered by the intention to save natural resources and reduce climate impact, Grundfos has been focused on developing solutions that limit water and energy consumption, has taken part in numerous water loss and energy usage projects, participated in the development of sustainable buildings, supported workshops, partnered with the 2030 Water Resources Group, and much more.
The company’s Lifelink water solution, for instance, that provides a reliable and sustainable water supply in developing countries, won the prestigious UN climate award in the ICT category in 2015. Combining ground-breaking technology and sustainability, the so-called AQtap water dispensers installed in Nairobi give the local population access to clean drinking water via a pre-charged smart card or mobile phone.
“The award clearly demonstrates that it makes good sense to design smart, sustainable, reliable and durable solutions that can improve the quality of life for people in the developing world by providing them with clean and affordable water. I expect that the UN award means that Grundfos will be in an even stronger position with politicians, investors and water utilities in our efforts to provide more people with easier access to clean drinking water,” said Mads Nipper, CEO of Grundfos.
The Innovation Intent: Concern, Care, Create
In 2008 Grundfos introduced the Innovation Intent that focuses on long-term innovation efforts by putting sustainability first, supporting the growing world, and pioneering new technologies, i.e. “Concern, Care, Create”. The Innovation Intent team aims to “Expand technology out of Grundfos’ comfort zone by working with other organizations, forming alliances, making acquisitions outside of pumps and increasing research with universities and laboratories”.
Grundfos HQ in Bjerringbro
Some of the objectives for Innovation Intent are that by 2025: the enterprise will employ 75,000 people, 50 percent of the company’s growth will be coming from technology platforms not invented in 2007, and that 1/3 of the turnover will come from other products than pumps.
“Carsten Bjerg has given us a vision of where he sees Grundfos being in 2025. With that comes growth and solutions in areas other than where our core business and core competencies have been for many years. Today our solution to the market is a pump and maybe a motor. In the future, we’re going to be providing a solution where a pump or a motor may not even be included. That is break-through, or radical, innovation,” said Greg Towsley, director of the innovation platform in an interview for the company’s website in 2011.
“Connecting with new people and start-ups, getting new and updated knowledge is fundamental to our business,” said Fredrik Östbye, Group Vice President and Head of Digital Transformation at Grundfos in February 2018.
In their quest for innovation, throughout the years, Grundfos has established numerous partnerships and open innovation collaborations with technology companies of different sizes. In 2017, for instance, they joined forces with Israeli company TaKaDu to accelerate the use of big data for greater water network efficiency by combining Grundfos’ technological expertise with TaKaDu’s analytical event management solutions.
Regarding the partnership, Kenth Hvid Nielsen, Group Vice President, Global Water Utility, Grundfos shared that it: “Accelerates our efforts in the digitalization journey, and allows us to speed up the process of providing our customers with best-in-class, data-driven solutions”.
In 2018 the enterprise has collaborated with at least three technology companies. At the beginning of the year, they announced the partnership with Novozymes, combining biotech with cutting-edge water technology, in the search of new solutions to some of the most pressing global issues concerning water scarcity.
The partnership was set to take place on HelloScience.io, an online universe launched by Novozymes in 2017 where entrepreneurs, startups, and others can connect with industry.
Later the same year, Grundfos partnered with Augury, a leading AI-based mechanical diagnostics provider with the intent to enable even more reliable and sustainable water services to the company’s customers.
“Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning are transforming how we access and consume water. We’re excited about our new partnership with Augury and together we will make water and pump systems more reliable, sustainable and resilient for years to come. Furthermore, together we can use our capabilities to create something new, adding more value to our customers based on our joint expertise,” said Fredrik Östbye, Group Vice President, Head of Digital Transformation at Grundfos.
By the end of 2018, Grundfos also announced their collaboration with Baseform which will offer urban water utilities a unique opportunity to use big data to spot where to improve network efficiency and ways to realize the improvements. For Baseform, the partnership will open doors to more markets and give access to knowledge on hardware, while the enterprise will gain access to an already functioning solution.
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