Innovation is woven into every aspect of Nilfisk’s culture
What is now a leading global provider of professional cleaning products and services, started as nothing more than a large dream squeezed into a technology enthusiast’s small backyard. It’s the same constant desire for knowledge and innovation that kept the company at the forefront of technological advancement for the next 110 years. From the launch of the first vacuum cleaner in Europe to the “Silent Dane” model that forever lowered the noise levels of vacuuming to the recent development of a ground-breaking autonomous scrubber for unmanned cleaning.
Today, Nilfisk has an extensive range of both professional and domestic cleaning equipment. Their main product lines are floorcare equipment, vacuum cleaners, high-pressure washers and a selection of domestic vacuum cleaners. At the beginning of 2018, the company numbered more than 5,800 employees worldwide, including more than 250 engineers focused on the structured stage-gate development process and more than 3% annual revenue dedicated to research and development.
Guided by a heritage of tireless dedication and in constant search for technological development, Nilfisk has built several partnerships with highly-specialized technology companies throughout the years. Their Horizon strategy introduced in 2016, marked with the company’s strategic partnership with Carnegie Robotics, a leading provider of advanced robotics sensors and platforms, was set to drive industry innovation by fundamentally changing the way of cleaning.
A Tradition of Knowledge and Stubbornness
Once he realized the potential in the pioneering work done with electrical power, Peder Andersen Fisker left his predestined career as a teacher and joined the School for Electro Engineering in Copenhagen. He soon established, what later grew to be Nilfisk, in his backyard workshop in 1906.
“Naturally, it is crazy to start an electric motor factory with just 2,000 Kroner in capital, an obsolete lathe and a drill. But I put my sign up saying ‘P.A. Fisker, Elektrisk Fabrik’, bought some planks, partitioned a corner of the workshop off as my bedroom and made a wooden model of a 1 HP motor to power my machines. It is a start.” – a fragment of P.A. Fisker’s memoirs featured in the company’s “110 Years of Knowledge” publication.
As a result of his lust for knowledge, four years later the company developed and patented C1, the first electric vacuum cleaner in Europe. By 1954, they’ve already produced more than a million vacuum cleaners and introduced the brand’s first vacuum cleaner with a dust bag by 1958. Keeping the same pace, early in the 1960s, Nilfisk already adopted modern IT, spreading the technology’s applications to its foreign sales companies.
The Horizon Program: Building Sophisticated Autonomous Cleaning Products
Responding to the changing needs of the market and their customers, in 2016 Nilfisk launched the so-called Horizon innovative program with the goal of developing the most technologically advanced, autonomous cleaning solutions in the industry. Through the newly announced strategic partnership with Carnegie Robotics, a leading provider of advanced robotics sensors and software, Horizon was set as a long-term program of multiple product launches.
Source: YouTube – Nilfisk
“With Nilfisk and Carnegie Robotics, we are combining a century of cleaning expertise with machine vision and autonomous technologies proven to work safely in unstructured environments such as military operations, agriculture, and mining. From the beginning, our partnership has focused on thorough, intensive research and exhaustive, rigorous testing to develop the most sophisticated, highest functioning autonomous cleaning products the industry has seen to date,” said Steve DiAntonio, President and CEO of Carnegie Robotics, when announcing the launch of the program.
When explaining their approach to the market, Carnegie Robotics pointed out their selection of a leading global partner in each sector with the courage to introduce disruptive, innovative technology.
According to the advanced robotics company: “Nilfisk was selected in recognition of their 110-year commitment in responding to the changing needs of customers, bringing innovative cleaning solutions to the market place, constantly striving to improve performance, productivity and reducing the total cost of ownership”.
A Clear Multi-Partner Strategy
The development of the autonomous Nilfisk Liberty A50 model went as planned and the first units of the product were shipped to the US by the end of 2017. The company then announced their expectations that up to 10% of their turnover will come from self-driving machines within the next 5-7 years.
During 2017 Nilfisk announced two more strategic partnerships in the field of robotics. One with the specialized robotics company, Blue Ocean Robotics, and the other one with the Danish Aalborg University, which also included the creation of an innovation hub at Novi Science Park in Aalborg, Denmark.
“We have a clear multi-partner strategy and wish to develop our product portfolio in close collaboration with highly-specialized technology companies that are the best within their fields. We’ve had very good experience with that already, and we look forward to the beginning of our co-operation with Blue Ocean Robotics, which complements our existing partnership with Carnegie Robotics very well,” said Hans Henrik Lund, CEO of Nilfisk.
On the other hand, the collaboration with Aalborg University, which is recognized as one of the world’s leading engineering educations, was set to bring Nilfisk closer to the brightest autonomous specialists and the newest trends in the field of robotics.
According to the company: “The partnership includes joint research and an innovation hub at Novi Science Park, where we plan to hire a number of specialists in the years ahead. Additionally, close collaboration will be established between leading researchers from the university’s departments of Computer Science, Electronic Systems and Energy Systems and the technical and commercial specialists at Nilfisk.”
‘Nilfisk Next’: Enhancing the Focus on Building the Future of Cleaning
The company’s refined so-called ‘Nilfisk Next’ strategy is set to further progress their efforts in simplifying and growing while simultaneously enhancing the focus on building the future of cleaning through innovative solutions.
Further adding that: “We want to lead intelligent cleaning to make our customers’ businesses smarter. It is ambitious. And to get there, we need to transform our business. Innovation is nothing new for Nilfisk; we have developed intelligent cleaning solutions for more than a century, and we are committed to continuing that journey.”
According to the company’s 2017 annual report, “To embrace the future opportunities and harvest the benefits of new technology, we have refined our strategy to ‘Nilfisk Next’. Nilfisk Next supports the vision for the future of Nilfisk, and includes clearly defined strategic drivers and an operational plan for 2018 with clear priorities.”
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