A tough, competitive market, as GEA experts Martin Zickler and Dave Medlar confirm, where it is better to put the cart before the horse to get everything right from the start. That’s why they first set up the service network and local production to be able to promise: GEA pumps will take the US pharmaceutical, food, beverage and dairy markets to new levels of quality, efficiency and hygiene.
In June 2015 GEA acquired Hilge, the leading German pump manufacturer. Since then, the pump experts have benefited from the Group’s wide-ranging engineering expertise and its global network of customers, suppliers and representatives. With the 3-A certification for the pump portfolio in its pocket, the time is now ripe to target the US market. Martin Zickler is the Product Manager for Hygienic Pumps at GEA in Germany. He was already working for Hilge before the acquisition by GEA. “We were not able to make a lasting impression in the USA at that time,” says Zickler. “But now that we have GEA’s support and a comprehensive service and sales network in the country, we are taking up the challenge”.
Michael Brandt, Business Development Manager Pumps USA, is responsible for the market launch in the USA. He says he has never had any doubts about the quality of GEA pumps and the opportunities in the USA. But first of all, it was important to ensure that customer service meets American standards before GEA could gain a foothold in this segment of the market.
“GEA Hilge pumps are strong, reliable workhorses, but for the American market, service is crucial,” he explained. “We must be able to respond quickly to our customers and provide a fast spare parts service. We also need an absolutely reliable distribution network. Customers want to be confident that they won’t have to wait long for expert help”.
Dave Medlar, Head of Sales Valves & Pumps USA, and his team worked hard to establish the support network before the product launch. “Of course, providing excellent service is a constant process of improvement, but I am confident that we are now ready,” he says. “After all, we have a reputation to lose: People who buy GEA products know that they will not be left alone during the entire life of the pump”.
GEA centrifugal pumps are characterized by a unique pump design that distinguishes them from conventional centrifugal pumps. “We have placed the impeller further forward to make it work more efficiently and to make the seal easier to cool. It imitates a closed impeller, but can still be used in the pharmaceutical industry and wherever hygienic conditions are required,” explains Zickler. “The interior of the pump is very easy to clean and can handle a wide variety of liquids”.
Furthermore, GEA pump housings are manufactured by deep drawing and not by casting. This results in a much better surface quality, free of pores and cavities, on which no bacteria can accumulate. In the past, this was a requirement of the pharmaceutical industry in particular. In the meantime, the food and beverage industry is also increasingly demanding a more hygienic approach in all areas of production.
Although the unique selling points of the pumps and their reliability are undisputed, Brandt sees the engineering experience of the GEA Group as an even stronger sales argument. “It’s like an engineer’s toolbox,” he explains. “We know that all applications are different and that our customers need flexibility. Because we are engineers and not just suppliers of components, we can adapt the pumps to almost any application. For example, this could involve different connections or setups, a more robust design or even having the pump on a chassis. We look at the application and then work out what the customer needs”.
GEA sees perhaps the greatest immediately tangible opportunity for GEA Hygienic Pumps in the dairy industry. “Our pumps, for example, are ideal for transporting curd cheese,” says Zickler. “A positive displacement pump is usually used here. But our centrifugal pumps, such as GEA Hilge HYGIA, are perfectly suited to this task thanks to their impeller and pump design. They are cheaper to buy than positive displacement pumps, have fewer parts and are therefore easier to maintain. The spare parts are also much cheaper. This will be an attractive market for us”.
A song where probably nobody has thought of a pump program yet: “This is the right time” by Lisa Stansfield. But GEA Hilge has big plans, has prepared intensively for these plans and therefore deserves harmonious chords. The question is rightly raised as to whether now is the right time to tackle a new market. After all, the main target – the dairy industry in the USA – has been weakened for some time. GEA clearly sees the situation as a jump-start: “The lower level of activity will give us time to settle into our new role,” he said. “The next upturn will come soon enough, and then we will be ready to make the most of it.
For more information, please visit: https://www.gea.com