Teamwork and resilience turn the wheels at Danfoss Drives

Teamwork and resilience turn the wheels at Danfoss Drives

From water systems via various industries to manufacturing, Danfoss Drives is lighting the way for a more efficient, sustainable and resilient world

Danfoss Drives’ Senior Vice President of Product Management & Development, Janne Kuivalainen, is passionate about two things: delivering value-adding solutions to the electrical manufacturing industry and good quality lighting for his video calls.

“I spent so long in my home office during the height of COVID that I actually purchased these LED panels, so that I had a good set-up,” explains Janne Kuivalainen. “It's dark in Finland in the winter.”

Kuivalainen leads global product management and development at Danfoss Drives. “In my career, I have worked in two types of jobs: product roles and system integrator roles. In the past, I have been in the marine and ports system integrator business and in the power plant system integrator business.”

Manufacturing company Danfoss Drives is part of the Danfoss Group, a family-owned business based in Denmark, with €5.8bn annual revenue in 2020. The Danfoss Drives business unit boasts over 4,000 employees, ten factories in seven countries across the world and €1.4bn annual sales. 

“Danfoss Drives is a global leader in AC-to-DC and DC-to-DC power conversion, as well as variable speed control of electric motors. “Our products, known as AC drives, are key to controlling the speed of electric motors,” said Kuivalainen. “These products enhance process control, reduce energy usage, decrease mechanical stress on the motor control applications, and much more.”

Embracing resilience in the manufacturing industry 

Besides the merits of LED lighting, working through the pandemic has taught Danfoss Drives a great deal about the company and the industry it works in. 

“We learned resilience,” said Kuivalainen. “In the industry, we tend to think a little bit in a linear way, in terms of forecasting, planning, and execution with reviews. 

“But now, more speed is needed, with better ability to respond to the new requirements and changes in the environment. These are some of the COVID learnings and we learned them fast. We also found new, innovative ways to work efficiently, but with the same quality. This is something we must take with us after the pandemic. Now, we can deliver the same result, in much less time.”

In the future, Danfoss Drives anticipates several megatrends in the post-pandemic world.

“If I want to be a little bit bold, we are driving the megatrends and transforming our world, because we are using those intelligent, electrified, and energy efficient solutions,” said Kuivalainen. “AC drives help to build a better future for all of us. We don't want to compromise on comfort when we implement sustainability policies in, for example, heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems, or refrigeration. By applying AC drives we can retain comfort and deliver better efficiency at the same time.

“In the global food supply chain, we optimise equipment performance to help our customers optimise their food production - from irrigation of fields all the way to food retail. For many sectors, electrification is one of the key paths to decarbonization. That’s where we step in.”

Danfoss Drives is using its technology to protect the world against climate change, particularly in urban areas.

“Cities account for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions,” explains Kuivalainen. “We address how we can make cooling systems, refrigeration systems, ventilation systems, and water systems more efficient.”

In urban areas, Danfoss Drives also provides sustained water and wastewater management.

“Due to leaks, 20-50% of all water that is being pumped never reaches the end users,” says Kuivalainen. “At Danfoss Drives, we control the pipe pressure to avoid water hammering and so on, to operate the system at the optimum point in each location. Water is critical infrastructure. You need to be able to bring the right kind of reliability to the solutions.

“We also work with some of our clients to reach an energy-neutral process. We’re converting the wastewater plant to actually produce energy. High wastewater temperatures can be used to generate heat and electricity, and inside the wastewater plant a bio refinery produces gas that can be burned in gas turbines.”

But no matter what the business is, or the potential for green energy, Danfoss Drives focuses on its customers’ needs. 

“What helps your customer to make more money, what impacts their earnings negatively, and what are the safety and regulatory requirements?” asks Kuivalainen. “The second thing I'd like to mention is networking. Look at what's readily available, has somebody else run into a similar issue in some other context or in another industry? What's in it for our customers, and for us?

“Then, thirdly: Keep the core strong and evolving, don't lose your focus on your own core. When you start to have these elements in place, integrate fast, test, learn, pilot. So, then it's about the learning curve. After that, from a business point of view, we need to recognise when a situation is about incubation or growth or maturity.”

People are crucial in a technology journey

Sustainable solutions require multiple engineering domains to come together, using diverse teams to work with problems and creating a better user experience.

“People are our foundation,” says Kuivalainen. “Typically, there are people from all kinds of backgrounds, who work together to solve a customer’s problem. They approach it jointly with their different engineering disciplines, and they really need to look at it through the customer’s eyes. This is truly crucial in our journey,” said Kuivalainen. “We leaders are coaches to them. The real doers are our people, those engineers who are working to deliver the solutions.”

When asked about where he sees Danfoss Drives’ place in the world, Kuivalainen quotes the CEO, Kim Fausing.

“He has said that ‘Sustainability is not an add-on to our business, our business is sustainability’. I think that in Danfoss Drives, we see that really, we address the key megatrends in the world,” says Kuivalainen. “Our products and solutions are an elementary part of creating a better future. Like now in the green transition, our purpose is more relevant than ever, and this makes us a good partner for our customers, stakeholders, and a good workplace to be a part of.”

Sustainable transformation at Danfoss Drives

In 2020, Danfoss Drives announced its sustainability ambitions:

  • To reach carbon-neutrality in all global operations by 2030
  • To have an electric car fleet by 2030
  • To switch to 100% renewable electricity
  • To double energy productivity, compared to the 2007 levels

Like many - hopefully most - businesses, the green transition is a central focus at Danfoss Drives. 

“I think the green transformation is to make the world a better place. Companies cannot afford to take any actions without taking ESG into account. So, whatever you do, you need to think about what that means environmentally, socially and also from a governance point of view,” says Kuivalainen. “I think that this will really penetrate industry now, and this is part of any transformation plan. For example, at Danfoss Drives when we develop new products, we look at the product’s sustainability, product compliance and the impact on the circular economy. These are embedded into the product development initiatives.”

Partnerships play an important role, from suppliers to customers 

To get to net zero emissions, a business must be aware of the behaviour of its suppliers and be aware of the challenges in being sustainable while growing the partner ecosystem. 

“When I talk about partner ecosystems, I consider our customers, our suppliers, academia and research partners, technology providers and engineering companies,” said Kuivalainen. “If I look at this from a product management and development point of view, each of them plays an important role. We collaborate with our customers to look at what is the next leading-edge step we want to take, to excel in certain applications.”

Academia and research partners, as well as technology providers, play an important role when businesses look at the proof of new emerging technologies. Kuivalainen says that Danfoss Drives typically conducts applied research with them. 

“The engineering companies are key to the success in very many product areas, and we have invested in a few deep collaborations with these engineering companies. These relationships are typically of long duration. Those companies have their strongholds, and we have ours.”

Danfoss Drives’ product development partner ecosystem is also helping the company to apply new technologies.

“For us, it can be a small element, but a vital one. So actually, we learn and gain more by working with them because it's everyday life for them and like a core for them, but we can still excel in narrower more specialised fields,” said Kuivalainen. “They of course boost our deliveries, and we help them to really understand the value proposition, what we are looking for, and what the customer is looking for. Our partners are a really integrated part of our development and work as efficiently as we do here internally.”

From water systems via various industries, to manufacturing, Danfoss Drives is lighting the way for a more efficient, sustainable, and resilient world.

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