Tale of a great Dane

Grundfos is a real-life rags-to-riches tale. From a small workshop in Denmark, the pump maker has grown into a global business, which last year turned over £1.3B. We investigate the secret of its success

Grundfos is a real-life rags-to-riches tale. From a small workshop in Denmark, the pump maker has grown into a global business, which last year turned over £1.3B. We investigate the secret of its success

With a global turnover of £1.3B in 2005, Grundfos Pumps is one of the world's largest pump manufacturers. It sells around 10 million pumps annually and has 13,500 staff, so it is difficult to believe the company started life in a small workshop in Bjerringbro, Denmark, in 1946.

This phenomenal growth has been achieved through a process of acquisition and continual product development, some of which has revolutionised the pump industry.

Grundfos consistently unites innovative design with leading-edge technologies to deliver bespoke solutions to complex problems. With a large portfolio of award-winning products, Grundfos still invests heavily in research and development. In 2006 alone, £60M will be spent (4.4% of net turnover) to ensure the continual flow of new and improved products.

In 1952, Grundfos introduced the world's first vertical multistage centrifugal pump
- the CP3. This was also the first pump to be based on a modular design that made
it possible to supply many variants from a relatively small number of standard components. So many other manufacturers followed this lead that Grundfos added a strap line to its adverts stating it was "proud to be copied".

More than 50 years on, engineering breakthroughs have improved efficiencies, but the basic principles are still central to the Grundfos CR family of vertical multistage centrifugal pumps. The CR family is available in 11 flow sizes, hundreds of pressure sizes and four basic materials - meaning the family has one million possible configurations.

Improved techniques for machining stainless steel later enabled mass production of all-stainless steel pumps and the same principles have again been applied to the new all-titanium pumps. Each step has fundamentally changed perceptions of corrosion-resistance in pumps, so now sea water poses no threat.

In 1971, Grundfos introduced the world's first in-line pump, which significantly simplified pump installation within pipe-work. Grundfos Digital Dosing range provides effective dosing solutions for large-scale wastewater processes that demand higher flows.

The Koege Wastewater plant in Copenhagen, which produces 20,000m3 of wastewater each day, is a good example of how Grundfos Digital Dosing technology assists in wastewater projects. The plant uses dosing pumps in its sedimentation process where a chemical purification process is added to an aluminium compound to remove phosphorous from wastewater.

The precipitant is added just prior to the secondary sedimentation process. As well as removing the phosphorus, the precipitant also has a positive effect on sludge sedimentation. When the existing dosing pumps needed replacing, the local contractor used three Grundfos DME 60 pumps, which offer flow of up to 60l/h and pressure up to 10 bar, and a setting range of 1:800.

Another benefit of this range is their ability to communicate with a fieldbus module allowing performance data to be used for tasks such as statistical analysis, quality control, planning and preventative maintenance.

Grundfos bought Finnish specialist Sarlin Pumps in 2000. Since then, it has continued investing and expanding its wastewater range. Recent introductions include heavy-duty submersible sewage and raw water pumps. This range offers a variety of axial-flow channel-impeller pumps and propeller pumps with motors up to 520kW.

Wastewater pumps need to work hard in the toughest of environments where
minimum downtime is critical. Some of the unique features they offer include the SmartSeal auto-coupling gasket, which when mounted on the pump discharge flange provides a leak-proof connection between the pump and the base unit of
the auto-coupling system. TheSmartTrim system makes it easy to adjust the factory set impeller clearance and thus maintain maximum pump efficiency.

It has overheating protection: three separate thermal switches in the stator windings provide an early warning in case the temperature in the windings rises. And a built-in moisture detector continuously monitors the motor housing and automatically cuts the electricity supply in the event of leakage.

These pumps proved their worth at the Ericsson Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. When an old pump failed right before an important game of rugby, the decision was made to replace it with a Grundfos 2.3kW SuperVortex sewage pump. (The design of the SuperVortex means the flow takes places entirely outside the impellor thus preventing clogging and jamming.)

Replacing a critical sewage pump is always a big job. Having to do it for a large rugby stadium in less than 24 hours was a major challenge. The existing pump had burnt out and was removed on a Thursday afternoon and the new Grundfos pump was installed by Friday afternoon. As the pump handles the sewage from almost all the toilets, kitchens corporate boxes and function areas, there was no margin for error. The SuperVortex pump has since operated beyond expectations, especially at peak usage times.

In 2000, Grundfos introduced the world's first digital dosing range offering fast, accurate dosing. Although based on sophisticated technology, these pumps are simple to operate and the new principles resulted in patented solutions. Their simple interface allows the user to become his own dosing specialist, as a minimal number of controls give access to an impressive range of features. The plug-and-play nature of these units means that installation, priming and calibration have been greatly simplified.

These pumps also give optimal stroke length every time, making the pump much less vulnerable to the build-up of gases in the dosing head. Dosing pumps can handle a wide variety of pumped chemicals including high-viscosity liquids. Grundfos bought dosing specialists Alldos at the beginning of 2005, so its range now includes mechanical diaphragm pumps, piston/diaphragm pumps, instrumentation and accessories. More digital dosing product launches are expected in 2007.

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