By Eamonn Ryan

Danfoss, the multi-national Danish engineering company, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in South Africa, marking three decades of growth and expansion in the region.

As part of the celebration, it hosted a media event just ahead of its official gala evening at which RACA Journal was present.

Emil Berning, country manager for sub-Saharan Africa.

Emil Berning, country manager for sub-Saharan Africa. Image credit: © Eamonn Ryan | RACA Journal

Ziad Al Bawaliz, the regional president for Turkey, Middle East and Africa.

Ziad Al Bawaliz, the regional president for Turkey, Middle East and Africa. Image credit: © Eamonn Ryan | RACA Journal

Founded in 1933 by Danish engineer Mads Clausen, Danfoss has evolved into a global enterprise employing over 42 000 individuals worldwide. The company has recently focused on integrating its local presence in South Africa, following several strategic acquisitions, with the aim of leveraging its operations in the country to drive further expansion throughout Africa.

It has three business units: Climate Solutions, being HVAC and refrigeration; Drives, being variable speed drives controlling electric motors and energy efficiency; and Hydraulics.

Danfoss offers a wide range of energy solutions and expertise, with a strong commitment to energy efficiency and decarbonisation. The company’s portfolio includes solutions for reducing power consumption, minimising food loss and waste, improving cooling and heating systems, optimising wastewater treatment, and enhancing mining productivity. The company has embraced an ‘energy efficiency first’ principle and is actively working towards achieving carbon neutrality in its global operations by 2030. In South Africa, Danfoss aims to be the preferred partner for decarbonisation initiatives.

Ziad Al Bawaliz, the regional president for Turkey, Middle East and Africa, highlighted the importance of engineering in driving society forward and addressing key global challenges such as urbanisation, climate change, food and water supply, digitalisation and electrification.

“To mark 30 years of pioneering sustainable growth together, and looking forward to going from strength to strength, both locally and on the continent, we crowned this anniversary with a local celebration for our partners, customers and colleagues, in which Danfoss honoured local traditions within the ongoing priority of ‘engineering South Africa’s tomorrow,’” said Emil Berning, country manager for sub-Saharan Africa.

This mission aligns with the company’s core values of increasing machine productivity, reducing emissions, lowering energy consumption and promoting electrification. The celebration of this milestone reaffirmed Danfoss’s commitment to continued growth and innovation in South Africa and across the continent, he said.

Danfoss solutions find applications in various industries, including refrigeration, air conditioning, heating, power conversion, motor control, industrial machinery, automotive, marine, and off- and on-highway equipment. The company also provides solutions for renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, as well as district-energy infrastructure for cities.

Berning said: “We’ve come a long way since our inception, and we are proud to have reached this significant milestone. Today, we will reflect on the impact we’ve made in South Africa and discuss our future endeavors.

“At Danfoss, we attribute our success to a combination of factors. Our emphasis is on sustainability, as we are a family-owned business rooted in a long-term vision. We believe in building for the future and thus we prioritise sustainability in our operations, product design and customer interactions.

“While we celebrate 30 years in South Africa, it is worth noting that Danfoss has a rich global history. In a recent discussion with Mathias, the grandson of our founder, we gained insights into the contribution of his father and grandfather to Danfoss’ growth. Our roots lie in engineering and technology, and this remains at the heart of our organisation, even as we expand globally. We pride ourselves on being a global organisation with a local touch.

“Decarbonisation is a key focus for us. As part of our commitment to sustainability, we aim to become carbon neutral by 2030. This target extends to our supply chain and procurement processes as we work to reduce our environmental footprint. We collaborate with our customers, helping them decarbonise their businesses and transition to renewable energy sources. Our focus is on long-term value creation for ourselves, our customers, and the planet.”

Berning said: “Within Danfoss, we prioritise ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) considerations. Environmentally, we actively engage in climate preservation, recycling, water treatment, and energy efficiency. Socially, we not only contribute to socioeconomic development externally but also invest in our employees’ development and create an attractive work environment. Our governance practices ensure that we meet stakeholders’ expectations and future-proof our business.

“Thought leadership is one of our core strengths, both in Denmark and here in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. We actively collaborate with industrial partners, NGOs, and governments to shape discussions on energy efficiency and responsible energy usage. Our goal is not limited to selling products; we aim to influence the way energy is utilised and encourage sustainable practices.

“In South Africa, our primary operating model is based on partnerships in all three business units. We have a vast network of partners which we carefully select and work closely with in order to exploit that scale to grow not only our business but that of our partners,” says Berning.

Danfoss’ history

Although the company is currently 30 years old, its presence in South Africa dates back even further. In 1950, Danfoss began its representation in South Africa through a partner named JR Clarke, who initially supplied air conditioning units to gold mines in South Africa and Zimbabwe using Danfoss components.

The statistics underscoring Danfoss’ focus on Africa.

The statistics underscoring Danfoss’ focus on Africa. Image credit: © Eamonn Ryan | RACA Journal

In the 1990s, Danfoss made a strategic decision to establish a direct presence in South Africa. In 1992, it registered a legal entity and started operating with just two employees. During this period, Danfoss made significant acquisitions to strengthen its position in the market. They acquired a local company called Reco, which was led by the current CEO. Additionally, they acquired Frigo System, a refrigeration company, which formed the foundation of its refrigeration assembly.

Interestingly, in the early 2000s, Danfoss sold its business to Afrox. However, in 2005/6, the Beijer Ref Group, one of Danfoss’s global key accounts and partners in HVAC refrigeration products, purchased Reco and Refrigeration Investment Company from Afrox bringing it into their group and solidifying their presence in South Africa. The Beijer Ref group remains one of Danfoss’s key partners in their HVAC business.

In 2016, Danfoss opened an office in Woodmead (its current premises), further establishing its presence in the region. At that time, it had two larger business units: HVAC&R or Climate Solutions and Drives. At that time the Hydraulics business was represented by a partner, Eaton.

In 2021, Danfoss expanded its footprint in South Africa by acquiring the hydraulics division of Eaton globally. This acquisition brought approximately 50 to 60 employees into Danfoss’s South African operations, significantly bolstering its hydraulic business.

One area where Danfoss identified a gap in its refrigeration portfolio was compressors. To address this, Danfoss this year acquired BOCK GmbH, a company specialising in semi-hermetic compressors and allows Danfoss to support cold chain projects.

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