Interview with Mr. Vit Pekarek, Managing Director, Alfa Laval South-East Europe

Automation & RoboticsInterviewSouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 3/2010

Innovation and product development have been traditionally cornerstones of our company’s strong market positions

Dear Mr. Pekarek, please present to our readers the main scope of activity of Alfa Laval.
Alfa Laval manufactures and sells products and engineering solutions based on three key technologies - heat transfer, separation and fluid handling. To put it in the time frame, the centrifugal separator was invented by the founder of our company – Gustav de Laval in 1883. The separators quickly found great use in many industrial fields. As the time went by, new products and technologies, as compact heat exchangers, decanters, membrane filtration systems, pumps and valves, were added to the portfolio. Today, our solutions help our customers to heat, cool, separate and transport products in industries that produce food and beverages, chemicals and petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, starch, sugar and ethanol. Alfa Laval’s products are also used in power plants, aboard ships, in the mechanical engineering industry, in the mining industry and for wastewater treatment, as well as for comfort climate and refrigeration applications.
How is your business organized in South-East European region?
Our sales offices are located in Sofia and Sliven in Bulgaria, and Ljubljana and Belgrade. From these offices we cover complete territory, which comprises Bulgaria, all the Ex-Yugoslavian countries and Albania. Apart from internal sales force we have developed a wide network of external sales channels. As a part of Alfa Laval Holding, we are benefiting from a great expertise, which has been accumulated all over the world. For cases, when the needs of our customers are unique, we look for the best experts around the world, and bring them to the region, to ensure the best solution for our customer. But our care for the customers does not end, when we sell the product. Our customers have access to our network of skilled service engineers, internal or external, who can be at the customer site within hours from the notification. Apart from sales offices, we have also a production facility in the region. In 2007 Alfa Laval acquired a Dutch-Bulgarian company Helpman, which produces top quality air heat exchangers for refrigeration and cooling, which has one of its factories in Sofia. As the transport costs are significant, for this bulky product, we can better meet customers’ demands not only in terms of quality and delivery time, but also in terms of price.
What includes Alfa Laval’s latest product range and what innovative solutions will the company release during this year?
Innovation and product development have been traditionally cornerstones of our company’s strong market positions. Alfa Laval invests annually over 60 million EUR, or 2.5 percent of its sales into research and development. Between 35 and 40 new products launches occur annually. As an example of new product launches I can mention G3 decanter range, with lower power consumption and better performance. These decanters are top efficient in cleaning municipal waste water. Can you imagine that some waste water companies breed trout in the outflow from the plant? Can there be a better demonstration of the efficiency of the process!
Who are your target customers in industry and in which field the company has the strongest market positions?
There has been strong shipbuilding activity in the region recently. From a global perspective, 3 out of 4 ocean-going vessels have some sort of Alfa Laval product onboard. In Bulgaria and Croatia, we have our equipment on almost every ship. Apart from that, we have customers in refrigeration and cooling industries, food, wine and breweries, crude oil refineries, vegetable oil, waste water plants, mining and extraction, and natural resources.
Could you point out some of the most innovative products and solutions of Alfa Laval in the area of energy production and energy efficiency?
A few months ago, Alfa Laval launched the Compabloc 120 – compact heat exchanger for refinery sector and process industry. The new Compabloc replaces one or more traditional large shell-and-tube heat exchangers and compared to them, it has several advantages. It takes less space, is cheaper to maintain and achieves up to 50 percent higher efficiency. For the average refinery, this means a 19 MW reduction in the energy consumption and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of up to 47 500 tons annually. Many of our products help our customers achieve energy savings. If the customer invests in replacing an old technology, and it is possible to measure the energy savings, which can be expressed in reduction of the carbon dioxide emissions, we can help the customer to obtain financial support from a Carbon Investor.
Could you give an example, how do the Carbon Investors work?
Carbon financing is our customer’s reward for reduction of greenhouse gases according to the Kyoto Protocol. In a typical case, a German company is unable to reach the stipulated level of CO2 reduction. It therefore buys an emission certificate from a Carbon Investor, who then pays compensation to an Alfa Laval customer, who is willing to invest in equipment reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. To be more specific, a customer in China invested 1.5 million EUR and in three years received back 840 thousand EUR compensation for the reduction of CO2 emissions.
Could you make a comparison among the markets in South-East Europe?
Alfa Laval has been traditionally present in Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia. These days, we see a nice development also in the ‘new’ markets, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina or Albania.
What will be the focus areas for Alfa Laval in South-East Europe in near future?
The economies in the region will be undergoing structural changes: energy needs will increase, new environmental requirements will be imposed and standard of living will improve. Alfa Laval has not only good products, but also the desire to help our customer to cope with the changes.