As a leader in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry, Mexico’s Danfoss, a branch of the Denmark-based company, produces state-of-the-art components that help cool places in North America and beyond. Rachel Hartman reports.
Once a year, employees of Danfoss Industries in Monterrey, Mexico, bring their families to the company for a special event. “We gather the whole family here, including the relatives, children, husbands and wives of our workers,” says Michael Breums, general director of Danfoss Industries S.A. de C.V., a branch of the Denmark-based international company. “About 2,000 people come each year.”
Bringing families to the company, which specializes in producing components for refrigeration and air conditioning, is just one of many ways that Danfoss carries out a policy to put its workers first. “We want the spouses and families of our workers to see where their loved one is working,” explains Breums. “It’s important that our employees’ families see more than just the outside of our building. By coming to our family event, they can get a feel for our company, and observe that the place is clean, safe, and has a friendly atmosphere.”
People indeed come first at Danfoss. Breums notes that the first priority in the plant is the safety of the workers. “In our company, people come before anything else, even before our earning interests. We want each one of our 750 workers to know that they are more important than anything else.”
In addition to family events and safety measures, the company provides other benefits for workers. Starting in 2008, Danfoss in Mexico will start a program that allows its employees to travel abroad and work at a different Danfoss branch for a certain period of time. After the experience, they return to the Monterrey-based division. The company also offers appealing employee packages, including ample vacation time. “People here know that working for Danfoss is not like working for just any company,” he notes.
CELEBRATING 75 YEARS
The idea for Danfoss began in the 1930s, when Mads Clausen, an engineer living in Denmark, spotted an opportunity for producing and selling automatic valves for refrigeration units. He set up shop in his parents’ attic and created the first product, an expansion valve for refrigeration systems. With this valve, Clausen founded the company, which was originally called “Dansk Køleautomatik & Apparat-fabrik,” in 1933.
During the first year of the business, Clausen sold 466 valves. The next year, sales quadrupled. With the boom in business, the company began developing new products. Over the next few years, it introduced a variety of items, including automatic spring valves, ball float valves, thermostats, pressure-controlled valves, diaphragm valves, suction valves, room thermostats, constantpressure valves and drying filters. In 1946, the company registered its name as Danfoss.
Over the next several decades, Danfoss continued to expand its line of products and employ more workers. In 1953, the company employed 1,000 workers, and in the following year, it expanded to 2,000 employees. During the 1960s and 1970s, Danfoss began to expand into different countries, setting up production plants and sales companies around the world.
“We came to Mexico in 1995,” says Breums. Prior to that year, the company had maintained a sales office in the country, but no production plant. In 1995, Danfoss decided to establish a factory in Mexico. “We came here to be closer to our clients both in Mexico and in the United States,” he explains. “We purchased an old plant in Monterrey that had been producing compressors. We changed the production lines and brought in new equipment to start making Danfoss compressors.”
During the following years, Danfoss continued to expand its line of products and level of operations in Mexico. Today, the company has six different divisions in Monterrey. “Three of these are sales divisions and three are of production,” notes Breums. “The plant has an area of 29,000 square meters.”
In Mexico, the company focuses on products for refrigeration and air conditioning. “We mainly produce expansion valves, industrial valves for refrigeration and condensing units, which are units that come off the assembly line complete and ready to cool an area.” From the plant, the products are distributed throughout Mexico, and also are shipped to the global market.
Today, the Danfoss Group consists of more than 70 plants in 25 countries, and has 114 sales companies and 116 agents and distributors. Altogether, the company employs more than 22,000 people worldwide. It produces an average of 250,000 items per day in its factories around the globe. It continues to be a family-owned company, with headquarters based in Denmark.
“On a global level, the company is organized into three main divisions: the refrigeration and air conditioning division, the heating division, and the motor controls division,” he explains. “Ninety-five percent of Danfoss’ activities in Mexico come from the refrigeration and air conditioning division.”
The company’s global strategy places a special emphasis on leadership. “In every market that we’re involved in,” he says, “we want to make sure that we are either number one or numbertwo.” In Mexico, Danfoss leads the refrigeration and air conditioning market.
“This year, we are celebrating 75 years at Danfoss,” Breums says. “It’s interesting to note that the expansion valve that started it all is still being produced here in Mexico.” He adds that the design of the expansion valve has changed slightly over the years; however, its basic function and the engineering behind it remain the same. The founder’s original product still plays an important role in both the company and the industry.
A SERVICE-ORIENTED COMPANY
While the company has always produced high-quality components for air conditioning and refrigeration, it has recently added a new dimension of customer-driven service. “Traditionally, we were a company that sold components and just that,” explains Breums. “Today we focus more on our customers.” Company officials go right to clients and ask what they want. “Usually these clients are looking for a way to cool a space, whether that be an office, building, supermarket or convenience store.” When the units are ready, workers take them to customers and install them right away. “This way, we can make sure they are getting what they need, which is a lower temperature in a specific site,” Breums says. “This strategy has been extremely successful.”
To maintain its leading role in the refrigeration and air conditioning market, Danfoss is continually looking for innovative ways to improve its products and services. “In addition to these, we emphasize that we are a trustworthy company,” he notes. “In our ad campaigns, we advertise that purchasing from Danfoss is a matter of trust. Our clients can count on us. They know that they are dealing with a company that never leaves its customers.”
Danfoss’ Mexico branch plans to provide even more products for its customers in the near future. “Because of increased competition and rising costs in some countries, we have been shifting some of our plants to areas that are more advantageous to us,” says Breums. Mexico has proven to be an area where the company can easily produce components in a cost-efficient way. Its proximity to the United States and Canada is also beneficial. “This year, we’re planning to continue to expand here in Monterrey, Mexico, by introducing more production lines and divisions.”
The founder of Danfoss, Mads Clausen, originally began the company as a way to improve the quality of life for others. His philosophy, together with his first product, the expansion valve, been retained at Danfoss during its 75 years of existence. The next 75 years are likely to have the same results.