What role will the newly acquired Swedish air filtration specialist Vokes Air play within MANN+HUMMEL? What activities does the company pursue? Can the available automotive expertise be exploited in the industrial sector? And what opportunities will this new venture offer? The Corporate Blog editorial team was keen to find out the details and asked Manfred Wolf, our President & General Manager Automotive + Industrial Business, and Steffen Schneider, Head of the Industrial Filters Business Unit.
Mr Schneider, what is the significance of this major Swedish acquisition for you and your colleagues in Speyer?
Steffen Schneider: The Industrial Filters Business Unit is absolutely delighted about this latest addition and we’d like to warmly welcome our 400 new colleagues from Vokes Air into the MANN+HUMMEL family. I believe that their support will help us make good progress in our endeavours to expand and internationalise our activities in the field of industrial filtration, which we embarked on some years ago.
Is the aim to become a universal filter supplier with the acquisition of Vokes Air?
Manfred Wolf: It’s true that our mission statement is “Leadership in Filtration“, which leaves us free to enter other segments of the filtration market as well as the automotive industry. I wouldn’t go as far as to say “universal”, however – we’re certainly not currently looking to cover all fields of filtration. We do intend to make targeted forays beyond the automotive industry and gain a foothold in market segments that appear attractive and suit our company.
Air filtration in the industrial sector is therefore the next logical step. We’re delighted that Vokes Air was open to our takeover bid. It means that we’ll be able to enter a further filtration segment much more quickly than would be the case via other activities.
Can you briefly explain the focus of Vokes Air’s operations to our blog readers?
Steffen Schneider: The challenges are undoubtedly just as interesting although less familiar than automotive filtration. Clean and temperature-controlled air is vital wherever large numbers of people gather, for example in airports, hotels, shopping centres, museums or ships. This area is covered by Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning, or HVAC for short. Moreover, even cleaner air is required in hospital operating theatres or for the clean-room production of highly sensitive components, including for the automotive industry. In fact, we already operate using this type of clean-room production ourselves. Filter systems are also needed for gas turbines and the separation of oil mist in production plants. In short, the focus is on air filters for industrial applications such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as clean-room and gas turbine technology.
Air quality control has been a major topic in the industrialised nations for many years and is now also becoming an urgent issue in countries such as China. What action are you taking in this field?
Steffen Schneider: We are of course aware that we need to step up our efforts to improve air quality. The rising levels of air pollution and the growth of large cities represent a huge incentive for us to take action in this area, as well as confronting us with major challenges. There are many applications which extend beyond those supplied by Vokes Air, for example air pollution control systems, mobile devices and much more. We are becoming involved in this major segment because it holds great promise for the future.
Can you explain what you mean by air pollution control?
Steffen Schneider: The term covers a wide field within air filtration. It mainly involves the filtration of coarse and fine particulate matter in various heavy industries such as metal, steel and cement production.
Can we apply the expertise we have gained from the automotive sector to air filtration?
Manfred Wolf: It’s true that clean air has long been and remains an increasingly important topic with regard to automotive passenger compartments. Incidentally, this air is now even clean enough for allergy sufferers, provided that one of our cabin filters is fitted.
Steffen Schneider: Similar filters and filter media are also used in industrial vehicles and buildings. The main difference stems from their application. Just think of airports or shopping centres. There are also similarities in production, which means that we can utilise our expertise in the field to further improve the production sites.
Considering the many locations where air needs to be filtered, filtration must be a vast market?
Steffen Schneider: There is indeed enormous potential in the filtration market – various sources refer to global sales of some 40 billion euros. Depending on the sector concerned, we anticipate attractive growth rates of about 5 to 8 percent. The HVAC segment in which Vokes Air operates boasts a rate of almost 15 percent. There are also many other potential areas of application.
How do you assess the growth opportunities for MANN+HUMMEL?
Manfred Wolf: In principle, continued growth is possible in all our filtration segments, both in the automotive sector and in the fields of industrial and water filtration. We are also generating new opportunities for growth by acquiring companies such as Vokes Air, which is mainly active in Europe.
How will Vokes Air be integrated into the MANN+HUMMEL family?
Manfred Wolf: Our new colleagues are already working for MANN+HUMMEL VOKES AIR within our Industrial Filters Business Unit. We’ve utilised our experiences during past takeovers to put together an integration team made up of employees from Vokes Air and MANN+HUMMEL. This team will examine all the functional areas, from purchasing and production through to financial controlling, in order to determine the extent to which integration is possible and necessary. The previous management structure, headed by Mr Schneider, will continue to oversee the Business Unit along with Vokes Air.
After graduating and working in various roles at the Robert Bosch Group, Manfred Wolf was appointed Head of the Service Business Unit at MANN+HUMMEL in 1995. Since joining the Management Board in 1998, he has been responsible for the automotive and industrial business units.
Since 1993, Steffen Schneider has worked at MANN+HUMMEL in various roles in sales and purchasing and at the company’s subsidiaries in Spain and Mexico. He has been Head of the Industrial Filters Business Unit since early 2013.