GEA Niro, a Danish company that has been a part of the German GEA Group since 1993, specialises in the development, design and engineering of liquid and powder processing equipment for the manufacture of products in powder, granular or agglomerate form.
The GEA Group is a world leader in process engineering, process equipment and plant engineering, and numerous top manufacturers have chosen GEA Niro technology for their production of dairy and food products, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Some of these products are manufactured in a single plant, others in a fully engineered process line designed and installed by GEA Niro in collaboration with leading suppliers of auxiliary equipment.
A/S Niro Atomizer was founded in 1933 by Johan Ernst Nyrop, and quickly became a world leader in industrial drying, with spray drying, freeze drying, and fluid bed processing as core technologies. In the 1990s Niro dropped ‘Atomizer’ from the company name and in 1993, the Niro Group was acquired by the German GEA Group and began to co-operate closely with other GEA companies specialising in process technology and engineering. Consequently, in July 2008 Niro A/S changed its name to GEA Process Engineering A/S and GEA Niro continued as a technology brand
Elaborating on the GEA brand, Anders Wilhelm, the CEO of GEA Process Engineering and president of Niro, says: “GEA Group is a technology group quoted on the German stock exchange that has a number of different businesses structured into divisions, and GEA Process Engineering is one of those divisions. It is a group of more than 40 companies where we have a number of different technology brands and Niro is one of those brands.
“Niro A/S used to be the company name but we’re streamlining, so we’re trying to call all the companies in the group GEA Process Engineering because it’s the common denominator. Many of the improvements we have made this year are customer centric and relate to our excellent technology. We are the market leader in our field, and yet we maintain our hunger for more success.”
Elaborating further on the organisation’s capabilities, Anders comments on the company’s successes and how it serves customers: “We have a turnover exceeding one billion euros and about 4000 employees in over 40 countries. We conduct process engineering and offer solutions, primarily for the food and beverage industry, but also for the petrochemical and farming industries. For example, if a dairy wants to build new production, then after it has found an available building, it will speak to us about what is specifically needed and we will build the whole process for them – from milk intake to yoghurt being produced the other end. Dairies, breweries and juice producers are our main customers. From our headquarters in Denmark, we export more than 90 per cent of our output all over the world – we are truly a global business.”
One of GEA’s important customers is Nestle, with whom it has worked for many years, and the business recently celebrated a new partnership with the global conglomerate. “At the end of 2008 GEA Processing Engineering landed a contract worth more than ten million euros with Nestle in the US to expand its bottling activities with a coffee/milk drink,” Anders comments. “The fact that we have supplied several major lines to Nestle before means that I don’t foresee any big challenges to this new development as we have the experience. We have supplied more than a dozen freeze drying plants for when producing freeze dried instant coffee – Nestle is one of our good customers.”
In terms of other developments, Anders was keen to speak about the organisation’s international growth. “We have recently built a couple of big milk powder plants in New Zealand and continuously build powder plants in China,” he reveals. “When a food or beverage company wants to build a new factory or make a significant expansion of its current production facility, an important consideration is needing to be sure that the product process solution is delivered on-time, within the spectrum of the price that has been agreed.
“It also has to still be working in ten years time; in fact, production facilities may even have to last for 20 or more years, so if you take on these kinds of projects it helps to have a long list of references, as this makes a big difference to customers who then feel they can trust you in terms of quality of supply. It’s not a question of us trying to convince customers of our capabilities because we can demonstrate that we deliver. That is very important because we’re talking about long-lasting, durable process solutions; a 75-year history is impressive and makes a big difference because if we say something will work then it will, and we have the expertise to work through any hiccups.”
At present, as it is enjoying success, GEA is looking to make the most of the current economic situation by expanding its scope of supply. “Many of our customers and our competitors’ customers are having a difficult time,” Anders states. “Being a company with a history of strong cash flow, we will look for potential acquisition targets. In November 2008 we bought a UK-based company in Kent called ADG Packaging with a workforce of 30, possessing very interesting filling technologies that fitted nicely into our portfolio of powder related process technology.
“The acquisition was a nice complement to our existing machines, which boosted our offering. Many food and beverage companies around the world welcome organisations like us as we offer a complete solution. We make their lives simpler; instead of supplying three pieces of the puzzle, so that they have to buy three pieces more from someone else, we can supply everything and ensure it all works together so that the interfaces are going to be hassle free. It’s about convenience and reducing risk for the food companies.”
Contemplating GEA’s future, Anders reflects: “The bulk of our business will be related to the production of food and beverages because as the population grows worldwide, there will be continuing growth in consumption of food and drink. The future is bright; in the long-term, we’re in a fairly