Atlas Copco Group is a world-leading provider of sustainable productivity solutions – innovative compressors, vacuum solutions and air treatment systems, construction equipment, power tools and assembly systems. We sat down with Thanasis Markakis, CT SEE Regional General Manager Atlas Copco, to discuss the company’s drivers for success and its strategy to safeguard the future. He talks about main challenges of running a large service organization, innovative products launched this year, solutions for energy savings & recovery and reduction of CO2 emissions.
Dear Mr. Thanasis Markakis, would you be so kind as to introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a bit about your career… how did you first start working in your field? When did you join Atlas Copco?
To start with I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to present Atlas Copco and what we do worldwide as well as in South East Europe and Romania to your readers.
I have studied Mechanical Engineering in the National Technical University of Athens and Later on as Marketing and Finance came stronger in my professional life I followed a postgraduate course in Decision Sciences in Athens University of Economics and Business.
My first professional steps were in Construction and Mining. The 90s was a period with lots of construction in Greece, main highways, the Athens Metro, the Athens new airport Eleftherios Venizelos and lot of other projects were transforming the country.
In 2002 I started to work in Atlas Copco Hellas as Business Line Manager for Compressor Technique responsible for Greece, Israel, Cyprus and Albania.
In 2011 I moved in the Aftermarket part of the business working for Compressor Technique Service and in 2013 I took under my responsibility all the countries of South East Europe region including Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria.
Running a large Service organization present a lot of challenges with most important to maintain high customer satisfaction and operation excellence. The job is not easy but the results are rewarding.
From May 2018 I have a new role as Regional General Manager South East Europe Customer Center for Compressor Technique taking over from John Hort who was the architect of the Regional structure of Atlas Copco in South East Europe.
My mission now is to continue offering top class products and services to our customers using in the best way the synergies that a strong regional structure is offering.
Atlas Copco’s global expertise is in compressors, vacuum solutions and air treatment systems, construction equipment, power tools and assembly systems. What is your primary business focus?
Atlas Copco was founded in 1873 in Stockholm Sweden as a manufacturer of products for railways.
Today our company is an industry benchmark with world leading positions in compressors, tools and many other product areas.
Atlas Copco recently split in two separate companies. Epiroc that took over the mining equipment and operates in the Mining Sector and the other is Atlas Copco that undertook the industrial equipment and focus of course in the Industrial sector. Therefore, we could say that this split was to increase customer focus.
Atlas Copco today contains four business areas, Compressor Technique, Industrial Technique, Vacuum Technique and Power Technique. The company has a turnover that reaches EUR 9bn with 34,000 employees in 90 different countries while the products are present in 180 countries around the world.
The South East Europe Compressor Technique Customer Center employs 140 people in 5 countries including Romania, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Cyprus. Our people together with a network of distributors are mainly working in the industrial sector offering Atlas Copco products of both Compressor and Vacuum Technique.
What does Atlas Copco’s Compressor Technique business area include?
Compressor Technique provides market-leading, highly energy-efficient industrial compressors, gas and process compressors and expanders, air and gas treatment equipment and air management systems. Also, Nitrogen and Oxygen generators. Customer segments that benefit from our innovative solutions include the manufacturing, oil and gas and process industries.
Vacuum Technique started rather more recently, around 5 years ago with the acquisition of Edwards from Atlas Copco Group.
VT provides vacuum products, exhaust management systems, valves and related products in Semiconductor industry, scientific applications, chemical process industry, food packaging, paper handling etc.
You lead the Marketing, Sales and Operation teams of Atlas Copco Compressor Technique Service in Greece, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Israel. What’s your view on the energy market in Romania and on regional level?
Energy sector has a leading role in all the countries of South East Europe.
Romania is the larger oil and gas producer in the region for many years and its position is getting stronger as new oil and gas deposits are discovered in Black Sea.
Israel and Cyprus have entered dynamically the last ten years in the natural gas production world map with promising prospective.
In all we also see an effort to switch towards renewable energies and natural gas.
Atlas Copco is present in all the different industries of the Energy Sector wherever compressed air is need from offshore platforms, to refineries, thermo, hydro or nuclear power plants providing products and services that meet the high standards of safety and reliability that Energy sector requires.
The Energy Sector offers to Atlas Copco challenges that helps us to improve our processes and services every day. It helps us to maintain our leading role in the industry.
What factors do you consider to have a major contribution in increasing the efficiency and productivity of the activity in the area that you coordinate?
Before anything else our people, the Atlas Copco employees with their professionalism and commitment give us the privilege to be considered first in mind and first in choice suppliers for our customers.
We operate in the field with 49 mobile service units and more than 40 sales engineers, product specialists and energy consultants. All these people are on the road every day and caring about these people on their training and daily support is the main driver of our company’s efficiency and success.
At the same time our group is offering us a large variety of tools and systems that help us to work in the most efficient and productive way. Especially in service where the product that we offer to our customers is not just a state-of-the-art machine manufactured in Belgium but the skills, the knowledge and the effort of our people working in the same country with our customers.
Atlas Copco reported record-high order volumes, revenues and operating profit for Q2. What were the innovative products dedicated to the energy sector launched in this period of time? What are their benefits?
After the split Atlas Copco is growing in an accelerating paste.
Innovative products launched this year include:
- A new oil-free rotary screw compressor that delivers up to 35% energy savings compared to similar products;
- A new range of dry screw vacuum pumps with excellent contaminant handling capabilities;
- A test bench with new joint simulating technology for best possible torque and angle testing accuracy;
- A lightweight and efficient combined mobile compressor and generator minimizing the amount of equipment needed at customers’ site.
With a continued focus on energy efficiency on the market, what is Atlas Copco’s CT proposal in this regard? What are your solutions for energy savings & recovery and reduction of CO2 emissions?
Compressed air is needed in almost every production site, same like electric power and it is expensive to produce. The air compressors are considered as part of the major energy consumers of a factory and therefore most of the efficiency gain exercises start often from the compressor room. At this point Atlas Copco support to obtain energy efficiency is very important and starts from the initial sales phase when we advise our customer in the selection of the proper type and size of compressor.
To obtain maximum energy efficiency in compressed air production we have to optimize four compressed air production parameters that is the losses in unload operation, the pressure drop, the air leakages and the heat recovery. For all these four parameters Atlas Copco has specific products and services to offer.
The unload operation is a result of the mismatch between compressor output and factory demand. The Variable Speed Drive compressor (VSD) is a product introduced in the market several years ago and is capable to follow compressed air demand fluctuations resulting in energy savings up to 35%.
In many industrial sites there is a number of compressors operating in parallel. Compressor rooms with 3 or more compressors are very common. In such cases Atlas Copco provides central controllers that monitor control and optimize the operation of the compressors. Both VSD compressors and central controllers help the compressors to operate close to the pressure that is required in the production process. Just 1 bar of unnecessary over pressurization is causing 7% of energy waste.
Atlas Copco is also offering Airscan audits that measure the efficiency of the compressed air production and help to determine the correct way to improve it. Finally, with our Energy Recovery units we can retrieve the heat produced during the compression process in order to use it in other applications saving fuel or electricity consumption.
As a straight conclusion we can say that in almost every factory there is room for improvement in the efficiency of the compressed air production and Atlas Copco has the knowledge to assist our customers achieve their energy saving target.
What major trends do you see on the CT market evolution and what is Atlas Copco’s position and strategy in this respect?
Current market trends focus intensely on finding new energy efficiency solutions, energy recovery and reduction of CO2 emissions.
Also, we have registered a high demand for service and monitoring of compressed air installations, as customers are more aware of the benefits these audits bring to their equipment lifecycle costs and thus, to their business in general.
With the SMARTLINK platform introduced in 2013 that today includes more than 100,000 compressors we offer the possibility to our customers to monitor on a real time basis the operation of their equipment. As a result, we not only have the possibility to offer on time preventive maintenance but also provides a consistent follow up of the energy consumption and eventually the cost of every m3 of compressed air produced.
Another strong trend that we see in the market is service outsourcing.
Our customers prefere to concentrate their efforts and resources in their core business as the best way to be competitive and efficient. In this direction we engage in service contracts that allow our customers not only to focus on their business but also to put their utility room cost under control.
Finally, we strive to continuously develop new sustainable products and solutions, offering better value and improved energy efficiency to our customers, keeping in mind that there are new applications for compressed air emerging on the market.
What are the new steps in the product development process for Atlas Copco CT? Where are your investments heading? Do you consider acquiring complementary businesses?
The Compressor Technique business area continues to invest in innovation and market presence by adding resources in research and development, marketing and sales, as well as in service.
Several new products are introduced, like: a silent and performance enhancing oil-injected screw compressor range, a new range of air dryers that provide minimized pressure drop, low energy cost and low noise level, also a low-energy consuming dryer designed to maximize operational reliability and a new large oil-free centrifugal compressor offering premium energy efficiency and easy preventive maintenance. And these are just examples of the interest Atlas Copco is showing in the product development process that is of course continuing on a constant basis.
Since the company early years, during First World War, the company was engaged in a developing strategy based on acquisitions, initially in Sweden and then, after war, internationally.
The international expansion of Atlas Copco started in 1950s and continues in our days, as well.
Through selected acquisitions, the business area increases its presence in targeted markets and customer segments.
As an example, the acquisition of Pressure Compressores in Brazil added important piston compressor technology and strengthened the business area’s market position in South America.
So yes, we are considering acquiring complementary businesses, as this is part of our strategy to keep Atlas Copco as an industry leader in energy-efficient compressed air solutions.
How do you see the new energy era? How is Atlas Copco preparing for a green future?
This is all part of our sustainability strategy. We approach sustainability in three ways:
- We are constantly delivering innovative products and services that revolutionize the industrial landscape and set new environmental standards.
- We are continually looking for ways to make our operations more sustainable. For example, how we consume natural resources or uphold strong business ethics.
- We are actively working to improve social conditions in the communities we operate in through volunteer programs, partnering non-governmental organizations and financial support.
Our strategy together with the priorities that we set not only guarantee our company’s future but also safeguard the future for our children.