Take a Breath
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Tom Cullum
amfil Asia Pacific’s role in making the region’s air safer and cleaner is becoming more prevalent with each passing year as awareness of the dangers that pollution can bring reach wider geographies and sector segments.
Now reaching the consciousness of most of the world’s leading businesses, the challenge now is to infiltrate higher levels of understanding and education in order to sufficiently allay such fears; something which more than 50 years of experience in providing clean air solutions allows Camfil to fulfil.
“It’s not just people but through things like diesel cars, air pollution is becoming one of the world’s major environmental problems, and in Asia, the problem is worse than in perhaps Europe or North and South America,” explains Dr Suresh Balan, the Company’s Executive Vice President for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. “To make matters worse, Europe has always been more aware of these issues and solutions, but now Asia is coming to realise it too, and that’s where our solutions come into it.
“If you look at Asia, everyone has known about the need for clean water but the same challenge exists in terms of clean air so our focus is on growing in this region because that’s where the biggest problem is.”
With larger infrastructure comes a higher volume of pollution, as well as an increased number of buildings, offices, and businesses seeking protection from said pollutants. And as a consequence, the demand for a series of solutions built to offset this concern has facilitated Camfil’s 10-year drive into the continent.
Balan continues: “We now have a good footprint and we want to expand further. We have manufacturing sites in India, China and Malaysia as well as a presence across Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and we want to expand all over this region ultimately.
“For the Group, it’s the biggest market and the most important; coming from the promise of more and more people searching for cleaner air solutions in their buildings.”
The success behind Camfil’s business model not only derives from the influx of interest coming from the region, but from the saturation of industries from which this interest is emanating. Cutting across all industries - from pharmaceuticals and hospitals to semiconductor and oil & gas companies - the strive for clean air is universal, and so is Camfil’s appeal.
“The Group started 53 years ago and in Asia roughly 10 years ago, and we are now in the right position to attack this market,” Balan states. “We have our operations footprint in nine countries, and a manufacturing footprint across three, and our high-end premium products are catering for all industries.”
As the subsequent “Rolls Royce” of the industry, its all-encompassing approach to the market, balanced with its innovative and entrepreneurial ethos in finding new solutions and product applications has formed a potent combination; compounded by an unrivalled knowledge of the pollutants being tackled.
“It all comes down to education and a lot of education is going on in informing people about what we can offer and why we are offering it,” Balan says. “Take PM1 for instance. When we talk about clean air, we talk about different particles and PM1 particles are ultra fine which can go through your nostrils, into your lungs, and into your bloodstream. Previously, the knowledge was there about how to tackle the less fine PM2.5 particles, but not PM1.
“Take diesel engines for example, they omit a lot of dangerous gases including PM1 particles and what we’ve done is build our products to move from combating just PM2.5 to PM1; the ultimate in stopping these particles getting into the bloodstream.”
Inevitably, such dangers are more of an issue in some sectors than in others, with the pharmaceutical, hospital and semiconductor domains especially required to keep harmful air particles down to not just a minimum, but zero. Camfil has therefore expended a lot of time and effort into raising awareness about not only the dangers, but more importantly, its solutions.
“Solutions in these sectors are vital and we’ve presented our solutions to the International Green Building Council as well as these sectors to emphasise the fact that the awareness of clean air is more important than it was 10 years ago,” Balan emphasises. “10 years ago, a couple of people might have got a cough and nobody would worry, but if you brought up issues of clean water, then you’d get a reaction the very next day.
“We are now seeing that people want to react earlier though with people as committed to getting clean air the very next day, the same as they would with clean water.”
With the necessary solutions and expertise in tow, the next challenge for most businesses would be to actually fulfil its promise and infiltrate the entire market with its products. For Camfil however, the Company is able to leverage a global reputation and supplier network to make international, local and to ensure that Asia-Pacific remains an integral cog in the overall machine.
From the business’s three manufacturing arms, it’s not just Southeast Asia that is supplied, and it’s not unheard of to have a product manufactured in Malaysia deployed in an office building as far afield as Western Europe.
Inevitably, such scope gives Camfil a massive competitive advantage in terms of turnaround times and customer satisfaction, but there is a similarly pivotal refusal to rest on its laurels behind the scenes, with ongoing improvements and investments ensuring that this advantage widens.
“As volumes increase, we continuously upgrade our factories and introduce capital expenditures to our manufacturing facilities in order to meet increasing market demand,” Balan affirms. “We are also getting new equipment each year and also using high-end tech and ICT to help our global strategy. These systems aid R&D and our supply chain to make sure we have optimum infrastructure and systems across the board.”
Giving back to society
This internal refinement incorporates areas of human resources too with a flat hierarchal structure aimed at individual enrichment and a business model revolving around ethical principles to attract the best young talent in the first place.
“We help companies and the planet, and people want to be part of a Company that is not only doing that, but is growing in the process. As a green Company we therefore attract a lot of younger people who share our philosophy and we give them the opportunity to make a difference across lots of different industries,” Balan explains. “There is also a positive feeling that you get from working for Camfil; we’re like a family and adopt a very transparent structure with no hierarchy.
“We delegate to people and make them feel empowered so that they continuously enjoy their work and feel motivated to make a difference.”
A local focus in each country of operation compounds this feel-good culture and wider sense of enrichment that the business is ultimately built upon. In turn, the levels of innovation and operational excellence that are generated from each employee are escalated; again in line with the Group’s primary ambitions.
“All the time people are looking to us as the benchmark. We are the premium Company in the industry and are constantly bringing innovative products to the market that are ahead of the curve; and we’re doing so across a global footprint,” Balan shares as Camfil’s overriding differentiator. “In terms of growth, there’s only three or four global players and the rest are localised. We have a presence in Europe, North America, South America and Asia so in terms of modernisations and the various industries we can leverage that to see what trends are coming up.”
That being said, Balan believes that Asia is in a better position than most to accept the level of futurism that Camfil is providing through its products and knowledge sharing, and he believes that Asia-Pacific will become one of the biggest portions of the overall Group turnover in the years to come.
He concludes: “The ambition stems back to that of our founding member in giving something back to those within the Company in terms of employees, and to those outside of the Company in terms of our wider purpose and in giving back to society through our products.
“And from there, we want to see Company growth in Asia-Pacific especially; we want to grow responsibly, be more profitable and to make clean air a human right just like clean water is.”