MANN+HUMMEL aims for ‘Leadership in Filtration’

Kurk Wilks, President & CEO MANN+HUMMEL Group
Kurk Wilks, President & CEO MANN+HUMMEL Group

MANN+HUMMEL, a leading global expert in filtration, was founded in 1941 as a family owned company and has remained so to this day. The company, headquartered in Ludwigsburg, Germany, develops filtration solutions for automobiles, industrial applications, clean indoor air in industry and public spaces, and the sustainable use of water.

More than 20,000 employees at over 80 locations worldwide manufacture products that include air filter systems, suction systems, liquid filter systems, technical plastic parts, filter media, cabin filters, industrial filters, as well as membranes and modules for water filtration, wastewater treatment and process applications.

Filtration is the core area of expertise at MANN+HUMMEL. The company’s products and solutions are applied in many varied areas of life and in industry in the form of fuel filters, oil filters, air cleaners and cabin filters in the car or as high-performance filter systems in construction machinery, agricultural machinery, lawn mowers, railway vehicles and ships, and in the field of energy technology. “Intelligent air solutions” are relevant when it comes to protection against particulate or bacteria indoors. Here, MANN+HUMMEL filters provide a healthy and clean environment at home, in the car and at the workplace. Membranes and systems, on the other hand, make a global contribution to the sustainable use of water resources. At MANN+HUMMEL, an international team is continuously engaged in research and development on current topics which are important to modern life, such as sustainable mobility, clean air and clean water.

For this edition of the IFN “Executive Q&A,” I had a conversation with Kurk Wilks, President & CEO at MANN+HUMMEL Group.

Ed Gregor: What have you discovered at MANN+HUMMEL that seems to be most positive for continued innovation and growth?

Kurk Wilks: There will always be a need for filtration. As the leader in filtration, we manufacture products contributing to cleaner air, cleaner water and cleaner mobility. The most positive for continued innovation and growth is definitely the people at MANN+HUMMEL. Our associates have the knowledge and the power to continuously develop technologies that contribute to a better tomorrow for our planet.

Ed Gregor: The company makes filters for other markets beyond transportation. Do you envision expanding or retracting in these areas, and where would be the emphasis?

Kurk Wilks: Since early 2018, MANN+HUMMEL has been engaging in the LS&E (Life Sciences & Environment) segment and acquired leading filtration companies from the air and water filtration sectors.

For us, the environmental challenges we all are facing, such as severe and increasing air pollution and fresh water scarcity, are in fact parts of our business case in the LS&E segment. We see increasing customer demand for sustainable products, solutions and services.

In our LS&E business and all its markets, we will advance new products that add value to the needs for sustainability, new propulsion systems, and digitalization. Our close relationship to the automotive industry will of course play a major part of our strategy going forward. We will also continue to invest in our aftermarket business and widen our product offerings for all of our key brands in all segments from passenger cars, to trucks, to industrial on and off highway.

For us, the environmental challenges we all are facing, such as severe and increasing air pollution and fresh water scarcity, are in fact parts of our business case in the LS&E segment. We see increasing customer demand for sustainable products, solutions and services.

Ed Gregor: What countries or territories do you see the largest growth potential for the company in the future and why?

Kurk Wilks: We are committed to and continue to see growth in regions. Since half of the world’s population currently lives in Asia, this market still offers us our largest potential and we are very active in our efforts there. Other regions such as South America and Africa also have an increased demand for our solutions, but we definitely see an increased demand for clean air, clean water and clean mobility in Asia because of the high growth rate.

Ed Gregor: There is heavy competition and the need for competitive pricing globally in automotive. What do you believe separates MANN+HUMMEL, allowing the company to win as a leading supplier?

Kurk Wilks: MANN+HUMMEL’s advantage lies in its 80 years of experience, a complete filter system, including air filters, cabin air filters, oil filters and fuel filters, as well as filter assembly ability. MANN+HUMMEL’s vision is “Leadership in Filtration.” That means, we care for our customers and continuously create new value and shape the future by developing and providing outstanding solutions.

MANN+HUMMEL’s Internet of Things Lab
MANN+HUMMEL’s Internet of Things Lab, opened in Singapore in Oct. 2016, is focused on research and development for delivering smart technologies in the filtration marketplace. Photo: MANN+HUMMEL

Ed Gregor: Tell us about MANN+HUMMEL innovations and what does the future hold. Any examples?

Kurk Wilks: For our Life Sciences & Environment segment, the current COVID-19 crisis is actually a unique opportunity. Using our state-of-the-art HEPA filter production, in-house cleanroom test labs, and valued relationships with partners around the globe, we blended our talents and expertise to help people in need during the current pandemic. Our global teams have been working tirelessly to adapt to meet critical needs, with rapid development and time to market.

For instance, MANN+HUMMEL supplies the HEPA filter in the Ford-produced respirator, which will be worn by healthcare workers when treating COVID-19 patients. To date, MANN+HUMMEL produces 2,300 HEPA filter elements per day for this application, from their manufacturing sites in the U.S. and Germany. We saw that critical times call for extraordinary actions and cooperation, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team’s efforts to make a difference.

Our TRI-KLEEN product gives public health officials and hospital staff the ability to turn a COVID-19 patient’s room into a negative pressure environment, providing a tool to help field hospitals, temporary care units, nursing homes or ad-hoc locations to maintain safety for patients and frontline staff.

The latest innovation in cabin air filters is our FreciousPlus product. The filter blocks unpleasant smells, and harmful gases such as nitrogen oxides and ozone from the outside air, while removing almost 100 percent of harmful particles such as fine dust. With the help of its third filter layer with biofunctional coating, FreciousPlus stops allergens almost completely and prevents bacteria and mold growth on the filter.

Ed Gregor: What do you foresee as future trends in the automotive filtration business?

Kurk Wilks: Regarding the future of automotive filtration business, we stand for diversity and openness to technology. MANN+HUMMEL transfers its competence in filtration, separation and plastics processing to products for alternative drive systems.

Also, we believe hydrogen plays a crucial role in limiting CO2 emissions. Here we have the combination of all the products that we already use in combustion engines and the additional products that we supply for alternative drive systems. MANN+HUMMEL joined the Hydrogen Council in late 2019. Together with more than 80 leading energy, transportation and industrial companies, we are joining forces with international authorities and the public, to establish hydrogen as a solution to facilitate the exit from fossil fuels and nuclear power, and to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Another future trend highly relevant for us is of course digitalization. We have started to enable digital initiatives and we are continuing to expand the networking and automation of our production facilities. Our Internet of Things Lab in Singapore is bringing intelligent filtration solutions to the market.

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