Centres of Excellence embrace new Pentair softener family

2021 witnessed many supply challenges but the relocation of Erie softener manufacturing into Pentair’s European Centres of Excellence can be seen as a success for both Pentair and its customers.

Relocated softener assembly line

Since acquiring Erie Water Treatment in 2019, Pentair had planned to integrate the manufacturing of Erie into its European Centres of Excellence, and not without good reason. Above all the move would mean that Pentair would consolidate its softener assembly at one single European site, and that the Erie softener components would be manufactured in specialist factories which are the quality benchmark for tank and valve production – Herentals and Pisa.

But relocating the people, processes and equipment of a factory capable of producing tens of thousands of softeners a year, without that move disrupting supply is easier said than done! We look back at the journey and explore why it is good news for Pentair customers in Europe.

“We wanted to give our customers the additional benefits and assurances that come with being fully manufactured in Europe by Pentair.”

Björn Verschaeve, European Sales Manager, Residential Systems

No compromise on quality

“When Pentair acquired Erie it didn’t just inherit a 75-year heritage of component and softener manufacturing,” says Björn Verschaeve, European Sales Manager for Pentair Residential Systems. “With it came a commitment to a network of Partners – loyal dealers and installers who have built their businesses on products such as IQsoft, Slimline, Softena and Maxima. Those Partners were top- of-mind as we assessed the task of moving Erie production, into our Pentair factories. There could be no compromise on the high quality to which they were accustomed. No question of the move further disrupting supply issues caused by materials shortages. We wanted to give our customers the same products but with additional benefits and assurances that come with being fully manufactured in Europe by Pentair.”

Valve controller now manufactured in Pisa

Lift, relocate, replicate

“Erie had historically designed and manufactured its own valves and assembled its own softeners, but with tanks imported from the Far East.” explains Matteo Vivaldi, Plant Manager at Pentair Pisa. “We decided to lift, relocate and replicate the valve production to our Pisa Valve facility, while insourcing the tank production to our Herentals factory, where the softeners would also be assembled.”

Valve now manufactured in Pisa

“Planning was key,” recalls Cindy Cuylaerts, Herentals Plant Manager. “It is amazing how much there is to think about. Over time, things started to fall into place. Valves were coming through from Pisa under its stringent quality management system. New tanks were successfully rolling off the Herentals production line. Eventually the day came to ‘bite the bullet’ and move the Erie softener assembly, one kilometre across Belgium, to its new home. We had started planning in January and by April, those softeners were emerging from the relocated production line.”

“For Pentair this move means we can constantly monitor and control quality,”

Cindy Cuylaerts, Plant Manager, Pentair Herentals

Tank production and assembly now relocated in Herentals

“Thanks to superb co-operation between our teams in Herentals and Pisa we were able to make it work without a hitch,” said Marco Calatroni, Value Stream Manager at Pisa. “We have also been using processes from our established lines to integrate them into the Pentair Quality Framework. From assembly specification to rationalisation of spare parts, we have made several improvements that will benefit our customers.”

New softener assembly line at Herentals

Pentair manufacturing means peace of mind

The consolidation of IQsoft, Slimline, Softena and Maxima manufacturing into the world-class environments of its European factories brings significant advantages to both Pentair and its customers.

“For Pentair this move means we can constantly monitor and control quality,” continues Cindy Cuylaerts. “As part of our quality processes, operators, supervisors and team leaders are all involved with Managing Daily Improvement (MDI) and our new softener family now benefits from this. Yes, there have been challenges with supply owing to global material shortages outside of our control, but the consolidation of Erie manufacturing did not contribute to these.”

Björn Verschaeve is upbeat too. “The manufacturing relocation brings only good news for our softener customers,” he says. “Pentair Centres of Excellence indirectly touches them all. The Maxima softener they buy today looks and operates exactly the same as the one they bought two years ago, but now they are also buying Pentair quality assurance.”

“By choosing Pentair, our customers are selecting a product made wholly in Europe, for Europe. It’s hard to put a price on that peace of mind.”

Björn Verschaeve, European Sales Manager, Residential Systems

And what does that assurance mean for customers of Erie softeners?

Bjorn explains; “The guarantee that the valves and tanks have been manufactured in the state-of-art, world-class manufacturing hubs for these components. The security that Pentair manufacturing has the scale and resilience to mitigate some of the worst impact of the global supply issues caused by the pandemic. The confidence that the assembly and tank manufacture are now located on the same site, in a world that places too much of a burden on the planet by unnecessary shipping. And that, by choosing Pentair, they are selecting a product made wholly in Europe, for Europe. It’s hard to put a price on that peace of mind.”

Explore the full Pentair water softening range here

Discover Pentair Centres of Excellence here

Spread the word using the icons below