Strong residential portfolio paves road for growth

Björn Verschaeve heads European Sales for Pentair Residential Systems, covering all domestic ‘point of entry’ and ‘point of use’ water treatment systems. He discusses the spiralling demand in the home water treatment market, the opportunities that presents for Pentair and how a powerful product portfolio, backed by a dedicated European team, are ready for growth in 2022.

Pentair Residential Systems on the crest of a wave

“In some ways, the European market for home water treatment is still in its infancy,” says Björn Verschaeve, Sales Director, Residential Systems EU. “Home softeners and filtration systems have not yet been ‘popularised’ like washing machines, TVs and phones – but watch this space. Though Pentair is a relatively late entrant in the domestic market, demand has grown every single year and I feel we are on the crest of a wave. With our long history in manufacturing for water treatment on an industrial scale, we know what works.”

Pentair set out its stall for this market in 2019 by acquiring Erie Water Treatment (as part of an acquisition of Aquin Inc. in the US) along with its affiliated dealer network, and the full integration of the Erie product portfolio into the Pentair Brand came to fruition last year.

“Home softeners and filtration systems have not yet been ‘popularised’ but watch this space.”

Björn Verschaeve, Head of European Sales, Pentair Residential Systems

Relocation of Erie manufacturing an outstanding success

Valve softener assembly at Herentals
Valve softener assembly at Herentals

“We chose to relocate Erie production into the Pentair Centres of Excellence at Herentals and Pisa, but of course that is easier said than done” explains Bjorn. “We set out a timeline of Q1 2021 and according to plan, the migration happened on time. Valve production was moved to Pisa, tanks and assembly were moved to Herentals. The new softener production lines were up and running as of April – it was certainly one of the highlights of 2021.”

“Relocating the equipment and processes of a factory capable of producing tens of thousands of softeners a year, without that move disrupting quality, requires exceptional teamwork. To do it in the grip of a pandemic was nothing short of remarkable. I pay particular respect to our team in Italy who were unable to travel to Belgium throughout the whole process. Through countless video calls and remote planning, they have seamlessly recreated the valves for the softener range while enhancing the quality processes in place.

Enhanced portfolio caters for every requirement

That manufacturing relocation has not only improved quality and efficiency, it provided the impetus for product rationalisation.

Flagship Foleo softener range
Flagship Foleo softener range

“We took the opportunity to reshuffle our softener range, integrating products from Pentair and Erie, to create a coherent portfolio,” continues Bjorn. “We now cater for every corner of the domestic softening market and, combined with our point-of-use, under the sink systems, Pentair now boasts one of the strongest catalogues for residential water treatment solutions.”

“Pentair now boasts one of the strongest catalogues for residential water treatment solutions.”

Honesty is the best policy in global supply chain shortages

Of course, 2021 has not been without its challenges, not just for Pentair, but for every manufacturer around the globe.

“We heard the early alarm bells at the beginning of the year” recall Bjorn. “At first it was a shortage of plastics. We plugged that gap but then it was a shortage of metals. Then it was circuit boards and so on… you name it, supply was disrupted. Everyone was in the same boat. A global supply chain disruption is not something anyone can fix on their own, however it’s about how you deal with it, minimising the disruption and keeping open the lines of communication with your customers.”

Pentair launched a programme of information and education, keeping close to its key distributors and dealers, looking at every option to help them weather the storm.

“Ours can be a long sales chain – from manufacturer, to distributor, to dealer, to installer, to end user – and we are all impacted. We have helped our customers with better forecasting, longer lead times to place orders, and by generally keeping close to their businesses. Pentair is unique in that we don’t only manufacture our softener systems ourselves here in Europe, but also the critical components such as valves and tanks. Our loyal customers already had a growing awareness of the positive difference that makes, not just to quality, but with container shipping prices exploding, to price too. It has not been easy juggling supply and managing expectations, but we are getting better at predicting which helps us to manage volatility in the market. Ultimately, honesty is the best policy and our customers appreciate it.

Growing in a growing market

Supply-chain disruption notwithstanding, ‘Growth’ is the watchword for Pentair Residential Systems.

Finishing touches to softener assembly
Finishing touches to softener assembly

“Pentair has a long heritage in water treatment, but in residential systems we are ‘the new kid on the block’. While our market share is relatively low, we are growing faster than the market – which is also growing. The potential is huge and we intend to exploit it. I firmly believe we have the best family of products available and we will be shouting about it in 2022.

While our focus remains on the bigger country markets across Europe, we are actively developing growth territories, particularly Eastern Europe. As the market for residential water treatment grows, we are also exploring new sales channels for our products. In the future you may see our brands pop up anywhere from water treatment specialists, boiler companies, wholesalers – even green energy suppliers – there is a long list of partners who would appreciate the value the Pentair Brand can add.”

“We are growing faster than the market – which is also growing. The potential is huge and we intend to exploit it.”

Keeping close to customers is key

And while a shift toward online sales is also inevitable, Bjorn is determined not to forget what customers like about working with Pentair.

“Some time ago I was in Italy with a customer who, because of the pandemic, I have not been able to meet for far too long. That customer commented on the ease of doing business with a company you can trust. Delighted to catch up in person again, he echoed my own sentiment towards customer relationships when he told me that he felt face-to-face meetings definitely ‘softened’ a business relationship – making things smoother and clearer. It’s a good metaphor for what we do to water.”

There is no doubting the intent of Bjorn and his team to keep close to their customers as they steward the next phase in the growth of Pentair Residential Systems. Armed with an unbeatable portfolio of world class products and backed by a highly dedicated European workforce, they are ready to reach new heights in 2022.

Explore the full range of Pentair Residential Systems here

Read how Pentair integrated Erie manufacturing into its European Centres of Excellence here

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