Will HTC repeat its success with the new Duratiq?

Published 28/12, 2016 at 16:06

HTC has undergone a major transformation since the founding family Thysell sold the business to the investment company Polaris three years ago. PDi editor in chief Jan Hermansson visited HTC’s head office in Söderköping shortly after the launch of the new Duratiq series.

HTC Sweden is a good example of a number of Swedish companies that have made a major contribution to the global demolition and concrete cutting industry. In Sweden methods and indigenous construction technologies for demolition, concrete cutting, dust handling, hydrodemolition and grinding and polishing of concrete floors been developed by innovative inventors, such as Håkan Thysell.

 

The technique that became the basis for an entirely new market

He formed HTC, which stands for Håkan Thysell Crystallization, and along with his family and colleagues developed in the early 1990s a new technique for grinding concrete floors. This was based on a belt driven planetary system with four grinding wheels fitted with diamond tools. The technology took floor grinding to a new level and proved to be far more efficient than single disc grinders.

HTC’s planetary-geared floor grinders laid the foundation for an entirely new market for grinding concrete. Removal of different types of floor coverings, adhesive residue, epoxy and more became a new and interesting business area for flooring contractors, but also for demolition and concrete cutting contractors who quickly realised that they could also provide this service.

The method spread like wildfire across the world and several other manufacturers followed and copied the HTC concept. The market that fully embraced HTC’s new method was the US. A few years later HTC launched Superfloor, followed by Twister.

But such innovations placed high demands on HTC to live up to its reputation and to continue to develop products and concepts to stay at the forefront of the industry. Håkan Thysell decided to sell his business in 2013 to investment company Polaris.

 

Can an investment company continue to successfully develop a strong family run corporation?

Since the takeover Polaris has kept a low profile, working on the development of a new generation concrete floor grinders called Duratiq, which stands for durability, technology and IQ. Despite HTC’s low profile the company has increased sales by approximately €10M (approximately 100 MSEK) over the last two years and the goal is to achieve about  €43,5M (450,000 MSEK) in sales by the end of 2016 with the addition of the new Duratiq. “It looks great, and we believe the new machine concept is a real cannonball. This year’s sales are the highest the company has ever achieved. I think I can say that HTC is leading the trend again and the target is set to reach a turnover of €48,2M (500,000 MSEK) by the end of 2017, “said HTC chief executive Stefan Lind, who took on the role in September 2014.

During Håkan Thysell’s reign it was essential if the company was to grow and develop on a global level of technical expertise then the strategy and enthusiasm needed to permeate through the entire company. This has continued and even deepened since the Polaris takeover. “That’s exactly what happened. HTC is a strong and cohesive team that works on the same level,” said HTC marketing manager Catherine Königk.

“It was actually something I was struck by when I started at HTC that a great knowledge of our products was at all levels within the company. The company was and is very self-sustaining,” said Lind. Even so HTC has invested in the past three years strengthening employee skills and knowledge, including the recruitment of skilled personnel in key positions.

“One might think that if you are owned by an investment company, it is just what is written on the last line of the Annual Reports that count. But that is not the feeling with Polaris,” said Königk. “Polaris takes a very active part in developing the company and its employees. They are interested in the products and markets. They show above all else that they believe in HTC and want to continue developing the business.”

“I have been around for quite a while notice a significant difference from the past when HTC was more a distinctly entrepreneurial company with a strong family business structure. Today, the structure is more of a major label, and we attack our work in a more methodical way,” said HTC head of sales Henrik Svärd.

HTC is a major label company and now has 180 employees with 110 working in Söderköping, including 10 in the development department working on future equipment and tools for grinding and polishing of concrete surfaces. There is also now increased emphasis in the after market. “Before, there was really no clearly defined after market department, but today there are nine people purely assigned to after market, which is now a very important part of our business,” said Svärd. HTC currently has a stock of 3,500 spare parts and 700 additional tools and complete machines. HTC has also started selling different services connected to their machines that they did could not offer under the previous ownership.

 

Engineering of the highest class

HTC’s premises in Söderköping were built in 2002 and are now short on space for new offices, but the plot is large enough for possible future expansion. When HTC started developing the Duratiq concept it involved the entire company at all levels in nearly three years. “It was a fantastic project that really tied together all employees of the company,” said Svärd. “Our customers have also played an important part in the project. We have interviewed them to find out how the optimum floor grinder should be designed.”

Initially, there was also a lot of brainstorming meetings where a lot of crazy ideas were proposed. “It is a relationship that we welcomed as we wanted to create a sensation around the series that gave a taste of class, quality and strength,” said Königk. “I remember there were many fun concepts proposed, such as building around the feeling of the Star Wars movies with Darth Vader, Kevlar and similar. We’ve had a lot of fun when we brainstormed about the name of the new grinding machine with fun suggestions like ‘Sir Grindalot’ or just ‘The Grind Father’.”

HTC took a plunge into the unknown when deciding to design Duratiq. It took time and had to take time. Every detail of the machine was carefully tested to make it as effective as possible. Parts of the machine are engineering perfection, such as the machine’s new grinding head, which weighs about 80kg. A new planetary gear system, reminiscent of a gearbox in a rally car, has barely shown signs of any wear after 1,000h of HTC testing.

The slipcover is now moulded aluminium to provide a hermetic seal against dust. The machine’s electrical cabinet is also sealed against ingress of dust. The cooling of the electrical components is managed through an external cooling system. The grinding head and electrical cabinet are new solutions not seen on any previous floor-grinding machine. Other innovations include the new control panel and remote control with display. These are among 100 features included in the Duratiq that will make work more efficient, smarter, safer and easier for an untrained operator to do a good job. Five new patents have been filed for Duratiq.

 

Duratiq a new platform

Duratiq was subjected to 8,000h of testing before the launch. “Rigorous testing is crucial to feel secure and to release the machine at the DEMCON show in Stockholm was the perfect venue,” said Svärd. But even after the launch testing is continuing with customers and HTC.

Currently 15 Duratiq machines per week are built at the rate of three/day. “We are experiencing great interest in Duratiq and the order book is increasing and delivery is about four to six weeks. If the increase continues, we will add more assembly stations in the production,” said HTC production manager Nils-Erik Wall.

Duratiq is a new product platform and additional models will be built using the same platform. Since the launch in September, HTC has been running road shows in all markets where they have their own subsidiaries.  Currently more then 200 Duratiq machines have been sold and more then half of these have already been delivered. “The response to Duratiq has passed all our expectations and it feels great for everyone in the organization who worked so hard for this. And we are pleased that our customers are satisfied as we believe strongly in the Duratiq series,” said Svärd.

It is anticipated that with Duratiq harvesting capacity has been increased by over 50% compared to previous models. One of HTC’s customers using Duratiq could remove malignant residue on 550m2 in only four and a half hours.

The Duratiq machines are equipped with HTC’s airflow technology, and can also be fitted with the HTC mist system as an option.

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