From GEA to Kelvion
It has been a long journey from starting as GEA back in 1920 to becoming Kelvion in 2015.
The origin of our heat exchangers business goes back to 1920, when GEA was founded as Gesellschaft für Entstaubungs-Anlagen‘ by Otto Happel. Over the first decades the company strongly expanded its heat exchanger activities, becoming an early innovator in thermal engineering and setter of technological standards. In 1999, GEA was acquired by mg technologies AG (the successor of Metallgesellschaft), which was renamed to GEA Group AG in 2005. In 2010, GEA bundled all of its heat exchanger activities in one segment (“HX”). In 2014, GEA Heat Exchangers was acquired by Triton fund.
With a new name, the core business of the former GEA Heat Exchangers Segment has been formally split from the GEA Group AG and is writing its own history as Kelvion. The other segments of the Heat Exchanger Division are now operating under its own names: DencoHappel (former Air Treatment Business) and Enexio (former Power Cooling Solutions Business).
The name Kelvion pays homage to Lord Kelvin (1824 - 1907). Lord Kelvin formulated the laws of thermodynamics and absolute units of temperature are stated in kelvin, in his honor.
Founded on 2 February 1920, GEA, abbreviated from the original German name of the company “Gesellschaft für Entstaubungs-Anlagen mbH”, was the work of a man who was an entrepreneur with heart and soul, a man gifted with an exceptional technical insight and filled with the desire for pioneering technical innovations.
For Otto Happel, his first objective was clear: to introduce “closed-circuit cooling” in Germany and to develop it as quickly as possible for use in large installations. Just two years after setting up his small business he had achieved that objective, and Happel’s closed-circuit cooling system differed from those of his European and overseas competitors in only one – but one very important – aspect. Instead of the conventional heat exchanger (round tube exchangers with wrapped finning or pressed-on rectangular fins) Happel installed the “elliptical finned tube”, his first independent technical development which to this day is a key product in the GEA heat exchanger range.
On 15 February 1925, Happel renamed his company “GEA Luftkühlergesellschaft mbH”, Bochum. With its soundly engineered products, it quickly developed a good reputation. Just two years later, on the basis of the elliptical finned tubes GEA developed air coolers for transformers, air-to-water coolers for rectifiers, forced air coolers for compressors, coolers for diesel locomotives and steam-powered rail cars.
In 1935, Otto Happel, in co-operation with the engineer Dr. Kurt Lang, began developing air-cooled condensers for stationary steam turbines.
In the midst of all the work and the hopes for a new start, Otto Happel Sr. passed away on 26 December 1948. His death left a great gap, for he had not only shaped his company as a far-sighted engineer with pioneering ideas but also guided it through good times and bad as a wise businessman and dynamic organiser. Against the advice of friends and close associates, his widow, Elisabeth Happel, resolved to continue her husband’s life’s work for her son Otto who had been born in February 1948.
Early on, GEA engineers had attempted to introduce elliptical finned tubes into heating. Although these efforts initially were not crowned with success, after the war they became the second important step towards diversification and also the starting point for a profitable new division, convectors and air heaters. To better introduce these new products on the market the first independent subsidiary, “GEA Konvektorenbau Happel KG”, was founded on 1 January 1953.
The increased demand for GEA plant and equipment plus the growing demand for local production led to the establishment in the 1960s of numerous companies abroad. “James Howden – GEA Ltd.”, a joint venture company later renamed “GEA Airexchangers Ltd. London”, with a production facility in Northern Ireland, was founded in Glasgow in 1961. This was followed in 1963 by the establishment of “GEA Scambiatori di Calore R.r.l.” in Italy and of “GEA Warmtetransport B.V.” in the Netherlands. In the same year, “GEA Airexchangers, Inc.” was set up in New York. In 1964, the Spanish subsidiary “Compania GEA Iberica S.A.” was established in Burgos with production later in Yurre near Bilbao to overcome tariff barriers. In 1969, GEA Luftkühler GmbH & Co. purchased 85% of the shares in “Renzmann & Grünewald KG” in Monzigen an der Nahe, later to become a specialist producer of water-cooled transformer coolers.
The engineering company “GEA Power Cooling Systems, Inc.” In San Diego, California, USA (1977) and the manufacturing company “GEA Rainey Corp.” In Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA (1978) were the conclusion of the first phase of expansion in the USA. The latter half of 1970 saw the establishment or take-over of such companies as “GEA Aircooled Systems Ltd.”, South Africa (1975), “GEA do Brasil Intercambiadores Ltda.” (1976), “GEA Power Cooling Systems, Inc.”, San Diego, California, USA (1977), “GEA Rainey Corp.”, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA (1978) and “GEA Ergé-Spirale S.A.”, France (1978).
After more than 25 years at the helm, Elisabeth Happel handed over the management of the company for health reasons to her son, Dr. Otto Happel, who had just completed his engineering studies at the Technical University in Aachen and received his doctorate.
The take-over of “Eduard Ahlborn GmbH” in Hildesheim, Germany, launched a new strategy of diversification. Ahlborn, a manufacturer of food processing equipment, was specialised in plate heat exchangers whose thermodynamic design was already carried out by GEA to improve its own products.
The healthy progress made by the entire GEA Group made it necessary in 1980/81 to undertake a basic reorganisation by departments, divisions and regions with a central management company, “GEA GmbH”, at the top. The purchase and/ or establishment of additional companies – “Batignolles Technologies Thermiques S.A.” in France, and “GEA Canzler GmbH & Co.” in Germany (both 1985), “KÜBA Kältetechnik GmbH”, Germany (1987), “Happel Belgium N.V.” (1988) – resulted in notable increases in sales and personnel for the GEA Group in their established fields and additional know-how in the area of food and process engineering. In the year 1988, some 30 companies belonged to GEA GmbH. In that year, the corporate structure was again changed and “GEA AG & Co.”, which assumed the management of the Group, was created as the new holding company.
GEA presented itself to the public as a “global and broadly diversified supplier of machines, systems and components in the field of energy, environmental and process engineering” when the company went public in December 1989. Thus, after 69 years as a family-owned business the GEA Group was to become a company with widespread ownership.
The political upheaval in eastern Europe had made that area particularly interesting for western German industry. GEA took the opportunity in 1992 to purchase “EGI Contracting/Engineering Rt.” In Budapest, Hungary (dry cooling at power stations), and “LVZ a.s.” in Liberec, Czech Republic (heating, ventilation and air conditioning and air filters). These acquisitions involved companies in the fields of thermal and energy and air treatment and refrigeration engineering, i.e. traditional GEA fields.
After the dynamic growth in the early 1990 years and because of the world wide recession, the years after 1995 showed a phase of integration and consolidation in order to “digest “ the new activities. In 1997 GEA Group is structured in 9 Divisions.
In April 1999, GEA was acquired by mg technologies AG (the successor of Metallgesellschaft).
In 2004, the group acquired Goedhart, specialized in refrigeration technologies, and WTT, active in the plate heat exchanger business.
The group was renamed to GEA Group AG in 2005. In the same year, GEA acquired the plate heat exchanger company FlatPlate in the US, and 2H Kunststoff, a specialist for cooling tower fills as well as for water and waste-water treatment.
In 2006, GEA Group acquired ISISAN in Turkey, Denco as well as 2H Aqua in the UK. The lists acquisitions of GEA continued with Aero Heat Exchangers (2007), Bloksma (2008), ViEx (2008), Caldemon Iberica (2008), NEMA Air Fin (2008).
Reorganization of GEA's 9 Divisions into technologically distinct Segments. The largest segment is the Heat Exchangers Segment (HX).
With the large acquisition of Mashimpeks, GEA expands its plate heat exchanger business to Russia.
In June 2014, the board of GEA Group announced their decision to sell the Heat Exchangers Segment (HX). In October, GEA Group concludes the agreement on the sale of the Heat Exchangers Segment to Triton.
In August 2015, the former GEA Heat Exchangers Segment started to launch their new brand with a transitional phase. In this phase, the segment initially focused on its core business, which has given the customers guidance and confidence over the decades – and on its employees, who develop the products, manufacture them with precision and distribute them globally. The target: Give them both neutral scope, to allow an impression of the new corporate personality to arise, independent of brand name and logo. Both groups were able to visually discover the creative appearance of the new personality.
In November 2015, with a new name, the former GEA Heat Exchangers Segment has been formally split from GEA Group and is writing its own history as Kelvion.