Every successful project starts with a framework. A vision statement. A blueprint. The editors of Engineered Systems are proud to present The Blueprint — a monthly Q&A interview with HVACR engineering’s leading voices. These one-on-one discussions will examine the trade’s history, current industry trends, the factors shaping the sector’s future, and more.
Danfoss has been committed to engineering tomorrow since 1933. Today, the company’s 28,000-plus employees are leading the way to sustainable transformation with proven and reliable solutions. Driven by the power of an electrified society, and fueled by the opportunities of going digital, Danfoss is dedicated to creating solutions that can unleash the potential of tomorrow.
Recently, John Galyen, president of Danfoss in North America, sat down with Herb Woerpel, editor-in-chief of Engineered Systems to discuss his tenure as chairman of Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), the future of Danfoss, and the future of the HVACR industry as a whole.
Engineered Systems: John, thank you for your time today. Can you start out by introducing yourself to our audience?
John Galyen: Hello, everyone. I am John Galyen, and I am the president of Danfoss in North America. I have been part of the HVACR industry for 40 years, including having spent the last 20 years with Danfoss. I live in Baltimore with my wife, Lynn.
Engineered Systems: You recently served a stint as chairman of Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), an organization widely recognized as the voice of HVACR manufacturers. Tell us about your time as chairman and share some of the lessons you learned during your tenure.
Galyen: My chairmanship was far different than I expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the U.S. just a few months into my term. And it completely shifted my focus within the organization. Although the implications of the pandemic meant I was not able to represent the association and its members at many of the national and international meetings as originally planned, the interests of our members and their businesses remained critical. In many ways, we’ve seen our industry become even more relevant and our work more pertinent as we learn more about the virus and start to think about how to recover. Finding a common voice for the industry has become increasingly imperative, and, during my time as AHRI chairman, we prioritized alignment with other industry associations, like HARDI [Heating, Airconditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International] to ensure we elevate our common goals and take on shared challenges in a way that preserves the interests of all our members.
Engineered Systems: Leaning on your time as the chair of AHRI, how would you define the state of HVACR manufacturing in 2021?
Galyen: I am very proud of how our member companies responded to the pandemic. Our insistence right from the start that our industry is an essential function of life in the U.S. helped ensure we were able to continue to provide components and equipment to support frontline hospitals and care centers and to secure the cold chain for both food and medicines. It’s important to note that the strength of our industry and its commitment to health, safety, comfort, and productivity has never been demonstrated more strongly than it was during 2020. Most manufacturers are moving toward a “new normal,” and we are seeing demand increase across most, but not all, sectors, though we are also facing some cost, logistics, and supply challenges. In any case, I’m confident we will prove our resilience again and continue to support our industry as we have for decades.
Engineered Systems: In May, you celebrated 15 years as president of Danfoss. What are your proudest professional achievements over the last 15 years?
Galyen: When I joined Danfoss, our sales were less than $100 million, and we had fewer than 100 employees in North America. Over the last 15 years, we have invested heavily — both globally and in the North America region. And, today, even in a year weighted so dramatically by a pandemic, we achieved $1.5 billion in sales last year and we now have more than 4,000 employees throughout the U.S. and Canada. At the same time, we have worked hard to become a trustworthy, influential voice in the market, partnering and collaborating with our industry peers to ensure our collective interests are heard and seek solutions to meet new regulations and other challenges, in part through the roles we’ve had over the years on AHRI’s committees. I also was honored that the members of AHRI put their trust in me to serve as their chairman.
Engineered Systems: The coronavirus has impacted all aspects of life. How has COVID-19 impacted Danfoss’s operations?
Galyen: The second quarter of 2020 was one of the most challenging times in my career; the top priority at Danfoss very quickly became — and remains — keeping our employees healthy and safe, but we were seeing a sharp decline in sales and needed to manage the business in a different way. In short order, we were able to reconfigure our production lines to safeguard employees and we flexed to homeworking wherever possible. I am proud to report that, despite all the challenges and a new way of working, we successfully maintained our service levels to our customers, and this has been reflected in our customer surveys.
Engineered Systems: While the COVID-19 pandemic has left a trail of terror, Danfoss has quite a few successes to report, including the rebranding of Danfoss Sensing Solutions. Other exciting announcements include the release of the Turbocor VTX, Danfoss’s largest oil-free compressor, and the Danfoss CO2 Adaptive Liquid Management solution being named the 2020 AHR Expo Innovation Awards Product of the Year. Can you touch on these accomplishments and share your favorite achievement of the last 12-18 months?
Galyen: We are dedicated and work hard every day to help our customers and the industry meet changing market requirements, including those around energy efficiency and the transition to lower GWP refrigerants. I am honored and proud that Danfoss has been the recipient of 30 AHR Innovation Award recognitions over the past 17 years, including three wins in 2020: We were named a finalist and earned our third Product of the Year award.
Engineered Systems: Does Danfoss have anything exciting cooking in R&D that you can share?
Galyen: We are committed to investing heavily in R&D across our various business areas. We are focused on supporting the transition to lower GWP refrigerants and providing components or solutions to improve energy efficiency.
Right now, we’re investing in key areas like digitalization, electrification, and decarbonization and in solutions that address climate change. We hope to have exciting achievements to share when AHR Expo returns in 2023 in Las Vegas.
Engineered Systems: What unheralded HVACR technology will have the grandest impact on comfort 10 years from now?
Galyen: I’ve believed for several years now in the idea of “variable-speed everything.” Variable-speed or variable-capacity systems have the ability to deliver enhanced comfort but also improved performance, efficiency, and reliability. Plus, as we consider the post-pandemic world and implications for healthy buildings, variable-speed systems can help to achieve improved indoor environments by operating continuously and providing a steady stream of conditioned air to a space.
I also expect advances in heat exchanger technology to have a marked impact on what our industry can achieve in the coming years, including further improving energy efficiency and enabling the transition to low-GWP and flammable refrigerants by reducing refrigerant charge.
Engineered Systems: Personally and professionally, what are you most looking forward to over the next five years?
Galyen: Personally, I’m hoping that one or both of my daughters bless me with grandchildren.
Professionally, I am looking forward to seeing the evolution and impact of the investments Danfoss is making — in R&D, technology, and in building our organization. This is an important time in our business and industry, and I am committed to ensuring we remain a strong employer and are attracting and developing the right talent to carry the business forward.
Engineered Systems: As we wrap this up, I’ve got one final question here. If you could leave one lasting piece of advice for the engineers and facility managers reading this, what would it be?
Galyen: The work that you do is vitally important in shaping the future building stock, especially in regard to your ability to improve energy efficiency in the buildings, both new and existing, that you design and operate. Simply, building energy efficiency is the low-hanging fruit that will help move us closer to reaching our collective environment, resiliency, and climate goals, and you’re in an influential position to move the needle today through existing strategies and technology.
Engineered Systems: John, thank you so much for your time. If our audience is interested in connecting with you or Danfoss, where should they turn?