Tracing the journey towards trust and technical excellence

As he welcomes a new chapter, Mats Sándor reflects on a 30-year career dedicated to supporting Systemair’s growth into a leading manufacturer by helping trust and technical excellence.

It’s been a privilege to be part of the immense journey that Systemair has undertaken,” says Mats Sándor. With his designated retirement date on the horizon, Mats, who holds the position of Senior Technical Director, is welcoming the new chapter by reflecting on how he has seen Systemair grow from having 80 employees at the time he joined to 6,700 people today. “The most interesting thing has been to see the transformation from a small company with a few products to an internationally significant player in the HVAC industry with thousands of products,” he adds.

Paving the way: Karl-Olov Ferm from Bureau Veritas hands over the certificate to Mats Sándor, as proof that Systemair, known as LHG Kanalfläð AB at the time, passed the certification under the quality standard ISO 9001 (Sweden, 1993)

Establishing one of the first third-party accredited laboratories in Europe

Throughout his 30-year-long career with Systemair, Mats says that building trust, technical excellence and transparency has always been the focus of his path. “I was hired in 1989 with the task of building Systemair‘s first acoustics and air technology laboratory,” he says. “Even then, with only 80 employees, the management realised that a laboratory was important in being able to develop products and deliver correct technical data. A few years later, we were one of the first in Europe to third-party accredit our laboratory by AMCA [Air Movement and Control Association].”

Since then, Mats through Systemair, has continued strong collaboration with AMCA and many association bodies across the world. “The purpose of thirdparty certification of a laboratory is partly to get some neutral function to annually assess the accuracy and correctness of measurements for our own purpose and to create confidence in our customers that reported technical data is correct,” he says. “Today, we have 15 Technical Centres in the Systemair group. One of the tasks at the Technical Center is to carry out correct measurements of our products for use in publishing in catalogues, fan selection programs or websites. 4 of our Technical Centres are accredited by AMCA.

With these investments, Mats highlights how Systemair, early on, started to develop its systems for data acquisition and database for technical information. “It was an important part in efficiently and securely storing and publishing technical data,” he says. “During our growth as a group, we had a ready-made concept to be brought out and used by our subsidiaries. It also helped us to be among the first to develop dynamic diagrams for our products, which are almost standard today for ventilation products.

Aside from the construction of the laboratory, Mats was also working towards another first: leading a project to build a quality assurance system according to ISO 9001. Systemair was an early adopter in Europe with one of the first certifications in the HVACR industry segment in 1993 in Sweden. “Today, it is almost standard for all companies to have a quality and environmentally certified system,” he says, adding that Systemair was one of the first in Europe in our industry segment to achieve this.

A heartfelt farewell: Technical managers and experts within the Systemair group say good-bye to Mats as he steps away from day-to-day work to focus on his duties within the board (Sweden, 2019)

Navigating innovation amid international growth

The work towards data collection and verification is a supporting pillar in the company’s relentless drive to innovate, a process that Mats knows very well, being made responsible for R&D at Systemair 1998. As the company grew through increased turnover and company acquisitions, Mats, along with the rest of the department, had to navigate and optimise, the new collaborations.

Efficiency, the speed of reacting to market demands and new opportunities are the great advantages of small technical groups close to the market and production compared to a larger concentrated technology unit,” he says.

“However, this also places higher demands on cohesion and communication within the group to make the best use of knowledge and tools,” Mats says. This approach, he adds, is what makes the growth and integration of new technology groups not only possible but successful and integral to the growth of the company.

Reaching new heights: Mats at 5585 m on the way to the summit of Aconcagua, a mountain in the Principal Cordillera of the Andes mountain range in Argentina.

“A crucial function was a process for continuous strategic product planning for all product groups,” he explains. “With a dispersed technology group, control of which products are to be developed, where they are to be developed, which resources are to be used and when in time it is to take place is a decisive factor.” This, Mats recalls, laid the foundation for creating the Strategic Product development Process [SPP] that we have been using since 2006.” Under this process, they hold regular meetings across all product areas, strategically plan the future product range, and coordinate activities between the technology groups.

“We also have a product development process that extends from the strategic product planning through the technical product development to the launch of a new product, which we call the process ‘Time To Market Chain’,” he says. Supported by good cohesion and communication, Mats says these pave the way for an effective technology organisation of many smaller technology groups highlighting how part of successful product development is to create close ties with our sub-suppliers and together build knowledge through mutual exchange.”

Today, we are 250 technicians distributed among 24 technology groups in 18 countries on 3 continents,” he says.

Working to address current and future needs – the way forward

With the initiatives and processes in place, Mats asserts that market knowledge is another fundamental part of successful product development, because a clear understanding of the market‘s current and future needs is critical. “Part of this is the knowledge of the requirements that will be placed on future products,” he says. “This is why we have and will continue to be involved in standardisation work and the development of new regulations, both at national and international levels.”

For Mats, this is something he personally believes in. “I started getting involved in this early on and saw it as an essential part of Systemair‘s success,” he says. An example Mats shares is his eight years on AMCA‘s board, working to make the association more international. “When I joined AMCA‘s board, I was the only board member from outside North America,” he recalls. “Now there are 6 from outside North America and 7 from North America.”

Such activities are critical, he says, as it allows them to participate and influence the legislators with knowledge of better future solutions and products and aligns with the group’s commitment and knowledge acquisition with suppliers, trade associations, authorities, and research intuitions and not least, the knowledge from all customers. This, he says, is particularly important given everything that is happening within the regulatory framework around sustainability, energy, and the environment, which continues to rapidly change, becoming stricter within a few years. ”It has been to our advantage,” he says. “Partly because we received information about changes early on and were able to participate and influence, also because we have a head start in the technical know-how required to develop the products that meet the future requirements.”

A creative commute: Mats has been known to opt for unique ways to get to work - running, cycling, paddling, and speed skating on the ice. Here, he is pictured on his kayak paddling 10 km to the office.

A new chapter and the way forward

The fruits of these efforts can be seen in Systemair’s current active role in 74 industry organisations and standardisation bodies both to get information and influence, both as individual players and with companies or organisations. As a crucial example, Mats discusses how Systemair has successfully influenced parts of the European Ecodesign Directive for the better. “Part of this work has also been collaborating closely with institutions and organisations researching our field,” he says. “This covers innovation in IAQ, sensor technology, fan technology and thermal conductivity, and is why we can develop efficient products with the right technology that meet the current and future demands of the market.”

Sharing his future projections, Mats believes that requirements will go from products to systems and the indoor environment. “Making demands on the finished ventilation system, construction, installation, and operation will significantly improve overall energy efficiency,” he says. “There will also be greater demands on the internal environment, such as IAQ and sound, which makes it essential how ventilation is done in a building. Developing smart sensors will be necessary, leading to new business models.”

The future of our product area looks bright, says Mats. With an increased focus on the environment, which places both higher demands on more energy-efficient buildings and a better indoor environment, Mats issues a reminder for colleagues in the HVAC sector that the ventilation industry is so crucial to the health and well-being of so many.

Most of our products create better conditions for people,” he underlines, “Remember: that‘s something to be proud of!”

Nothing beats fresh air: A true lover of the nature and the outdoors, Mats strands triumphantly at the end of a training session on a mountain top in the sun coast, near Malaga, Spain.