Adrian Grancea: Highberg Solution is committed to consistent and sustainable growth

Miruna Macsim 04/06/2024 | 13:57

Romania’s industrial sector encompasses lesser-known segments, within which local companies have found success in exporting their products. One of them is Highberg Solution, a manufacturer of liquid and powder storage tanks. With 16 years of experience, the company has become an important player on the markets of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Near East, in both public and private projects.

By Aurel Dragan

 

The tanks produced are individually designed for each project, meet all quality standards, and comply with the strictest international design, production, and installation criteria. Highberg Solution constantly invests in technology and equipment for product quality, thus guaranteeing the quality of each tank component, while the entire process is carried out in-house. Business Review talked to Adrian Grancea, the COO of Highberg Solution, to find out more about the company.

Highberg has a 16-year history and has established itself as a major player on the storage tank market. Where did the idea for this business come from and what are the key requirements for operating on this market?

Highberg started out as an extremely niche startup, based on a major market need for the storage of liquids of any kind and the enormous costs of operating and maintaining old concrete tanks. It quickly became a benchmark of innovation and scalability at the global level. The vision of Highberg’s founder, who is also the CEO, and the evaluation of the new technologies available on foreign markets at that time on this segment were also reinforced by the trust of internal and external partners, which generated much-needed cashflow support, with absolutely everything developing based on a banal personal needs loan.

In this line of business, performance means discretion in the continuous development of new technical storage solutions, which are adapted to the most demanding requirements on special projects. When you complete a project and require minimum interaction from the client or investor, everyone is happy. The most important attribute in this line of business is professionalism, which is not accompanied by fanfare; professionals do not make unnecessary noise, they know exactly what they have to do: come in, create the solution, execute the project, and move on to the next one.

The second very important element is the consulting we provide to clients regarding the versatility of storing several types of liquids needed in different technological processes, with the main component being the analysis of their development vision in space and time, including a very clear understanding of the operations in their production flow. And last but not least, we offer a major reduction of maintenance costs throughout the lifecycle of the equipment—the main element of business development.

What were your turnover and profit in 2023? How has turnover evolved over the years?

Highberg Solution is committed to sustainable and consolidated growth. Year after year, we endeavour to establish our identity on relatively virgin markets and to develop innovations that generate not only turnover growth, but also exemplary know-how. We do not want to speak about account figures, which are public; our position as a major European player on the liquid storage systems market has consolidated in recent years, with exports holding a share of about 75% of our total production.

How big is the market for liquid and powder storage tanks in Romania and Europe? How big is the competition on this market?

The Romanian market is not at all neglected by Highberg Solution: the company mainly operates in one of the two existing segments, namely private capital investment, with a smaller part of public and European money in the area of water supply and sewerage infrastructure in villages and towns. What keeps us on the edge of activation in the second segment has been and will remain the way this market has been built and segregated over time, defined by the well-known criterion of the lowest price, which generates a total lack of vision on the costs of operating and maintaining these storage reservoirs. Clearly, on such a precarious market, competition does not represent any sustainable economic value, as this is merely a vortex of public money for the other 14-15 companies in this segment.

The proof of the “quality” is very clear from the following description: about 15 years ago, the cost of a tank was 30-40% higher than it is now, their repairs started about 1-2 years ago, and now Highberg Solution is required to carry out major interventions to repair drinking water storage tanks produced by “competitors,” some of which are not even out of warranty. There’s a relevant saying here: “when some players get up from the table, the real players start the game.”

The process and timing of Highberg Solution’s expansion on the European market was the basis of this common practice of doing things cheaply and quickly on the domestic market, which led us to make the leap to real competition, adapting to a new type of business, which involves annual audits and international certifications, such as: FM APPROVALS, TUV THURINGEN, NFPA, VdS, etc., which follow high performance processes of design, production, and assembly, from concept and design to traceability, as well as quality controls based on sampling with load tests in accredited labs, and so on.

This new continuous reshaping of internal procedures, generated by the demands of the international market, defines Highberg Solution as an important player on this niche market segment, where true competition that is based on performance, quality, and sustainability becomes a real value that is absolutely necessary in the development of any company.

We do not rely on press releases or boasting about figures in public, but at this moment we can assure you that 98-99% of the national export of these industrial liquid storage tanks to European and international markets have the Highberg Solution identity.

What are the biggest challenges on this market? How easy is it to find customers for the tanks?

The market is slightly atypical, as customers come with a lot of proposals and challenges in terms of processes and storage solutions and are open to new tank concepts with very short lead times and outstanding industrial design that can be integrated in an extremely user-friendly fashion into any landscape.

Highberg Solution constantly invests in researching new technologies to meet these new challenges, with a weekly in-house “innovation and concept” session. Our pricing policy and the ergonomics and versatility of the systems we offer to our clients, combined with the consultancy and quality of our equipment, have led many companies we don’t know about to seek us out, most often through recommendations.

Where do you source your raw materials? How much variation is involved in designing different types of tanks?

We work with carefully selected manufacturers on the European market, which requires thorough auditing to assess the risks, quality, and traceability of the raw materials we need to purchase. Quality control upon acceptance of the goods in our warehouse is carried out by evaluating quality documents, associated with metallographic tests in internationally authorised labs, and in the case of non-ferrous raw materials, verification is carried out by subjecting them to load tests that are specific to each type of material.

We use materials such as vitrified steel (fused with glass or Fusion Bond EPOXY), stainless steel, structural steel, corten, etc., as well as premium materials from the non-ferrous range. The entire supply chain is carefully designed and engineered to meet the highest demands.

Indeed, there are totally different design and manufacturing requirements for different types of tanks, depending on the type of liquid stored, all the parameters of the liquid in the technological process, from its temperature and density—which can change—to the expansion coefficients of the material from which the tank is made. Our ability to meet our customers’ needs for the storage of several types of liquids in the same storage unit is the thing that really makes us stand out on the international market.

You have chosen to develop organically over the years. Why didn’t you go for more aggressive marketing or acquisitions?

Aggressive marketing in this niche and in certain situations can limit your ability to innovate, which can help you internationalise your business much more easily. It will clearly generate financial growth, but also reduce your ability to take on new challenges and come up with revolutionary storage concepts. Organic development generates a much broader analysis capacity of the proposed technical solutions and a clearly more efficient risk assessment process.

How are you adapting to the new sustainability principles (ESG)? How do they affect your business?

At the moment we cover quite a lot of ESG principles, mainly in the environmental area, but also in the areas of governance and social policies. The direction of the EU and beyond is very clear and the implementation of ESG, which is becoming a necessity, will need to be monitored and continuously improved. This will be based on a very careful evaluation and scoring system for economic operator. We do not see a problem in adapting to these conditions, as long as we are talking about years in a generally valid economic system. What’s much more complex is adapting to new markets with totally atypical characteristics, where the timeframe is expressed in weeks or months.

We believe that before reaching this goal of Net Zero Emissions, as well as adopting all the other social and governmental policies, personal performance will be the only factor that will differentiate the members of this highly integrated Highberg Solution team.

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Miruna Macsim | 06/06/2024 | 16:28
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