Wilo began its international business in the 1960s with a friendship and a separation. Over the next decades, the Dortmund-based company evolved into an international corporation. Today, Wilo has 15 international main production sites, and more are being built. With more than 80 production and sales companies, Wilo is represented around the globe.
It took almost one hundred years for the company to take the first step beyond the German border and into Belgium. Wilhelm and Dr Jochen Opländer were personal friends of manufacturer Maurice Courbain. Courbain operated a small pump factory near Brussels, had reached an advanced age and did not have a suc- cessor. Wilo took over Courbain’s business in 1967 and established it as its first international branch.
However, there was a stumbling block hindering further international expansion: the Rütschi license. It had been granted country by country and obliged each national licensee to restrict themselves to their home market. This regional cartel prevented the international sale of the Perfecta, of which Wilo was the most successful producer. This started to be a serious disadvantage as compared to the budding competition that was not tied to Rütschi. Dr Jochen Opländer therefore decided to terminate the license. This allowed Wilo to freely expand on the international stage as from 1968. Over the next decade and a half, Wilo established a growing network of international subsidaries in Europe.
The company’s involvement in Greece opened up a new market and was an important step for Wilo. The branch was founded at the beginning of the 1970s by two Greek men, Mr Kurinis and Mr Katsantonis. The lat-ter had thought up a clever marketing and sales strategy for the market entry. With the help of friends, he phoned wholesalers and retailers for building services in Greece to order a particular Wilo pump. They then said: “Sorry, we don’t carry Wilo pumps. We only have such and such a pump.” “But we would like a Wilo pump.” Hundreds of these phone calls were made, which gave the impression that there was already a huge demand for Wilo products in Greece. It did not take long for this strategy to cause the majority of retailers to carry Wilo pumps. And not only that, Wilo also became the market leader in Greece. Due to the high import tax, Wilo de- cided to build a small pump factory in Greece in order to offer its products at a decent price.
One milestone on the path to becoming a global corporation was the acquisition of Pompes Salmson in 1984, which was then the largest French pump manufacturer. Salmson was an established brand in France and many African markets. The Wilo management decided not to follow many a piece of advice and continued to trade the French pumps under their previous name. This created trust and solidarity. The integration process was only completed in 2018, when Salmson became Wilo. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, Wilo quickly expanded into Eastern Europe.
The new millennium started with Wilo opening a factory in South Korea, where Wilo has an extraordinarily strong market position to this day. The company increasingly proceeded to not only found subsidiaries, but also erect local production sites. One of the most important steps on this path was the construction of the factory in Noginsk, near Moscow. Wilo started production on-site in 2016, and the Russian government classified Wilo as systemically relevant in 2020. This title was granted only to a small number of non-Russian companies. The company continued to take great steps in the new millennium.
Wilo established itself in China and is continuing to further expand its business there. As part of the corporate strategy, Beijing is being developed into the second of three global headquarters with its own production in two locations. Aside from China, Wilo has gained a foothold with sales and production sites in the billion-dollar market of India. The acquisition of Mather & Platt in 2005, a strong local producer, was an important step in this endeavour. In the medium term, the third global headquarters is being established in the USA. With the acquisitions of Scot, Weil, American-Marsh Pumps and QuantumFlo, Wilo has greatly expanded its business in the USA. Subsidiaries in the Middle East, Africa, Australia and South America were added.