Daikin wins Lifetime Achievement Trophy for bringing a breath of fresh air to Flanders since 1973

One of the first Japanese companies ever to invest in Flanders, air conditioning specialist Daikin has been firmly anchored in the region since 1973. During the past 45+ years, the Japanese firm has expanded its activities in Flanders to include hubs in the cities of Ghent and Brussels. In addition, Daikin set up an R&D department in Ostend that functions as the entire group’s knowledge center on heating devices. The Japanese multinational even turned its Ostend offices into the group’s EMEA headquarters. Highlighting these efforts, Daikin will receive the Lifetime Achievement Trophy during Flanders Investment & Trade’s annual Foreign Investment Trophy event on March 18, 2019.

What made it all possible? Innovation. Frans Hoorelbeke, chairman at Daikin Europe: “For Daikin, innovation equals growth. It’s by coming up with new products, methods and technologies that we find promising ways to tackle environmental and energy challenges, while simultaneously responding to market trends.”

“We owe the Lifetime Achievement Trophy to our amazing people, so I want to thank them for all their efforts. I’m thrilled to be taking this trophy home to the Daikin family!” — Frans Hoorelbeke, chairman at Daikin Europe.

The icing on the cake

It’s not the first time that Daikin’s investment efforts in Flanders have been a breath of fresh air. Two years ago, a substantial EUR 25.5 million investment – part of which went to adding two ultramodern testing rooms at its R&D center – earned the company a nomination for FIT’s 2017 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy. In the same year, Daikin Europe also won a Factory of the Future Award, issued by local technology federation Agoria.

“These awards mean a lot to us,” Frans explains. “For our Japanese headquarters, they symbolize Flanders’ acknowledgement of Daikin’s dedication as the largest employer in Ostend. It’s a sign of respect that is greatly appreciated.”

The perfect climate for success

Initially, Daikin started its European operations in Malta. However, once business started taking off, the company decided to move its local headquarters and set up a production facility elsewhere. After considering regions with high-potential investing conditions, Daikin decided to put down roots in Ostend, Flanders in 1973.

“The decision was influenced by several key benefits,” Frans explains. “Flanders and Ostend are just a hop away from the UK, one of the largest European markets, while still being on the European mainland. The region’s infrastructure also makes it well-connected. Add to that a workforce that is not only loyal and hardworking, but diplomatic and highly educated as well, and it’s easy to see why Flanders ended up being the ideal home for our EMEA headquarters.”

Adding real value

Daikin has been a star in the firmament of Flanders’ corporate landscape for over 45 years. During this time, the ambitious company focused on setting up and expanding the group’s global R&D center and a production facility that co-generates 80% of Daikin’s sales in Europe. “Producing locally in Flanders is a crucial competitive advantage for Daikin, as it allows us to respond quickly and flexibly to market needs,” Frans explains. “Our Japanese headquarters in Osaka sees our Flanders-based site as one of the group’s most important production footholds, as it excels in manufacturing products with high added value.”

The growth saga continues

Over the past decades, Daikin Europe saw its turnover skyrocket from EUR 5 million to EUR 2.8 billion, EUR 85 million of which in Flanders. Its employee count grew from 68 to nearly 2,040 strong in Flanders, of which 1,700 are employed at the Ostend headquarters. Furthermore, Daikin Europe opened offices in Ghent and Brussels, in addition to 20 factories all over the European continent. The company even set up its very own Daikin Europe Academy in Ostend, an internal training center that enables employees and business partners to hone their skills.

What’s more, Daikin’s growth in Flanders shows no signs of losing steam. On the contrary: the company has a five-year plan in the works that showcases its ambition. By 2020, Daikin’s EMEA headquarters aims to achieve a turnover of more than EUR 4 billion. “It’s not an idle dream, if we keep believing and working hard,” Frans asserts. “We recently finalized a very important strategic acquisition in the refrigeration sector and we achieved an average growth rate of 8% over the last 5 years – acquisitions not included. It’s safe to say we’re on the right track.”

Celebration is in the air

Highlighting the importance of Daikin’s investment efforts in the region, the company will be presented with the Lifetime Achievement Trophy during FIT’s Foreign Investment Trophy event on 18 March 2019.

The trophy will be accepted by a Daikin delegation consisting of colleagues from all divisions of the company. Frans: “We owe the Lifetime Achievement Trophy to our amazing people, so I want to thank them for all their efforts. I’m thrilled to be taking this trophy home to the Daikin family!”

Delve into the history of Daikin in Flanders

  • 1973: Daikin first sets up activities in Ostend, Flanders.
  • 1991-93: the Ostend site is expanded from 5,000 m² to 25,000 m².
  • 1992-2012: Daikin Europe acquires ±20 distributors in Europe and the Middle East.
  • 2016: Daikin Europe wins the ‘Factory of the Future’ award for its people-centric and innovative approach.
  • 2016: Daikin Europe invests EUR 25.5 million in Flanders – part of which went to building two ultramodern testing rooms at its R&D center – and is nominated for FIT’s 2017 Foreign Investment of the Year Trophy.
  • 2018: Daikin Europe strategically acquires AHT for EUR 881 million.
  • 2019: Daikin Europe wins FIT’s Lifetime Achievement Trophy.