More than clean air

Interview with Michael Seitz, Head of Extraction Technology at AL-KO THERM GMBH

Michael Seitz, Head of Extraction Technology at AL-KO THERM GMBH
Michael Seitz, Head of Extraction Technology at AL-KO THERM GMBH

AL-KO THERM GMBH is the specialist for the production and distribution of AL-KO Airtech ventilation and extraction systems, located in Jettingen-Scheppach near Augsburg. Airtech includes AL-KO Air Technology and AL-KO Extraction Technology. These business units develop and produce customized ventilation systems as well as a wide range of industrial extraction systems for various applications. What began in 1931 as a small village blacksmith's shop is today a global brand. The Economic Forum spoke with Michael Seitz, Head of Extraction Technology, about what the claim 'More than clean air' means.

Economic Forum: Mr. Seitz, "More than clean air" is your motto. What products and solutions lie behind this?

Michael Seitz: We offer a complete range in the fields of air conditioning and ventilation technology, as well as extraction technology. The former includes ventilation devices, including compact decentralized ventilation units, mobile air purifiers, and air heating and cooling devices, all of which are perfectly adapted to the respective place of use. The second area includes extraction and filtration plants for chips, dust, welding fumes, paint mist, and many other substances that can impair health in the workplace.

Economic Forum: Let us share in the history of AL-KO Airtech. Your company operates under the name AL-KO but has belonged to a US technology group since last year. How did this come about?

Michael Seitz: AL-KO was founded by Alois Kober as a small locksmith shop in 1931. The focus was initially on vehicle technology for agricultural machinery and, since the 1960s, also on garden technology. The air technology sector was added in 1975 and was sold in 2022 to the US company Trane Technologies. Since then, we have been an independent company that is still allowed to use the AL-KO brand. Trane Technologies describes itself as a 'global climate innovator' and provides innovative solutions that optimize indoor climate through a broad portfolio of room climate and air conditioning solutions, energy and sustainability services, and building automation systems. AL-KO Airtech has long been known for quality, innovation, and sustainable solutions. Together with Trane Technologies, we continue to support our customers in achieving their goals in the areas of heating, cooling, ventilation, and indoor air quality.

AL-KO THERM Headquarters
AL-KO THERM GMBH is one of the leading specialists in ventilation equipment and extraction systems throughout Europe
AL-KO THERM Extraction Technology
CAPiTA, Europe's largest snowboard producer, has invested in new extraction technology: with solutions from AL-KO Airtech

Economic Forum: At the Blechexpo/Schweisstec trade fair, you just presented a new mobile welding fume filter. What is special about it?

Michael Seitz: The new CLEAN UNIT F series removes smoke gases even during manual welding. The devices have a long filter life, a wide range of applications, and are extremely quiet and energy-efficient despite their high suction power. Dust disposal is also very simple and functional.

Economic Forum: Can you give examples of where your devices are used?

Michael Seitz: We are active in very different markets, from industry and commerce to healthcare and retail, to leisure facilities. Our ventilation devices are used for air conditioning in hotel buildings, soccer stadiums, exhibition halls, airports, and train stations. These are mostly individual solutions within the scope of project business that far exceed the conventional area. We are talking here about air volumes starting from 6,000 m3 per hour, with no upper limit. For example, the Schalke Arena: The challenge here is to create a good climate in very different areas, such as business areas and areas with fewer people. AL-KO Airtech ventilation devices are also used in the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. We enjoy a very good reputation in the market and are always technologically at the forefront.

Economic Forum: And the extraction technology sector?

Michael Seitz: Here, the focus, with around 70%, is on dust extraction systems for wood dust in carpentries, sawmills, and the furniture industry. A growth area is the extraction of smoke gases, where we want to position ourselves even more strongly in the future. In the case of extraction systems, we offer both plug-and-play standard solutions and completely customized solutions for industry and commerce. We are talking about systems that can be the size of a detached house. In this area too, we enjoy an excellent reputation and have many years of experience. In both areas, air and climate technology as well as extraction technology, we are among the top 5 manufacturers in Europe.

Economic Forum: Trane Technologies refers to itself as a ‘global climate innovator’, so I am very happy to ask: What are your most important foreign markets?

Michael Seitz: The German-speaking countries as well as the Benelux countries, France, and Scandinavia. We want to further intensify internationalization in Europe, but the core region remains the markets mentioned above. In addition, the US market will probably become more interesting through our parent company Trane Technologies.

Economic Forum: What would you describe as the essential factors for your success?

Michael Seitz: We are always at the forefront technologically, always have our ear to the market, even at the association level. AL-KO Airtech is among the innovation drivers in ventilation, air conditioning, and extraction technology. It is necessary to show presence, recognize directions early, always be one step ahead.

Economic Forum: What are your goals for the coming year?

Michael Seitz: In the area of dust extraction, we want to position ourselves even more broadly. We come from the classic wood area, but now there are many other areas where our know-how is in demand. For example, in the industry for extracting smoke gases or in the recycling and bulk material sector – everywhere where dust must be extracted. Here, it is about occupational safety solutions. We want to offer complete solutions instead of just products, true to our company motto 'More than clean air'.