Hand dryer industry uncovered
Electronic Specifier talked to Matt Anderson, CEO of Velair, to gain insight into the hand dryer industry. Velair was established in 2012 and supply over 200 businesses. Here, he answers questions around the evolution of the industry and the effects of the pandemic on it.
Hand dryers have been around for years with little signs of innovations. How is the industry changing?
The industry has changed a great deal since the introduction of hand dryers. Hand dryers have become much more hygienic in terms of filtrations; HEPA filtration, Ionisation as well as becoming so much more energy efficient. When hand dryers were first introduced into UK they were running on 2.3kW engines, which meant they would cost the user over £100 a year to run, they now run on 300w engines, that’s 0.3kW, cVosting just £6 a year.
What is the story behind Velair? Why did you decide to enter the hand dryer industry?
I had just sold a Green supply chain business and was asked to do some work in the US for a hand dryer manufacturer based in Barcelona, called Veltia. When I came back from the US, they asked if I’d be interested in doing a joint venture with them, which is how I got started in the hand dryer industry, nearly 10 years ago. We still take their product now, the only difference is the company is no longer a joint venture. It is solely owned by me.
What differentiates your products from others in the market?
This is the golden question. If you’d have asked me this three years ago, the answer would have been around our quality, our robust supply chain and compliance. However, now, it would be the introduction of our Plug and Play system, which was a project that took us two and a half years to introduce, as well as our own IP, our own moulds and contracted manufacturers. It’s changed the way we offer hand drying to our customers; reseller partners. Our true differentiation in this market is the fact we have something that is more of a solution sale, and no one else has that.
Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call to hand drying manufacturers?
Hand dryers got a harsh deal in COVID. Paper companies have a phenomenal amount of market share, money, and a lot to lose, and pre-COVID, hand dryers were starting to creep into those paper sales; COVID saw this decrease. COVID, however has driven hand dryer manufacturers to look more and more into ways of ensuring hand hygiene, and with this you see the introduction of things like Ozone generators and UVC lamps in hand dryers, there to kill and bacteria and virus’. HEPA filter’s, which have been around for some time and introduced by Dyson, allow for cleaner air coming out of the unit than what came in, and takes out lots of nasty virus’, bacteria, pollen and dust found in the washroom, therefor leaving you with clean hands. I think that the way forward is to have a hand dryer which gives you 100% clean air; virus and bacteria free, and COVID has made that more of a priority for hand dryer manufacturers.
Who is buying your products and what do they expect from the modern hand dryer? Are they surprised by how much the product has changed?
Veliar and Everything Hand Dryers only sell B2B, so we work through partners. One of the big pulls for partners to work with us (we’ve been working with most of them for six to ten years) is the innovation. We want to innovate. When we introduced the Plug and Play system with the Pebble and Pebble Mini it was interesting to see some reactions, but they were all positive, as they make their life easier. We always want to be at the be at the top of design and innovation, and having had the business for ten years has allowed us to actually get to that point, where we have the ability to manufacture our own units, produce our own moulds and work on the designs, based on the feedback we receive from some of the large companies we work with.
What can we expect the future of hand dryers to look like?
We have to remember a couple of things; one of them that the hand dryer market is not a big market; its worth around £50m a year in the UK, and the UK is a really mature market. You go the US, and there aren’t many hand dryers sold- it’s paper driven. All that limits what the manufacturers will spend, as, for most manufacturers, it’s about their return on investment. As far as what hand dryers will look like going forward, I think they will have a system within them that allows for greater hygiene protocol to be in place. In terms of energy efficiency, I don’t think much will change because the units are already so efficient. I do, however, think you will see them become much more efficient in terms of how long they’re on the wall for, as well as slicker designs. The range of hand dryers will decrease- there are 1000’s of hand dryers for such a small market, which isn’t particularly required. For the hand drying paternity, the future is bright, you’re looking at eight percent growth a year globally.