Take 10 minutes out with Johann Schwanner, CEO of Schwanner GmbH, as he discusses the company’s operations and areas of focus, as well as his day-to-day duties.
Schwanner also explains why space exploration is behind the main project the company is working on right now.
Thanks for taking 10 minutes out with gasworld. What is on your schedule today?
10 minutes is indeed a lot in my world. However, I must say, I’m proud of what our company has grown into over the years through hard work and dedication, so I’m always happy to talk about it and get in touch with professionals who share the same field of interest. At this moment, I am working out technical and logistical details about a new LNG project. Its dimensions are a company record, so it needs a major part of my attention.
Could you tell us about the company’s operations and its area of focus?
120 years ago, my grandfather founded this company as a small forge. While it was mainly metal construction at the beginning, the focus shifted towards vacuum technology almost 30 years ago. Over the decades, we became increasingly proficient in the technical realisation of vacuum super insulated transfer lines for cryogenic fluids.
With liquid natural gas being pushed more and more into the forefront globally, we see it as our duty as veterans in the field to deliver technical solutions consistently, as the demands on transfer distances and pipe diameters are moving up the scale. In the course of our latest project for example, we produced 12km of pipes with a diameter of 28 inches. This would not sound like a lot, if it would be regular pipelines, without super insulation and a perfectly leak-free vacuum coat protecting the liquid natural gas inside the inner pipe from heat ingress.
It was an enormous project, and it was the practical prove that we can built transfer lines without theoretical limits. While this all sounds like we only make pipes, this is not exactly true. Our product line contains other cryogenic components, like cryostats, phase separators, degassers, filling systems and thermal plates. These are not assembly line products, but individually adapted constructions made by highly skilled workers from scratch. The main theme stays the same, cryotechnology.
Tell us about your day-to-day duties…
My day-to-day duties are very versatile, and I am glad about that. Of course, I follow the typical to-do list of a CEO, from preparing bids, supervising projects financially, channeling our middle management, to cultivating our business contacts. Nevertheless, I am also a passionate mechanical engineer and welding engineer, so I am still very much involved in the technical planning process. One may ask how metal pipes can be a passion – ask around in my company, it is contagious.
What is the best thing about working for Schwanner GmbH?
That is an easy one. We are a family company with a long story. So all the different processes had enough time to develop, improve and become very efficient. Everybody is dedicated to the job, and we have cultivated a form of open and personal communication among co-workers that makes the day-to-day business very smooth. Clients also realise that, and the feedback is consistently positive. Therefore, we want to stick to this process, whatever the future will bring in terms of the companies dimensions.
What was your dream job as a child?
As most of the kids growing up in the Bavarian countryside, I dreamed of becoming a firefighter. However, I also grew up in the immediate vicinity of the family business, and it did not take long for me to find my purpose. At 10 years of age, I painted the company’s walls, now I am nagging about the bad paint job!
What’s the main project you’re working on at Schwanner GmbH now?
Our largest project at this moment is the construction of the fuel supply lines for the new Ariane 6 rocket, which will be implemented at the spaceport in French Guyana. It will be fed with liquid oxygen and hydrogen directly via our vacuum super insulated pipelines. Naturally, every single part of it must fulfill the highest demands in terms of quality and safety. We are helping to bring a space rocket to life, a fascinating project.
Who or what was the biggest influence in your career so far?
Good question. I would say my family surroundings play the biggest role here.
What’s next for Schwanner GmbH?
We will definitely play an important role in the future of LNG technology. We have the manpower, the expertise and the motivation to be a part of it and keep it that way. We will be open to growth, and we will stick to our company’s culture to make this happen in a healthy and sustainable way. Another 120 years is an ambitious goal, but thinking in the long-term is what makes a company survive even harder times.