DESMI History from 1834 till now in details

The Founder


The founder of DESMI Henning Smith, or as his birth certificate reveals, Henning Jacobsen Smed was born on January 1st 1792 in Trangsstræde in Randers. His father, metal worker Jacob Michelsen Smed (1742-1794), was left a widower in March 1786 with 4 children. In December 1789 he married Kirsten Hennigsdatter, who had been widowed the previous September. Together they had two sons – Lars Jacobsen Smed (born in 1789) and Henning Jacobsen Smed (born in 1792).

Henning Smith was only 2 years old when his father died on January 30th 1794. This same year his mother married the skilled smith from Jacob Michelsen Smed’s smithy, Niels Jørgensen (born in 1765). Niels and Kirsten renovated and modernized the smithy and doubled the number of employees from 3 to 6. At the same time Kirsten rented out rooms for 5 students from the local latin school. Henning Smith was raised here among latin students and smiths. This experience undoubtedly shaped him and provided him with some of the many skills he was praised for in his obituary from 1856: ’An Insightful Problem Solver’.

Goldsmith Henning Smith

Goldsmith Henning Smith was born in Randers in 1792 and died in Aalborg in 1856. On December 21st 1833, he received a royal privilege to open an iron foundry in Aalborg. This picture is a daguerreotype from around 1850

On December 21, 1833, the Aalborg citizen Henning Smith, Gold- & Silversmith, was granted the Royal privilege to start an iron foundry in Aalborg. Henning Smith sat up his iron foundry in Algade 54, vis-à-vis the Cathedral of Budolfi, where stoves, kitchen ranges, windows etc. were made.

Already in 1848 the activities were split into foundry and machinery works with a total of 47 employees. At that time the population of Aalborg was approx. 8,000 and A/S De Smithske was the second largest industrial enterprise in the city.

In 1875 the business moved to bigger and better facilities at Vesterbro, close to where the Aalborg Congress Center is today. The same year Denmark passed its first Companies Act and the activities were immediately transformed into a Limited Company under the Registration no. 538. Thus today DESMI A/S is one of the oldest companies in Denmark.

Advertisement 1880

Back in 1880 DESMI produced products in cast iron - from spittoons to bread cutters to manual pumps – and here is an advertisement from De Smithske showing the many products produced back then.

From 1900 until 1970 the company also manufactured church bells, which was quite a unique trade. About half of 4,000 churches in the country were supplied with church bells from DESMI, and most of them are still in use today. In 1935 and 1936, foundry, machinery works and boiler shop were moved to the outskirts of the city at Annebergvej.

ROTAN® AD 1930

Advertisement for the rotating internal gear pump, ROTAN®, which was the basis for the machine workshop Myhrwols & Rasmussen in Copenhagen. The pump is described in an advertisement that was printed in 1930. The company had bought the patent from the inventor of the pump, Jens Nielsen, who had had the patent in Denmark since 1912. He took out the patent in USA in 1904. This was the beginning of what is one of the most important pump producers in the world today.

Poul Egenfeldt, Managing Director of A/S De Smithske from 01.01.1936 to 30.06.1970

Managing director Egenfeldt in the western boat harbour in Aalborg in July 1939 with a new diaphragm pump, which was the first pump De Smithske produced in batches – but not the last one by far.

Today, DESMI produces approx. 15,000 centrifugal pumps and ROTAN Internal gear pumps each year for various industries.

Niche Markets in WW2

During the many years of operation new niche markets was discovered and during the 2nd World war DESMI produced various machines like this peat forming machine you can see on the picture.

De Smithske’s peat forming machine in the bog Store Vildmose, northwest of Aalborg, in 1943. This machine was one of the most important export items to Finland, Holland and especially Ireland in the period 1945-1949.

DESMI also produced this Peat digger you can see in action in the bog, Store Vildmose in 1943. The diggers were used all over the country during the Second World War from 1940-1945. After the war the machines were exported to foreign markets.


Pumps lined up

Small self-priming horizontal centrifugal pumps for readiness and defense purposes, 1947.

At the industrial exhibition in Copenhagen in 1954, De Smithske presented an expanded selection of self-priming centrifugal pumps produced in batches.

De Smithske’s shop at Boulevarden in the centre of Aalborg with all the employees and the shop manager Erik Lyngø on the far left. He was the last shop manager. The shop opened in Algade in June 1834. In 1876 it was moved to the Parrot Garden on Frederikskildevej, and finally it moved to Boulevarden in 1961.

Over the years the activities increased to a size that necessitated an expansion of the facilities, and in 1966 the blacksmith shop was moved to a newly built welding plant at Skydebanevej. On July 1, 1977 the foundry was closed down, and by the end of the same year the machine works, together with the subsidiary Skalborg Maskinfabrik A/S that manufactured gearboxes, moved to the present modern facilities at Tagholm 1, Nørresundby. 


At the same time the boiler shop was organized as a separate division - the Steel Division. The division was sold to Monberg & Thorsen in 1981. In 1979 Skalborg Maskinfabrik A/S merged with A/S De Smithske.

By the end of the 70´s DESMI started to develop and manufacture equipment for combating oil spills at sea. This business area has developed well and is today managed by the subsidiary DESMI Ro-Clean A/S. DESMI´s environmental equipment is recognized world-wide and is part of contingency planning in more than 60 countries.

In 1993/94 DESMI acquired the pump division, Thrige Pumper, from Thrige Titan A/S in Odense.
The activities and products of Thrige Pumper supplemented DESMI´s own business areas very well. One could say that Thrige Pumper´s main strength was "onshore" whilst DESMI´s main strength was "offshore". With the acquisition of Thrige Pumper the turnover and the number of employees were doubled. The motive behind the purchase and the merger of the two companies was the wish to create a strong company able to face the challenges of a still more competitive and internationally oriented business world.

The purchase of Thrige Pumper also included their German subsidiary, Rotan Pumpengesellschaft mbH. In 1999 DESMI took over the marine activities of its then distributor, Mess- und Fördertechnik. The name of Rotan Pumpengesellschaft mbH was at the same time changed to DESMI GmbH Rotan Pumpengesellschaft.

DESMI Ltd. was established in the U.K. in 1978, and in 1998 the acquisition of Rotan Pumps Ltd. in the U.K. took place.

DESMI Inc. was incorporated in Delaware on September 20, 1991 as the U.S. subsidiary of A/S De Smithske, with offices in Cleveland, Ohio. On January 1, 1994 the acquisition by DESMI of Thrige Pumper also included their U.S. subsidiary, Rotan Inc., with offices in Monroe, North Carolina. On September 31, 1994 the management of DESMI decided to merge DESMI Inc. and Rotan Inc. into one company, DESMI Inc., with offices in Norfolk, Virginia.

An analysis of the profitabillity of maintaining two major production units in Odense and Aalborg, resulted in favour of centralizing the pump production. It was therefore decided to transfer the Rotan activities from Odense to Aalborg (Nørresundby). The transfer process started early April 2000, and from early September 2000 all activities in connection with the manufacturing process are performed in the Aalborg plant.

At the turn of the year 2001/2002 part of the group's transmission activities were sold to Randers Tandhjulsfabrik A/S. However, the production and sale of gearboxes to waste-water treatment plants together with the distributorship of Twin Disc marine gears were maintained as activity areas within DESMI.

As part of the group's growth strategy, which is based on product and market development, DESMI bought as per May 1, 2002 the company of K&R Pompen B.V. which had been the company's Dutch distributor for many years. The Dutch company entered the group under the name of DESMI K&R Pompen B.V.

Also in 2002, October 1, DESMI established a subsidiary in Norway, DESMI Norge AS, which is located in Tønsberg.

DESMI Ltd. established a subsidiary in 2002. This company, DESMI FHS Ltd., is member of a consortium of world class companies who have agreed to co-operate in the sales of Fuel Handling Systems world wide. Other members are Dunlop GRG, Peco Facet and Snap-tite.

In April 2003 the company name A/S De Smithske was changed to DESMI A/S, which had so far been registered as the secondary name of the company. The company name was primarily changed to avoid confusion between the officially registered and legally correct company name, the names of the product ranges, and what the company was colloquially called. Furthermore, A/S De Smithske is difficult to pronounce in foreign languages, while DESMI can be pronounced in all languages, and in addition, the company was already known under the name of DESMI in most of the world. For historic reasons A/S De Smithske was maintained as the secondary name of the company.

With a view to getting closer to the large shipbuilding industry in the Far East, DESMI set up production in China by formation of the subsidiary DESMI Pumping Technology (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. in the area of Shanghai in 2005. DESMI Pumping Technology (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. is 100 % owned by DESMI China Holding A/S, of which DESMI owns 100%.

In 2005 DESMI also took over the full ownership of DESMI Ro-Clean A/S, which was originally set up in 1995 in co-operation with Roulunds Fabriker A/S as a joint marketing and sales company for environmental equipment. DESMI Ro-Clean A/S further enhanced its position on the market by taking over the production of booms from the previous sub-supplier, Roulunds Tech A/S, in 2007, and by acquiring Applied Fabric Technologies, Inc. (AFTI) of Orchard Park, New York, in 2008. Peter Lane, the founder of AFTI, remained co-owner of the company until 2014, when DESMI AFTI became a wholly-owned subsidiary of DESMI Ro-Clean A/S. The merged activities between AFTI and DESMI Ro-Clean A/S offered a broader product portfolio and improved market coverage to the worldwide customer base. Furthermore, DESMI Ro-Clean A/S established a subsidiary in Quito, Ecuador, early in 2009 by taking over the company previously acting as distributor of DESMI Ro-Clean products in Latin America.

At the turn of the year 2006/2007 the parent company Sales & Service division was spun off as a separate subsidiary, DESMI Danmark A/S, with the aim of ensuring a profile specifically targeting the Danish market.
With a view to strengthening the relations to existing customers and intensifying the sales efforts in South East Asia, DESMI set up representative offices in Korea (Seoul) and Singapore in 2009. The office in Singapore was later (in 2011) converted into a legal entity under the name of DESMI Singapore Pte. Ltd.

In a strategic partnership with A. P. Moller - Maersk and Skjølstrup & Grønborg (UltraAqua) DESMI entered a new market area by establishing DESMI Ocean Guard A/S in 2009. This company specializes in ballast water treatment systems that prevent the ships’ ballast water from transferring micro-organisms from one ocean to another and thus reduce pollution of fragile local maritime eco-systems.

2009 was also the year when DESMI celebrated that 175 years had passed since the founder, Henning Smith, on June 9, 1834, first presented his products to the public in an advertisement in the local newspaper of Aalborg.

Four sales offices were set up in China (in Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing respectively) by DESMI Pumping Technology (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. in the period 2009-2010 with a view to further intensifying the activities in this large country.

Also the activities in Korea were intensified by a second sales office set up in Busan in 2010. The aim was to be closer to the customers and the office in Busan was situated close to the large shipyards that build a major part of the world’s new ships. Further sales offices were set up in France and Abu Dhabi in 2010 and in Dubai in 2011 with the aim to strengthen DESMI’s position in these geographies. At the end of 2012 the office in France was converted into a subsidiary and named DESMI SARL.

With a view to ensuring supply of first-class castings for the production, a bronze foundry was established in Xuancheng in China as a subsidiary of DESMI Pumping Technology (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. The foundry was set up in 2011/2012 and named DESMI Pumping Technology (Xuancheng) Co., Ltd.

Early in 2012 the DESMI group structure was changed in order to strengthen the day-to-day management and at the same time make more resources available for business development and further structural development of the group. The group structure was divided into three business units all reporting to the parent company (DESMI A/S): an oil spill business unit (DESMI Ro-Clean A/S), a pump business unit (DESMI Pumping Technology A/S), and a contracting business unit (DESMI Contracting A/S).


In 2013 a liaison office was established in India to intensify DESMI’s sales activities in the Indian marine market; and on the basis of the growth in the African economy and the consequent sales potential in this continent, DESMI Africa (Tanzania) was set up as a branch office of DESMI Ro-Clean A/S.


At the beginning of 2014 DESMI A/S took over the full ownership of DESMI Ocean Guard A/S.


In mid-July 2014 DESMI Inc. and DESMI AFTI Inc. merged the activities and the production of booms was moved to the new joint premises in Chesapeake. DESMI AFTI Inc. continued the sales activities from the office in Orchard Park, New York, but in 2015 all activities were located under one roof in Chesapeake.

With a view to increasing DESMI’s presence in the Polish market, DESMI set up a sales office in Poland in September 2015.

In May 2016 DESMI set up a sales office in Gävle, Sweden, in order to expand the activities in the Nordic countries and later in 2018 the office was moved to Mölndal near Gothenburg.

2018 was also the year where DESMI took more steps in the Canadian market with an office in St. Catharines, just outside Toronto.

In the beginning of 2019 an office was opened in Greece supporting the long-term goal of the DESMI group: To carry through a “Next Level” growth strategy based on selection and development of specific areas.

In the summer of 2021, DESMI set up a sales office in Italy to increase the presence in the country

Spring 2022 DESMI established office in Lagos, Nigeria, DESMI Nigeria. 2022 is also the year where One Equity Partner becomes main shareholder of DESMI with 75%, and Humphrey Lau is new CEO in DESMI.