My African Business Adventure

Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Congo. Warehouses, farmhouses, air fields. “You name it, we got it”. 64 year old Knud Møller Jensen, an entrepreneur by heart, recounts his life’s work: The hardening of concrete - and a unique chemical production facility in Søndersø, Denmark, operating under the somewhat anonymous name JPH eftf. ApS - comes to life when Knud Møller Jensen tells us about the company’s more than 50 year old history; a company that has transcended borders and reached far beyond its native Nordfyn.

Af Lene Hindsgaul Nielsen
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Oversættelse og redaktion Anders Lyck Fogh-Schultz, Nyborg og David Ford, Melbourne

The owner of JPH eftf. ApS Knud Møller Jensen. Foto: Ove Syberg

Company owner Knud Møller Jensen, a trained carpenter, has always been able to see an opportunity and a good challenge. “Look at the world: It’s all about problems that need to be solved” he explains. “I see possibilities where other people might see limitations”. The company JPH eftf. ApS was originally involved in the manufacturing of concrete floors and products used in the oiling of wooden floors, however, after Jensen took over the company in 1984, he further developed the product range and the company now has 32 products. The technology (and products) for the hardening of concrete has especially been a success story and the technique is now being used around the world.

The hardening technique developed by JPH in Africa saves a lot of money for contractors operating in Ghana. Foto: Ove Syberg

JPH goes international

In recent years, JPH has found a unique business opportunity in Africa. Africa offers unique challenges concerning the hardening of concrete. The problems are heat and the quality of the concrete. In Africa, the material used for the manufacturing of concrete is often of such poor quality that it dries out and crumbles. Jensen had the idea that JPH could produce a far better product. He was contacted by a facilitator who was developing a business project in Kumasi, Ghana and the project then began. Jensen used his unique knowhow about the hardening process, and concrete in general, and changed the way concrete floors are manufactured in Ghana. Earlier, the concrete was cast on day 1 and the floor itself was made on day 2. This hastened technique, however, causes the cement to crumble because it simply isn’t hard enough. Therefore, the concrete floors need to have epoxy applied twice a year. With the technique developed by JPH, all concrete floors are manufactured after the concrete has dried completely and then the floors can be hardened properly. The technique simply dries the concrete thoroughly before the hardening is applied and then seeps down into the concrete itself. The result is a floor that is much more hardy and stable than before. The process takes no more than a week to finish and the result is obvious. During a business trip to Ghana, Jensen revisited one of the facilities his company built 3 ½ years ago and the floors had maintained their original quality and were washable without the risk of damaging the floors. Jensen has seen many times that concrete floors of poor quality in Africa simply disintegrate and crumble when they are washed. So the hardening technique developed by JPH in Africa saves a lot of money for contractors operating in Ghana.

The project has expanded and JPH is now doing business in countries like Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria and the Congo. An astounding 6,000 square metres of concrete floors have been installed and hardened in Africa and more than 285,000 square metres of floors in European countries. Jensen is proud to say that the very first floor to be hardened by the technique, first applied in 1964, is still in mint condition and has never been refurbished. “For me, it has always been about seeing possibilities rather than limitations. I have found that using good materials is the key in this business; and business is good. JPH has never had a complaint in the 50 years the company has been running and that is, for Jensen, a mark of quality. In Denmark, JPH has been involved in the building of Designskolen in the city of Kolding as well as Aabenraa Psykiatriske Sygehus. Besides Africa, JPH has active projects in countries like Dubai and the Maldives.

Knud Møller Jensen’s laboratory. Foto: Ove Syberg

New business ventures

It’s not only concrete floors that interest Jensen. He is a very innovative person with a great sense of curiosity when it comes to business. Over time, he has developed a lot of different products, for example special shampoos and lotions for treating the skin condition psoriasis – all without dangerous chemicals. He uses only high grade chemicals without toxins and solvents. A new project Jensen is very excited about is the handling of nuclear waste. He has learned that nuclear waste material usually is placed in metal barrels and disposed of underground, for example in mines. When it rains and water seeps through the ground these barrels rust and corrode over time and the nuclear materials pollute the groundwater. Jensen has therefore developed a new product made out of solid matter.    It has the unique quality that radioactive material cannot breach it and will therefore be used in the development of new metal barrels lined with the product. This has major potential benefits for the environment Jensen is pleased to say. The product is currently being tested in metal detectors at the HCA Airport in Odense and a larger test is under way at DTU in Copenhagen. “People and countries have the responsibility of protecting nuclear waste and handling it properly and safely. This is a revolutionary new product and I hope that we can help protect the environment in this way”. Very promising tests have shown that even very corrosive materials cannot breach this new product and it is thought to be completely acid-resistant.

Knud Møller Jensen is very excited about his new project: The handling of nuclear waste in a proper way. Foto: Ove Syberg

The future

When the day arrives for the company to be sold to someone else, Jensen has no doubt that someone of like vision can develop JPH even further. It is all about being able to generate new business from one’s ideas. For now, Jensen has no plans of stopping or stepping down. He remains a true visionary and an entrepreneur by heart.

Knud Møller Hansen remains a true visionary and an entrepreneur by heart. Foto: Ove Syberg