Danaher Business System and Acquisition History

1 minutes reading time
Published 22 Nov 2023
Reviewed by: Kasper Karlsson
Updated 7 Feb 2024

Danaher Corporation, globally recognized as a life science and technology innovator, is not only well-known for its diverse portfolio of products and services but also for its unique business system known as the Danaher Business System (DBS). This has been a key driver of the company's success and growth, significantly influencing its operations, culture, and overall business strategy. Furthermore, Danaher stands as an exemplary case study in capital allocation with its rich history of numerous successful acquisitions and spin-offs.

Since the early 1990s, Danaher's management team has transformed a group of under-performing industrial manufacturing companies into a global powerhouse in life sciences and diagnostics. Remarkably, they have grown the company's earnings per share by roughly 10,000% from 1990 to 2023 – an almost unbeatable track record of value creation. Let's explore this transformation in more detail.

Danaher - Investor & Analyst Day 2019 - Conference Call Deck-page-45 (1)
Danaher Business System

Origin and Evolution

DBS was primarily developed and implemented under the leadership of George M. Sherman, who served as the CEO of Danaher from 1986 to 2001. Sherman played a pivotal role in the creation and application of DBS, drawing inspiration from the principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and Lean manufacturing. These philosophies, known for their focus on efficiency, waste reduction, and continuous improvement, provided the initial foundation for DBS. Thus, the early implementation of DBS primarily revolved around enhancing operational efficiency.

The development of DBS was also influenced by Steven Rales and Mitchell Rales, the founding brothers of Danaher. Their vision and strategic direction were instrumental in shaping the company's approach to business, including the emphasis on continuous improvement and operational efficiency that has been hallmarks of DBS since its introduction in the late 1980s.

Under the leadership of Sherman and with the backing of the Rales brothers, Danaher successfully integrated and adapted these principles into its unique system. This system has now been a central component of the company's culture and operational strategy for over three decades and has proven astonishingly successful. Given the framework's success, it has also attracted considerable attention from external parties.

A pivotal point in the evolution of DBS was the adoption of the Kaizen philosophy. Kaizen, a Japanese term meaning "change for the better," became a central tenet of DBS early on. It emphasized continuous, incremental improvement and involved every employee, from top management to the shop floor, in the process of identifying and solving problems.

As Danaher grew, the scope of DBS expanded beyond manufacturing processes. It began to encompass various aspects of the business, including supply chain management, sales and marketing, and even human resources. This expansion was a clear indication of DBS transitioning from a set of operational tools to a holistic business strategy.

Over the years, Danaher has continuously refined and customized DBS to suit its evolving needs. The system has been tailored to different segments within the company, ensuring that it remains relevant and effective across its diverse portfolio. Today, DBS still stands as a dynamic and integral part of Danaher's identity and is deeply embedded in the company's culture, and the management frequently references it in both internal and external communications.

Core Components of DBS

The Danaher Business System (DBS) is not just a set of tools and processes; it is deeply rooted in a culture characterized by specific core behaviors that bring the system to life within the organization. These core behaviors are essential for embedding the DBS philosophy across all levels of Danaher and for ensuring its successful implementation. Here are the core behaviors that are pivotal in bringing DBS to life:

Continuous Improvement: At the heart of DBS is the principle of Kaizen, which means "change for better." This core behavior fosters an environment where all employees are constantly looking for ways to improve processes, products, and services. It encourages a mindset where status quo is challenged, and innovation is a continuous journey.

Customer First: Danaher places a strong emphasis on understanding and meeting the needs of its customers. This behavior drives the organization to deliver high-quality products and services that solve real problems for its customers, ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Innovation and Risk-Taking: DBS encourages employees to think creatively and experiment with new ideas. This involves taking calculated risks and learning from failures. Innovation is not seen as a one-time event but as an ongoing process integral to Danaher's growth and success.

Teamwork and Collaboration: The success of DBS relies on effective teamwork and collaboration across different functions and levels within the organization. This behavior emphasizes the importance of sharing knowledge, skills, and best practices to achieve common goals.

Accountability and Results-Oriented: Employees at Danaher are encouraged to take ownership of their work and are held accountable for their results. This behavior ensures that everyone is focused on achieving key performance indicators and contributing to the company’s overall success.

Integrity and Respect: Upholding high ethical standards and showing respect for individuals and the broader community is a core aspect of DBS. This behavior fosters trust and a positive work environment, which is crucial for long-term success.

Leadership and Development: Developing leaders who can effectively implement and sustain DBS principles is crucial. This involves not just technical training but also cultivating leadership qualities that align with the DBS culture.

Problem-Solving: DBS is rooted in the belief that problems are opportunities for improvement. Employees are trained in problem-solving techniques and are encouraged to approach challenges proactively, using data-driven analysis to find effective solutions.

Flexibility and Adaptability: In a rapidly changing business environment, being flexible and adaptable is key. This behavior is about being open to change and able to adjust strategies and processes in response to new information and evolving market conditions.

Global Mindset: Given Danaher’s global presence, embracing a global perspective is essential. This includes understanding different markets, cultures, and business practices, and leveraging diversity to drive innovation and growth.

Danaher – An Acquisition Machine

As previously stated, the DBS has been pivotal in shaping Danaher's financial performance and has consistently driven revenue growth and sustained robust profit margins.

Danaher's remarkable increase in earnings per share — an impressive ~10,000% since 1990 — underscores this immense success. Beyond DBS, the company is also renowned for its strategic approach to capital allocation, evidenced by several high-profile acquisitions and spin-offs.

Since the start of this chart, Danaher's stock has returned over 35,000% for its shareholders – excluding dividends. This infographic visualizes some of Danaher's most notable acquisitions and spin-offs.

Danaher - Acquisition History
Danaher Acquisition History

High-Profile Acquisitions

Beckman Coulter, Inc. (2011): One of Danaher's most significant acquisitions was Beckman Coulter, a leading company in biomedical testing equipment. This acquisition, valued at about $8.8 billion, greatly enhanced Danaher's position in the medical diagnostics field and expanded its footprint in the life sciences sector.

Pall Corporation (2015): Danaher acquired Pall Corporation, a global leader in filtration, separation, and purification, for $13.6 billion. This acquisition was a strategic move to strengthen Danaher's presence in the biopharmaceutical, food and beverage, and aerospace industries.

Cepheid (2016): In a deal valued at approximately $4 billion, Danaher acquired Cepheid, a company specializing in molecular diagnostics. This acquisition bolstered Danaher's diagnostics business, particularly in the rapidly growing field of molecular diagnostics.

Cytiva (2020): Danaher acquired Cytiva, the Biopharma business of GE Life Sciences, for about $21.4 billion. This significant acquisition added a broad range of instruments and software supporting drug discovery and biopharmaceutical manufacturing to Danaher's portfolio.

Notable Spin-offs

  • Fortive Corporation (2016): In a strategic move to streamline its operations, Danaher spun off several of its industrial businesses into a new company, Fortive Corporation. This spin-off included businesses in fields such as instrumentation, transportation, industrial technologies, and others. Fortive has since become an independent, publicly traded company.

  • Envista Holdings Corporation (2019): Danaher spun off its dental segment into a separate publicly traded company, Envista Holdings Corporation. This move allowed Danaher to focus more on its core areas in life sciences, diagnostics, and environmental and applied solutions, while Envista concentrated on the dental industry.

Capital Allocation Excellence

These acquisitions and spin-offs reflect Danaher's formidable capital allocation skills. These acquisitions have not only allowed Danaher to enter new markets and enhance its product and service offerings but have also, most importantly, created immense value for its shareholders.

Spin-offs such as Fortive and Envista exemplify Danaher's strategy to streamline its focus and resources towards segments with high returns on capital. These spin-offs have not only enabled both Danaher and the new entities to concentrate more effectively on their respective markets and strategic goals but have also undoubtedly created significant shareholder value as well. As previously mentioned, Danaher's stock has yielded over a 35,000% return for its shareholders since 1990.


Danaher's journey, underpinned by the Danaher Business System (DBS) and its strategic capital allocation through acquisitions and spin-offs, is a remarkable story of value creation. The evolution of DBS from a set of operational tools to a comprehensive business philosophy, emphasizing continuous improvement, customer focus, and employee involvement, has been central to Danaher's enduring success. Coupled with a series of strategic acquisitions and thoughtful spin-offs, Danaher has not only diversified and strengthened its portfolio but also carved a niche for itself as a leader in life sciences, diagnostics, and technology sectors. This strategy has led to an almost unbeatable increase in earnings per share and a remarkable return for shareholders.

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