A Mexican company built a solid reputation in the segment of steam generators and fluid heaters standing by its products. Susana Baumann looks into the profile of Clayton de México, a company that goes beyond simply selling equipment.
It was James Watt who patented the first steam engine in 1769, which propelled the 18th century Industrial Revolution. Although steamboats and railroad trains have been replaced by other sorts of energy, the power of steam is still matchless for certain industries demanding this source of energy. Aerospace, animal feed, automotive, chemical, dairy and food processing, marine, petroleum, paper and corrugating, pharmaceutical, steel and tobacco are some of those industries. Buildings such as hotels, hospitals, power generation plants and manufacturing plants use steam energy in their daily activities.
Clayton Industries has led the way since 1930 in developing steam generators, starting with very small capacity units, and evolving into generators and fluid heaters ranging from 20 to 700 BHP. From its headquarters in El Monte, Calif., the company expanded throughout the world into 26 locations in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
In 1959, Tomás Valladares Rodríguez founded Clayton de México, S.A. de C.V. in Mexico City. The company started as a distributorship of imported equipment, but soon began to build a wide variety of steam generators, waste heat and exhaust gas boilers, hot water generators, superheat boilers, high pressure boilers, and fluid heaters. “Our company has gained a reputation in the steam generators and water boilers market through intensive work of excellence in the manufacture, and finesse in technical service and maintenance,” said Jorge Miguel Henríquez, engineer and general director for Mexico and Latin America.
Henríquez explains that the main role of the company is not only to manufacture and distribute equipment, but also to service its clients in technical support, information, design and installation of equipment, and turnkey projects. Clayton de Mexico also offers technical training, and preventive and corrective maintenance to institutions and corporations to instruct their personnel.
Institutions such as hospitals, hotels and laboratories have a permanent need for hot water and heat generation, but some times space is a constraint. Clayton has developed a line of boilers that take one third less space than other equipment, 40 percent less weight, a 5-minute period between startup and full functioning, and are practically 100 percent safe.
Clayton de Mexico produces gas, diesel and dual boilers ranging from 10 up to 185 BHP. “Although we only manufacture up to 185 BHP in Mexico, we can offer sizes up to 700 BHP or 24,150 pounds of steam per hour,” said Henríquez. The company distributes equipment produced in other plants around the world to fit the customer’s needs.
Steam generators are controlled flow, water tube boilers that follow national and international standards. It is important to evaluate the boiler’s efficiency when buying new equipment since the fuel expense can represent two to three times the cost of the equipment. Efficient equipment might be higher priced in the front end, but fuel savings repeat for years to come, according to Henríquez.
Efficiency of energy generating equipment can be measured in different ways, and comparison among a variety of products should contemplate these differences. The combustion efficiency and fuel-to-steam efficiency are important values to be considered. The steam generator’s unique design offers numerous advantages in Clayton equipment.
Clayton steam generators’ unique design and operational factors include characteristics such as counterflow of the feedwater to the combustion gases, which allows for optimum heat transfer. Another characteristic is the heat exchanger coil design and spacing that ensures turbulent exhaust gases flow across the coil, controlled and forced circulation, and reduction of exterior surface, which reduces by almost 50 percent the area for convection and radiant heat loss.
The boilers are equipped with a quick startup system that avoids a long warm up period to keep the boiler working in non-use periods. Blowdown to control dissolved solids that enter the system are normally 10 times less in Clayton equipment than in firetube boilers.
Fuel savings is an important aspect to consider when purchasing steam or heat generators. Because of these advantages in design and operational factors, Clayton products can save fuel up to 10 percent from other competitor’s equipment.
Another important aspect to be considered in Clayton products is safety. “Our boilers are known for safety and for being ‘un-explosive,’ because there is a relatively small amount of water inside the helical coil heat exchanger, and the energy cannot be released instantaneously until the water travels through the coil,” explained Henríquez.
Because of their low water content, Clayton boilers have a quick response since a relatively short period time is needed to increase steaming rates. Certain facilities require a variation of steam temperature and pressure, and units equipped with PLC control include control logic designed to respond to these demands, and tailor the system to specific needs. Clayton products can work on natural gas, propane, light oil or heavy oil, or dual fuels, and are available to pressures up to 3000 psig.
In addition, Clayton offers a complete line of feedwater components in a variety of packaged and skid-mounted configurations. These packages are factory wired, assembled and piped, which result in reduction of installation time and cost, and complete compatibility and integrity of the system. The company also offers skid-mounted steam systems that can be rented, units in the range of 33 to 200 BHP. “Bigger modular equipment in the range of 200 BPH or higher are brought from our plant in California. We recently installed one 700 BPH equipment for Procter and Gamble in its Vallejo plant,” said Henríquez.
MAGNITUDE AND ATTITUDE
Clayton de Mexico’s plant is located in Colonia Nueva Industrial Vallejo. The building covers 14,000 square meters, with an installed capacity to produce 20 to 24 systems per month, and an average of 60 BPH per system. The company also has branches in Monterrey, Villa Hermosa, and Guadalajara, and service centers in the most important cities around the country.
Plant personnel are close to 200 people working in two shifts, but indirect employment reaches 1,100 people. “We have distributorships all over the republic, with a minimum of two technicians each. Distributorships are Clayton concessions, regulated and supervised by the company. We offer continuous training and education to all operators, technicians and sales personnel,” said Henríquez.
The company has invested in videoconference technology to reach all distributors on a regular basis with the latest equipment updates and upgrades. The company has founded the Instituto Clayton de Capacitación Técnica, an institute to train its own factory workers as well as clients’ personnel who travel to the institute to learn the inside out of preventive and corrective equipment maintenance. Courses are taught the first week of each month, and participants have the opportunity to practice in a real boiler room available at the institute.
Clayton is ASME certified, stamps H and S, and belongs to several professional associations such as the United Boilers Association. Factories are ISO: 9000 certified for internal processes. These efforts to provide quality equipment and excellence in technical support have proven to be the right strategy.
Clayton de Mexico has experienced a growth of 40 percent in the last three years, standing by its products. “Clients are looking for companies with reliable, credible manufacturing history but also someone to be there when they want to kick their doors,” said Henríquez.
Expansion strategy includes consolidation of the distributorship network, increased integral systems operations, and equipment added value. “We want to expand our distributorship not only to the main cities in Latin America, as we do in Guatemala City, Santo Domingo, Bogota, Caracas, and Santiago de Chile. We want to spread out to all geographies in the Latin American map,” he added.
As the director for Latin America, Henríquez travels continually to ensure that distributors make the mark with Clayton’s requirements and regulations, personally meeting potential candidates. The company’s goal is to increase the 16 percent of exports in the short term.
According to Henríquez, the Latin American market is full of opportunities when companies know how to market their products. “In our case, we have the support and credibility of Clayton Industries, which is a solid global corporation with many years of tradition in the segment,” he said. However, personal attention to distributorship selection is instrumental in guarantying the company’s performance. “I personally request from the aspirants customer service motivation, a good attitude, and outstanding representation of the company’s values,” he concluded.