Even the strong don't survive very long if they go it alone. Enerfab has demonstrated a capacity for self-reinvention that enabled it to stay in business for more than a century.
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But it also took strong customer relations, acquisitions, and local government support to help the Ohio-headquartered company to become one of America’s largest and fastest growing privately held companies – one that offers state-of-the-art fabrication, engineering, advanced construction, all integrated to form a turnkey solutions provider for several industries, as Dan Harvey reports.
Enerfab’s ongoing development staggers even its own imagination.
“Ten years ago, the company that we once were might find it hard to believe what we’ve become,” comments Aaron Landolt, vice president of sales and business development for the Cincinnati, Ohio-based Enerfab Inc.
Indeed, in each decade of its 113-year existence Enerfab has undergone major positive evolutionary steps. Continual reinvention has been critical to growth. “If we didn’t evolve and diversify, we would have focused on just one or two business segments,” informs Landolt.
A limited vision could have been devastating, he more than hints: “If we didn’t do what we did, we probably wouldn’t be in business today.”
That indicates one of the company’s major differentiators: it is a full-service integrator. Enerfab listened to customers, and customer input took the company into new directions and markets.
With roots dating back to 1901, the company now provides construction management, capital equipment, maintenance services, and technology solutions to the energy industry and other industrial markets globally.
But while Enerfab now focuses on many different areas, it doesn’t spread itself thin. It leads in all of its business elements. Its power maintenance services area specializes in boiler installation and modifications, outage repairs, major boiler component replacement, boiler tube replacement, burner repairs and replacement, ductwork, and air heater replacement and repairs. Its material handling service section focuses on providing rotary car dumpers, barge loaders, stackers, conveyors, chutes, coal bunkers, coal samplers, and material and truck scales.
That’s not all. In its wide-ranging business menu, you’ll find rigging/millwright, custom head fabrication, and piping design services (including piping plans/sections, isometrics, general arrangements, P&ID management, database management for equipment/line lists, pipe stress analysis, hanger design, and structural design).
In addition, Enerfab provides coatings, design for construction services, and engineering services such as piping and instrumentation diagrams, equipment specifications, mechanical design drawings, electrical design drawings, description of operations, control system architecture and development, and control systems development.
Activities also involve fabricating reactors, pressure vessels, tanks, duct work, absorbers, heat exchangers, and columns and towers. The company will also provide clients with components and spare parts (e.g., manways, gaskets, aseptic components, lining repair kits, and other OEM and spare parts).
Boasting all of these skills, Enerfab now serves customers in the chemical/petrochemical, food and beverage, brewery equipment, and energy markets. “We do business with very large utilities, such as American Electric Power, TVA, and Duke Energy,” reports Landolt. “On the process and industrial side, our customers include Dow Chemical, DuPont, BASF, Eli Lilly, and Cargill, among many others.”
Enerfab is an American company, but its reach is expanding. “We not only service the domestic market but also the Canadian oil sands market,” says Landolt. “Right now, we are 90-percent US and 10-percent international, but we have a strategy in place to increase our international growth.”
Ever Evolving Enterprise
Enerfab, which was formerly known as the Bishopric Products Company, was established in 1901. It changed its name to Enerfab Inc. in 1984. It has evolved through the years by meeting customers’ needs in areas such as pipe fabrication, tank head production, industrial and commercial electrical contracting, and renewable energy technology.
“The company grew out of the brewing industry,” relates Landolt. “In the 1950s and 1960s, we expanded into the food and beverage and the pharmaceutical markets. In the 1970s, we entered the orange juice industry, as we developed some proprietary technology for storage systems.”
For the company, the 1980s was a decade of substantial transformation. “We diversified into energy, as well as the industrial and process side and the power and utility and maintenance side,” continues Landolt. “In 1988, the current management team put together a diversification plan that took us into coal-fired boiler maintenance, fabrication and process, and industrial business. The coal-fired maintenance side grew into more business and opportunity, as we started doing large clean air capital projects for the Clean Air Act, for the coal and industrial markets. We are now very diverse in our fabrication segment, and in field installation for chemical processing plants, petrochemical plants, refineries – as well as the traditional food and beverage and brewery businesses.”
As its world has evolved, Enerfab has undergone some tectonic shifts. For instance, Landolt adds that currently nearly 60 percent of Enerfab’s business involves the energy segment, on the power and capital side. The remaining percentage involves industrial and chemical process-type opportunities.
“On the energy side, we do anything from fabrication and installation of pollution control equipment, to boiler tube repair and replacement, full boiler replacements,” he describes. “One of the biggest things we’ve gotten into in the last five years has been the EPC [engineer, procure, construct] turnkey services for boiler retrofits, and pollution control equipment. We’ll do the steel and iron work, the boilermaker work, the piping and mechanical work, the electrical work.
“That pretty sums up our growth and evolution so far – from a maintenance provider to a full-service EPC.”
The key phrase in that quote is “so far,” for Enerfab plans to continue evolving. “We’re taking the model and applying it to the industrial and chemical side of our business. We’ve grown to become an integration partner, and we will continue growing,” emphasizes Landolt.
The company already has an expansive “empire.” Along with its Cincinnati headquarters, Enerfab has locations in Atlanta, Ga.; Chicago, Ill.; Harrisburg and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania; Kansas City, Mo.; Paducah and Somerset in Kentucky; Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, and Oak Ridge in Tennessee; Appleton, Wis.; Charleston, W.V., and Natchez, Miss.
Enerfab’s growth is underscored by what has been going on at its Natchez facility (Enersteel). The company has invested more than $11 million to expand operations at this Mississippi plant. Enersteel has specialized in fabricated steel plate products that include storage tanks and pressure vessels for industrial process markets. The facility also produces ductwork and other major air quality control components for the power generation industry.
“One of the lines we’re focusing on in Mississippi is shipping for the chemical/petrochemical industries. We’re looking at propane, natural gas, and LNG,” reports Landolt. “Natural gas has been a business driver for us in the past three years. Its availability has enabled us to develop a strategy that relates to the mid-stream and downstream applications, as well as gas conversion of boilers and the associated equipment related to chemicals coming off natural gas.”
Expansion at Natchez entails two phases. The company is currently finishing up the second. Everything should be online by the end of 2013. The effort should generate a great deal of business for the company. “Expansion was driven by growth demand for product in the Gulf Coast,” explains Landolt. “It brings us closer to the action.”
The project is also a job creator. That’s why the Mississippi Development Authority was glad to provide supportive assistance for infrastructure improvements.
In recent years, the Enerfab group of companies has experienced double-digit growth (in the 15-to 20-percent range), despite that recessionary dip in 2008 and 2009. “Even with the recent economic circumstances, we never slipped below the 15-percent level,” says Landolt.
One of the reasons for that is that growth was bolstered by strategic acquisitions. “We acquired companies that we knew would support our mission, such as electrical contracting companies and fabrication businesses,” he relates.
Further, Enerfab has positioned itself on the topside of trends. “On the chemical side, we see definite growth based on natural gas prices. Many of our key customers – and this gets back to the international growth element – are investing in the United States. Reshoring is replacing outshoring,” says Landolt. “Also, with our meeting of the new environmental regulations, we have raised the clean-air side of our business.”
Meanwhile, Enerfab Inc. will continue reinventing itself. That’s a strategy that has proven successful in the best of times and even in the worst of times.