Founded in 1939 by Ed Hudson, the privately owned Sugar Land, Texas company that bears his name has evolved from a small engineering firm to a leading global manufacturer of air-cooled heat exchangers and axial flow fans as well as associated structural and mechanical components. Indeed, the Fin-Fan® line of induced- and forced-draft as well as winterized heat exchangers have become what Bob Giammaruti, vice president of sales, marketing and technical services for the Hudson Products Corporation terms, “the standard of our industry, the worldwide recognized brand standard among oil, gas, petrochemical processing and power generation companies.”
The way you become a top brand is a combination of growth through strategic acquisitions, engineering excellence to address custom high-end application needs and customer service characterized by quick product delivery turnarounds.
“In 2002, Hudson Products went back to private ownership after being part of a public company since the 1960s,” Giammaruti explains. “In 2008, we became part of the energy and power portfolio of the equity investment firm Riverstone Holdings LLC. Starting in 2004, we began an aggressive acquisition strategy.”
This included the purchase of Cofimco, an Italian manufacturer of aluminum and fiberglass axial fans; Smithco Engineering, an air-cooled heat exchanger manufacturer based in Tulsa, Okla., and Premier Steel, an Edmonton, Alberta-based steel fabrication/assembly operation. “Hudson also created a joint venture company called Zamil Hudson, located in Saudi Arabia, for the manufacture of air-cooled heat exchangers,” adds Giammaruti.
The result was that in addition to its 125-acre primary production site in Beasley, Texas, just outside of Houston, coupled with facilities in Canada and Mexico, Hudson Products significantly increased its manufacturing capacity and achieved a global footprint to extend its pioneering innovations beyond its traditional North American markets.
“Hudson Products is widely known for high-end, high-pressure heat exchange solutions used in refinery and chemical applications and a variety of other industrial temperature reduction applications,” Giammaruti says. “Our acquisition strategy served two purposes: It added a complementary product line of air coolers and axial fans, and it extended our international business. That diversification has helped us weather some of the recent economic uncertainties.”
While all manufacturers have hunkered down during the global downturn, Hudson Products was already in a cycle of declining orders. “Our customers are for the most part in capital intensive, regulated industries,” Giammaruti explains. “Here in the United States, elections played a big role in buying decisions.”
Consequently, Hudson Products hit a double whammy during the last electoral cycle that coincided with the economic crisis. “Late 2008 though 2009, our customers were not going to spend,” Giammaruti says. “While we may have done some front end engineering, projects weren’t going forward because of the economic uncertainty. Then the recession hit. The good news is that we’re now seeing many of these projects being restarted. So, it looks like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. We’re not out of the woods yet, and we don’t expect business to return to the levels we had in 2008 this year, but we are cautiously optimistic that we’re going to see some improvement in sales and overall business growth in 2011 and beyond.”
In addition to its Fin-Fan heat exchanger lines, Hudson Products brands include Tuf-Lite® high-efficiency axial flow fans available in sizes ranging from five to 40 feet in diameter used in heat exchanger and cooling tower applications. Tuf-Lite fans are, as the name implies, constructed of light-weight, corrosion resistant fiberglass reinforced vinyl ester resin incorporating patented Tuf-Edge® ultra-violet resistant and chemical resistant protection.
In addition, Combin-aire® offers humidified air-cooled heat exchangers featuring minimal water consumption and piping, without requiring water treatment and without spray carry-over or condensation. “Many oil and gas processing facilities are located in arid areas where humidification is highly desired,” Giammaruti points out. “Combin-aire has been particularly successful in places like Saudi Arabia for this very reason.”
A newly introduced product line, Solo-aire®, provides what Giammaruti describes as, “sort of a Chevy version of our Cadillac nameplate, a value product backed by good service for less-than-critical applications to meet customer cost-conscious expectations.”
The company’s core business, however, is custom high-end heat exchange solutions. “High pressure environments that require premium materials involve mechanical and engineering expertise that Hudson Products built its business on,” Giammaruti says. “Price isn’t the chief consideration here; performance is.”
The company backs up its performance with quick parts turnaround. “Extended equipment downtime costs our customers money. In 80 percent of the cases, we can ship a replacement part within 48 hours,” Giammaruti notes. “Moreover, with manufacturing facilities throughout the world, we’re positioned to keep our production prices and our shipping costs down. For certain commodity products and standard parts, we have dedicated cost centers, such as our facility in Tulsa, that are specifically geared to provide high-volume quick turnaround.”
Hudson Products employs some 600 direct employees worldwide, with a presence in more than 20 countries. Heat exchangers are marketed through sales representatives, while fans and associated aftermarket parts are sold directly to OEMs and end users.
As a company that services industries with high profiles for environmental impact, Hudson Products is particularly aware of its commitment to “green” initiatives to minimize pollution, reduce waste and improve energy efficiency. Fin-Fan® heat exchangers utilize ambient air for cooling to eliminate the need for cooling water. Similarly, Tuf-Lite and Cofimco™ axial flow fans are not only low noise to reduce sound pollution but are designed for lower power consumption to reduce energy usage and costs.
“In addition to offering our customers green products, we are internally committed to environmentally-friendly practices in both our domestic and foreign operations to reduce waste and conserve energy through continuous improvement of our manufacturing processes,” Giammaruti says. “Our objective is to not only meet environmental regulatory requirements, but exceed them and honor our environmental commitments to the communities where we conduct business.”
Giammaruti says the company is focusing on further improving its already high service levels as a value add to its widely recognized engineering expertise. “We anticipate future organic growth. We expect to be a major player in the Canadian oil sands market, for example. While heat exchangers and fans are basically mature products, we’re always looking for new technologies that improve efficiency and reduce operating costs. At the same time, we will consider acquisitions if there is a good fit in terms of a complementary product line.”
Hudson Products has made fans (i.e., customers) because of the fans it makes (i.e., product). Customers seeking the best quality air-cooled heat exchangers would not exchange Hudson Products for any other.