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If you’re looking for an example of a Made in America company that exemplifies the American tradition of hard work, employee dedication and loyalty, commitment to customers and continuing innovation, look no further than Augusta Fiberglass Coatings, Inc.
“This is a company that literally started from nothing,” says a company spokesman who, along with John Boyd, the founder of Augusta Fiberglass participated in the interview with our reporter. “In 1974 it had one owner, one employee, and one pickup truck.”
Today, Augusta Fiberglass has the same owner— John W. Boyd—but now employs more than 230 workers, engineers and craftsmen to design and fabricate customized fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) tanks and equipment. Augusta Fiberglass annually converts millions of pounds of resin and fiberglass fabric into custom-made fiberglass tanks, ducts, scrubbers, stack liners, and other equipment. Moreover, to accommodate continuing growth, the company is investing $625,000 on a 12,000 square-foot addition to its more than 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space located at its Blackville, South Carolina headquarters in Barnwell County. The expansion will add 12 new jobs.
Company founder John Boyd views this most recent expansion as a continuation of what AFC has been doing from the start. “It’s always been about the future, we are always looking for the next challenge” Boyd says.
Over the years, Augusta Fiberglass has overcome a number of challenges and since the company’s inception has recorded a number of firsts, both in the size of the vessels it fabricates as well as the development of technological innovations. In 1978, the company designed and fabricated one of the first fiberglass chlorination towers and in 2007 completed the largest FRP column in North America, to cite just a few of Augusta Fiberglass’ many accomplishments.
Among Augusta Fiberglass accomplishments are the massive units designed and fabricated for the power industry. These successful projects include more than 11 miles of stack liners weighing more than 20 million pounds; seven of the world’s largest Jet Bubbler Reactor fiberglass vessels weighing more than 1 million pounds each, measuring from 108 to 119 feet in diameter and standing more than 50 feet tall. All together Augusta Fiberglass has provided the power industry with fiberglass vessels and liners that weigh more than 26 million pounds.
In 1995, Augusta Fiberglass was authorized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) to design, fabricate and code stamp RTP-1 pressure vessels. Only a few years later, ASME authorized the company to fabricate and stamp RTP-1 vessels in the field anywhere in the world.
“We’re one of the few fabricators to have the RTP-1 authorization,” Mr. Boyd points out. “Even for customers who don’t require that stamp on their tanks, they can be confident that they are getting the same people with the same high level expertise that is mandated by the ASME standard. In addition, we can set up shop anywhere in the world and provide the same engineering and manufacturing quality that we do from our facilities in South Carolina.” Specialized equipment and techniques unique to Augusta Fiberglass allow field fabrication and field assembly of very large vessels.
Dual Laminate Capability
In 2010, Augusta Fiberglass acquired B&D Plastics based in Ocean Springs, Ms., A world leading fabricator of dual laminate vessels in the world. Shortly thereafter it expanded the site to to increase its capacity to produce fiberglass and dual laminate products. “Dual laminates significantly improve the corrosion resistance of plastics,” Tom Reeves, the chief operating officer of B&D Plastics explains. “When the corrosion resistant inner plastic liners are structurally reinforced with an outer shell of fiberglass, you have a lightweight and economical alternative to high-cost metal alloys. The flexibility of plastic allows you to customize molds for just about any use, including storage vessels, sump covers, tower tops, ducts and scrubbers.”
In 2015, B&D Plastics successfully met the ASME standards and became an ASME RTP-1 authorized dual laminate fabricator and an ASME RTP-1 authorized fiberglass fabricator making B&D Plastics one of only 2 fabricators in the world to hold this dual authorization.
More recently, Augusta Fiberglass acquired property in Angleton, Texas with an eye towards developing a manufacturing site to serve the western U.S. “By being closer to our customers in the west and mid-west, we can both expedite shipping time as well as save on transportation costs.”
Serving the customer is paramount at Augusta Fiberglass. “We are a niche business with customers in a variety of industries,” Boyd says. “Because of our expertise and experience, we can expedite fabrication and delivery at a speed that is unmatched without sacrificing quality. Our ability to deliver-on-time is one of our key competitive differentiators.”
Boyd adds that, “We don’t spend any time worrying about what our competitors are doing. We keep our attention on what the customer needs and how we can best satisfy those needs. Everything else falls into place.”
Custom to Any Market
Augusta Fiberglass does not sit still in certain markets. “Years ago, the coal fired power plants were big customers for us. But today coal isn’t the industry it was. Same with the paper industry. Today we’re doing a lot of work for the chemical and petrochemical industries. Since we’re a custom business, we’re not industry-focused and we don’t depend on any particular market segment,” Boyd says. “We continually create new processes using patented innovations that often represent firsts in fiberglass fabrication. No matter how large or small, Augusta Fiberglass brings world class engineering to each project and offers unprecedented capacity to produce quality, complicated projects at the speed modern industry demands, without sacrificing quality or safety. Augusta Fiberglass quality products satisfy a sophisticated worldwide need for solutions to problems that face virtually every industry sector in the world. Companies that must handle or store caustic or corrosive chemicals or which need complex duct systems look to Augusta Fiberglass to provide the FRP products they need. That’s how we as a company continue to grow.”
Mr. Boyd points out that the people who work for the company have grown with it as well. “We have many third generation employees. In addition to experienced FRP workers and supervisors, we have a staff of highly skilled engineers with decades of experience who perform manual calculations as well as those that require computer assistance, and have the knowledge and skills to perform finite element analysis. Our drafters use AutoCad and Solid Works for 3D. Our customers can be confident that they are getting the very best professionals and craftspeople.”
Dedication to safety also contributes to company morale. “Safety is the most important consideration in everything we do,” Mr. Boyd stated.
Such dedication results in what Boyd terms a happy company. “Loyalty to and from employees is a hallmark of the effort at Augusta Fiberglass. Employees who started in the early days of the company and worked for decades on our projects have passed the torch to their adult grandchildren who continue to meet and exceed the high standards set by those who have gone before them. Together, we look forward every day to solving customer issues with innovative products built to the highest quality standards.”