With the number of applications growing in many end-use markets, the competition among providers of industrial ovens is increasing. But that’s OK for Blue M Electric, which is used to the heat. Not only does Blue M have decades of experience in providing a variety of temperature-related products, but it has also established a reputation for the imagination it has showed in developing new products and improving existing products.
The Watertown, Wis.-based company has two basic goals: to supply new equipment to meet new requirements; and to offer improved equipment to perform existing functions. Keith Itsell, Blue M’s director of sales and marketing, provides the following example of the company’s ability to develop product based on the market’s current needs: “Environmental test chambers are a growing product area, particularly in the telecommunications and semiconductor fields,” Itsell says. “Two years ago, we developed a new line of environmental test chambers to replace the previous line, the 1004 series. This shows our unique ability to deliver thermal solutions to our customers, even in this very competitive industry.”
Along with environmental test chambers, Blue M’s product line currently includes the industrial-oven family: safety ovens for processing solvents, mechanical convection ovens, industrial batch ovens, high-temperature convection ovens, burn-in ovens and economy ovens. These items are used in hazardous-oven applications and for epoxy curing, moisture drying, polymide-coatings curing, uniform high-temperature annealing, heat treating, ceramic firing and numerous other high-temperature applications.
Among the environmental test chambers Blue M produces are temperature cycling chambers, programmable humidity chambers, stress-screening chambers, temperature/humidity cabinets and thermal shock chambers. Blue M also markets control system packages for temperature-related processes. These include standard features such as double-size, four-digit light-emitting diode displays, built-in autotuning, a “learning” function that monitors the system’s responses to process changes and a manual mode, enabling output control for troubleshooting.
The company’s customer base encompasses automobile manufacturers and makers of chemical, electronics, munitions, telecommunications and semiconductor products. All of its products are made at its facility at Watertown, which now measures 140,000 square feet.
Founded in 1946, Blue M was purchased by Lindberg in 1987. Lindberg engineers and manufactures the industry’s most extensive line of thermal processing equipment. The company claims more than 75,000 installations worldwide, and backs its equipment with a full range of customer support services and the most extensive replacement parts inventory in the industry.
In 1998, the Lindberg organization was purchased by SPX Corporation. Blue M products are still made and managed by Lindberg, which is now a business unit of SPX. The Blue M organization underwent a change of hands earlier this year, when Ed Osborn, formerly vice president of sales and marketing, was chosen Blue M’s president. Osborn now leads an organization numbering slightly less than 500 employees.
In the 55 years since its founding, Blue M has transformed into a design, engineering and manufacturing operation that has taken on world-class status. The company’s engineering staff boasts more than 360 years of combined experience in temperature-related products and technology. (On its Web site, www.blue-m.com, the company refers to its staff as “skilled craftsmen,” a terminology that speaks volumes about how much pride they take in their work, and the viewpoint the company as a whole has adopted about its products.) Blue M’s state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment, quality control and product-testing procedures also play critical roles in ensuring that the best in quality ovens and environmental-testing equipment continually emerge from its facility.
In addition, Blue M’s connection with Lindberg provides another source of technological know-how. As a manufacturer of furnace systems, heat-treating systems, atmosphere generators and other thermal-processing products, Lindberg has accumulated its own store of experience. One of its particular areas of expertise is in metallurgy, which has proven invaluable in increasing the energy efficiency of its products.
Lindberg’s furnaces use the most energy-efficient components available and feature combustion systems with low nitrogen oxide emissions. These systems are also equipped with after-burners or catalytic converters, which have proven useful in situations where process emissions can harm the environment. Lindberg customers can expect, therefore, that their systems comply with local environmental regulations.
Blue M’s place in the SPX corporate family provides a wealth of support to its business. Along with Lindberg, the company is part of SPX’s Industrial Products & Services business unit. SPX’s 2000 revenues totaled $2.7 billion, up nearly 9 percent from the previous year’s total. The Industrial Products & Services unit grew its revenues by nearly 19 percent.
In assessing Blue M’s future opportunities, Itsell foresees particularly strong growth prospects for environmental test chambers — which should benefit from new products emerging in the telecommunications and wireless-products markets. Given its strong reputation and the financial backing of its parent, Blue M is well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.