Today’s Boiler: Doug, thanks for your time today. Please provide a little background on your career.
Wright: I have been involved in the manufacturing sector in some capacity for more than 30 years, spending a good part of my career in southwest Missouri, working in different capacities for a well-known aerospace battery manufacturer before taking on the role of president and CEO of Superior Boiler in 2008.
Today’s Boiler: Please share an overview of Superior Boiler, the company’s products, and markets served.
Wright: Superior Boiler has been in business since 1917 and is a longtime member of the American Boiler Manufacturers Association (ABMA). We manufacture firetube boilers, watertube boilers, waste heat boiler systems, hot water condensing boilers, and other ancillary boiler room equipment. Nearly all the products we sell are custom-manufactured for specific applications across a wide variety of end-user segments.
Today’s Boiler: You were recently named board chair of ABMA. Please tell us about this achievement and the role ABMA plays in the boiler industry.
Wright: It is an honor to serve in the role of ABMA chair. We have a great board of directors with diverse backgrounds and tremendous business experience. I just consider myself part of a team that is working to keep our programs and services relevant and ensure we are addressing issues that are important and impactful to the boiler industry. ABMA is the longest-running trade association in the country and an important partner for boiler manufacturers and suppliers to advocate on our behalf and promote our industry.
Today’s Boiler: Do you have any specific goals for your tenure as chair? What are you most excited about?
Wright: ABMA adopted a new strategic plan in January 2020, but many initiatives were delayed due to COVID-19. Now that we can see the end of this pandemic, our members are going to begin to see the impact of our new strategy.
One of these major initiatives is our first-ever boiler-industry-specific conference and expo, focused on engaging the entire boiler supply chain. This idea was the vision of ABMA’s leadership and aims to serve as a strategic shift to engage directly with end users of our products and create new business opportunities for our member companies.
Initially planned for fall of 2021, this event has been moved to April 2022 and renamed BOILER 2022. Exhibit sales for members will begin in the coming months with registration occurring in the fall. We are doing significant planning and working hard to make it the event we envision it to be.
In addition, we will be developing more thought leadership from our product and market subgroups to further educate those working with boilers.
Today’s Boiler: How does the election of Joe Biden and the push toward net-zero energy potentially impact the boiler industry? What role do boilers play under such an energy-conscious administration?
Wright: Boilers are everywhere and basically touch your life each day. Most people have no idea about the impact of boilers or knowledge that hot water and steam are necessary for many applications. Boilers continue to improve and get more efficient, and there will always be the case for boilers in our market-driven industry. In addition to traditional energy sources, boiler systems today are being operated by renewable sources of fuel and solar. Our view is that boiler systems should be part of any overall energy plan that includes diverse options. At the end of the day, evolving customer needs will drive product innovation.
Today’s Boiler: What do you see as the major challenges for the boiler industry over the next 10 years?
Wright: Our members have stated that they continue to be challenged to maintain a skilled workforce, and finding workers interested in technical trades is one of their top concerns. While automation and robotics are becoming more prevalent, workers are still needed to program, operate, and maintain tools and machinery that continue to get more complex.
Other challenges include seamless connectivity of the boiler system, evolving regulatory challenges, continuing to create more efficiency, and reducing the environmental impact of our products.
Today’s Boiler: How do we best solve these challenges?
Wright: The lack of skilled tradespeople has been building for years and will not be solved overnight. ABMA and its member companies have seen some success by partnering with schools and vocational programs. A good example is ABMA’s partnership with Lone Star College in Houston on a vocational welding program that provides scholarships to students. Several within our membership are also partnering with their local schools to bring awareness about the opportunities within our industry.
As for regulatory issues, we have members actively involved in their states and local communities to keep us abreast of what is being discussed in different locales. ABMA is actively involved with various federal agencies regarding regulatory matters and represents the industry with American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Controls & Safety Devices (CSD-1) and National Board Inspection Code (NBIC) committees.
Today’s Boiler: COVID-19 has significantly changed our way of life for the last year. How has COVID-19 impacted your company and the boiler industry?
Wright: COVID-19 obviously turned everything upside down last year. Businesses had to learn to adapt very quickly on how to keep their workers safe and healthy and, in addition, manufacturers had the challenge of remaining in business, safely manufacturing and staying in touch with our customers.
As for Superior, we closely followed the guidance provided to us by state and local health officials to maintain a safe work environment. For the most part, we have done fairly well. We had a few cases late last year but do not have any right now, which is hopefully how it stays. Talking with other ABMA members, everyone seems to have taken the pandemic seriously and are doing their best to keep their workplaces as safe as possible.
Personally speaking, I did contract COVID-19 back in November but never had any major symptoms, so I was fortunate in that regard. I know others have not been so lucky.
Today’s Boiler: In 2020, Superior Boiler announced it was relocating its Richmond, Virginia, operations into Hutchinson, Kansas. Can you provide an update?
Wright: The relocation of our Richmond operations was a strategic decision to bring all our manufacturing and expertise to Hutchinson and remains on track to be completed by the middle of this year.
Today’s Boiler: ABMA recently held its 2021 Annual Meeting, which ended up being a completely virtual event. How did ABMA navigate this transition, and what feedback did you receive from the participants?
Wright: I think it went about as well as we could have expected. We exceeded our expectations on registrants and overall participation. Again, another first, but the ABMA team did a great job preparing for the event and executing on the plan. I believe the membership saw value throughout the event with presentations on various topics, including implementation of CO monitoring in the boiler room, thermal systems analytics, emissions reduction solutions, and facilitating end-user maintenance. The event concluded with a presentation from ABMA’s resident economist, Alan Beaulieu from ITR Economics, who gave an upbeat report about the remainder of this year and the year ahead.
In addition to the presentations, each day ended with fun virtual activities that allowed members to interact with each other.
Still, it was not the same as being in person, and we are looking forward to bringing the membership back together this June in Florida for our 2021 Summer Meeting, which will be a hybrid event as of right now.
Today’s Boiler: I understand you are a Kansas City Chiefs fan. Any thoughts on the Super Bowl?
Wright: Well, let me just say that I enjoyed Super Bowl 54 a little better than Super Bowl 55. But it is great for the Chiefs to be relevant again and have a great quarterback leading the team.
Today’s Boiler: What does the future hold for you?
Wright: Boilers and more boilers as of today. As long as I continue to enjoy what I’m doing — and I do — and work with the great team members and ownership we have at Superior, I don’t plan on hanging it up anytime soon. I also thoroughly enjoy and treasure the industry relationships I have developed through my affiliation with ABMA and always look forward to gathering with friends and colleagues to learn about the latest industry trends and catch up with them and their families.
Today’s Boiler: If readers are interested in learning more about Superior Boiler, where should they turn?
Wright: I encourage them to visit www.superiorboiler.com or send an email to email@example.com.