BOILER 2022 has arrived. The best and brightest in the boiler industry have converged in Dallas to equip you with actionable strategies for compliance, sustainability, and operational contingency. In honor of the event, Today’s Boiler gathered four of the industry’s brightest minds — Larry Day, president and CEO, Nationwide Boiler Inc.; Paul Ingham, vice president of sales and marketing, Thermogenics; Doug Wright, president, and CEO, Superior Boiler; and Brandon Young, technical sales and business development manager, Robinson Fans — to discuss the industry’s present and future in this exclusive BOILER 2022 Q&A. 

Today’s Boiler: While 2020 and 2021 were certainly challenging (given the pandemic, economic challenges, and supply chain shortages), it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Please share one or two positive events that occurred over this time. 

Day: Recent video technologies, such as Teams and Zoom, have enabled more effective use and communication with remote workers, which enables them to stay connected and be accepted as part of the new workforce moving forward. We’ve learned that you don’t have to be in the office 100% of the time, allowing more flexibility in working hours and adding to quality of life and balancing work and home.  

Ingham: At Thermogenics, we took the challenging experience of the pandemic and turned it into an opportunity to galvanize our team and remind everyone that we have each other’s backs. Sacrifices were made across the parts of the business most impacted by the pandemic and, as a result, together, we were able to avoid forced layoffs and negative customer outcomes. It’s this level of commitment and dedication from the top down that ultimately makes everyone at Thermogenics feel valued and connected to a bigger mission.

Wright: The pandemic forced Superior Boiler to use technology differently to maintain connections with our customers and sales representatives. By doing this, we learned valuable ways and tools to also interact with our own employees. Sharing information and video conferencing opened up new avenues for marketing our products and sharing information on boilers in production with customers. We’re continuing to use — and even build upon — that technology use today. We also continued work on our internal R&D projects and were successful in a couple of endeavors that were going on during this time.

Young: In 2020, shortly after the beginning of the pandemic, one of our customers canceled a multimillion-dollar fan project. Although this was a big hit, we were excited to be re-awarded this project in late 2021, and we are currently working on a 2022 delivery.

Today’s Boiler: While we’re already a quarter of the way through 2022, there’s still a lot of meat left on the bone. Professionally, what are you most excited about accomplishing this year?

Day: Getting back to face-to-face meetings with our customers in their plants. Nothing can replace this, which is crucial to good communication, building relationships, and finding solutions to our customers’ problems.  

Ingham: I’m excited about returning to pre-pandemic activities and in-person events. I’m also looking forward to continuing to modernize our processes. During the onset of COVID, frontline sales paused, and we made the decision to spend time streamlining internal processes to find different kinds of customer outreach. We began diving deeper into how to engage better on the phone and how to optimize our use of technology. I’m committed to continuing to explore how we can learn and grow in this area in 2022 and beyond.

Wright: A couple of things, actually. First, we’ve officially introduced the Cheyenne boiler to the marketplace after several years of internal research and development. This high-efficiency, hot water condensing firetube boiler is targeted for the larger industrial market and is a dual-fuel-capable boiler. We will highlight this boiler at BOILER 2022. Second, we now have all of our manufacturing operations located in Hutchinson, Kansas, after relocating the Richmond, Virginia, watertube boiler operations back here the middle of last year. We are looking forward to having a full year of everything being located in the same area with the capability to collaborate and share valuable resources across product lines.

Young: We are extremely excited about the flexibility our team has demonstrated during these tough times. With some internal adjustments, we have been able to handle fast changes in the market and economy. We feel like we are better prepared for potential local or global situations that could upset the marketplace.

Today’s Boiler: What innovations/actions will continue to keep you and your team ahead of the curve going forward?

Ingham: Even though there were some initial challenges with moving meetings to the virtual space, it turns out that virtual meetings can often be more efficient for everyone involved. Now, instead of some team members having to travel far distances for a meeting, we can save them that travel time with just a focused Microsoft Teams call.

Wright: The market will continue to drive innovations around emissions and sustainability, and we intend to focus on those areas while always maintaining the high-quality standards we’re known for. You can never really take a break as there is always something out there driving continuous improvement.

Young: We continue to have a strong focus on developing our people and technologies through additional training and research and development.

Today’s Boiler: Regarding the BOILER 2022 event, what are you most excited about?

Day: Having a dedicated trade show for just boilers and boiler supply chains. Some of our traditional industry trade shows have gotten so big that our boiler industry has gotten lost.

Ingham: I am most excited about Thermogenics having the opportunity to present onstage at BOILER 2022 on the topic of “The Modern Technician.” With labor shortages affecting the industry, now is a crucial time to reflect on the remarkable changes that have occurred for boiler techs over the past decade. The ultimate purpose of our session is to offer ideas for what organizations can do to better support their techs and offer insights into how to recruit and retain great talent into the future.”

Wright: Being together with the best of the best in our industry for a boiler-focused event and having the opportunity to meet with end-users, supply chain partners, and customers. Boilers really are an unknown hero behind the scenes that makes the things we take for granted better every day. Having a forum to highlight all of the positive developments happening in the industry is invaluable.

Young: Although we have had opportunities to display our products at other trade shows connected to boilers, we are excited to be a part of ABMA’s first-ever, boiler-specific conference, where we will be exhibiting.

Today’s Boiler: If you could give boiler end users one lasting piece of advice regarding the present and future of boilers, what would that be?

Day: Steam is not going away. It is still the most efficient means of heat transfer for so many processes and manufacturing applications. Even though there is the climate change push to de-carbonize our industry, steam is deeply embedded in our manufacturing processes, which guarantees it will still be around for a long time. So many everyday things in our lives involve steam in the manufacturing process. Paper, chemicals, gasoline, pharmaceuticals, steel, plastic, food processing, etc. Getting steam from windmills and solar panels is not yet feasible or practical. Fossil fuels, such as natural gas, will still be needed to make steam and the power to run all the electric cars.

Ingham: My best piece of advice to end users would be: invest in knowledge and education when it comes to your boiler. Taking time to learn about your boiler and learning how to ask the right questions will help you optimize your boiler experience. It’s also important to remember that safe steam solutions don’t always come in the form of a new product, they can also come in the form of excellent service through the whole life cycle of the boiler, so it’s important to build strong relationships not only with the product side of the business but also with the service providers.

Wright: Boilers will continue to evolve and be around for a long time. They will continue to use technology to improve emissions and efficiencies while utilizing state-of-the-art controls to provide real-time data and analytics. With the increased emphasis on sustainability, there will be further advancements toward utilizing renewable biofuels and other exotic fuels to power them. If end users take good care of their boilers maintenance-wise, those boilers will provide you many years of service with great paybacks.

Young: As we have learned over the last two years, being able to adapt and pivot quickly is very valuable in this volatile economy and these ever-changing industries. With companies focusing on things like sustainability, we as suppliers should focus on developing our technologies to fit these new market trends, standards, and requirements.