When Nova Capital Corp. purchased Exchanger Industries in 2011, the company’s first order of business was to significantly change the way its new acquisition operated for the better. Since that time, Exchanger Industries has moved beyond the status quo that it had maintained since its inception in 1961 as a job shop to grow its marketshare and technical capabilities.
Today, Exchanger Industries continues to evolve thanks mainly to its implementation of lean manufacturing methodologies and new technology. “Lean manufacturing has helped us move from being a mom-and-pop-style job shop to being a modern corporation,” explains Cal Kveder, business development manager for the Alberta-based company.
Exchanger Industries designs and manufactures custom heat transfer equipment for the oil, natural gas and petrochemical industries. Its products include air-cooled and shell-and-tube heat exchangers as well as waste heat boilers and sulphur condensers. “Everything we build is a one-off, tailor-made job that is designed and sized to customer specifications,” Kveder says.
The equipment produced by Exchanger is critical to the operations of the plants it is housed in. Because of this, precision, safety, quality and efficiency are absolutely crucial to the company’s manufacturing and engineering staff. “Our equipment is designed to meet the customer’s process design requirements, specifications, and industry standards. Additionally, quality, safety and pricing must be maintained under critical schedules,” Kveder says.
Exchanger’s lean manufacturing efforts include hiring a director of integrated planning, implementing a vendor-managed inventory process by installing vending machines for consumables and safety gear, and converting a portion of its shop into an “express bundle bay,” used to segregate stainless-steel and high-alloy work and allowing for fast turnaround. The company also hired a welding engineer to update its welding procedures for new welding technologies and ever-changing client specifications. In addition, the company implemented a work order routing system to better track the actual amount of labor hours spent on each manufacturing process of its jobs.
On the technology end, the company recently made two investments that will positively impact its products and efficiency. Exchanger is now shifting from two-dimensional AutoCAD modeling to parametric 3-D models for its design work. “This will significantly reduce drafting lead time throughout the engineering cycle. An additional benefit is that we can give our clients 3D models to directly incorporate into their piping models,” Kveder says.
The company’s dedication to lean manufacturing processes allows it to source and turn over large equipment to its customers in a timely fashion. One recent example of this was in October 2012, when a large Alberta oil production company ordered 15 high-alloy shell and tube bundles for critical turn-around in 20 weeks. “We were able to engage our supply chain and source 572,544 feet – or 108 miles – of tubing on short notice. We used new welding technology and our dedicated bundle bay to build and ship all 15 bundles on time to avoid delaying site start-up,” Kveder says.
A Rewarding Challenge
Exchanger’s manufacturing process is preceded by an extensive engineering phase. “This product is pretty common throughout the world – everyone builds them the same way, so what really differentiates manufactures is engineering, quality, safety and pricing,” Kveder says.
The company’s team of engineers use thermal design software provided by Heat Transfer Research Inc. (HTRI) to optimize the exchanger sizing and configuration. Products are then mechanically engineered for material, design pressure and design temperature. The estimators then consider scheduling, major component pricing, and all additional client requirements before submitting a proposal.
Once awarded, Exchanger assigns a dedicated project manager and drafting team to generate drawings based on the exchanger design and incorporates ASME Code and client specifications.
Kveder credits the success of the company to its dedicated staff. “We’re extremely proud of our longstanding employees; we have people here who are third-generation employees and others who have worked here for more than 40 years,” he says.
Much of the its ability to retain employees is a result of its positive culture. “We have an interesting product; it’s challenging work, but also rewarding,” Kveder notes. “Every day, we’re building something new and are constantly being challenged by evolving requirements, new processes and unique equipment.”