Generating a buzz
Founded in December 1999, Holtec Gas Systems (Holtec) is today an internationally recognized, experienced designer and supplier of nitrogen generation systems
Holtec Gas Systems (Holtec) was the brainchild of its President, Thorstein Holt who – with many years of experience in the field of gas separation under his belt – recognized an opportunity in the market for a company that would be able to provide the most efficient nitrogen generators around. More than 20 years later, Holtec has designed and fabricated solutions for a variety of industrial, food and beverage, and manufacturing applications worldwide, and continues to provide a complete turnkey solution, from concept to engineering design, fabrication, commissioning, and personnel training.
Nitrogen generation has been shown to provide an affordable, energy-conscious alternative to liquid nitrogen/high pressure gas cylinders. Holtec supplies both membrane and PSA type generators – either as standard models or custom-built in accordance with precise specifications – that are ready to hook-up to a compressed air supply. It also provides engineering support, as well as repair services for existing installations.
“Our customers are – and have always been – our number one priority, and we make it our mission to respond rapidly to existing customers needing support, as well as new customers needing proposals,” Thorstein explains. “Our experience in the gas separation industry dates back to the early 1980’s, and our employees have an in-depth knowledge of nitrogen generators that helps them to design, build, service and support all of our products. Based on the broad experience of our team, we come up with new ideas to improve our products to make them more efficient and user friendly.
“We spend a significant amount of time on research and development to improve the system efficiency to reduce air consumption, and therefore lower the operating cost to make the return of investment time shorter than that of our competition. We focus, as well, on building long lasting systems, which require very little maintenance. So, in summary, reliability, efficiency and customer service are the main differentiators that have contributed to Holtec’s success.”
Effective research and development has also been of constant importance for Holtec and its ability to produce the most efficient, user friendly and durable systems on the market. “Over the last decade, for instance, there has been a continuing movement towards pressure swing adsorption (PSA) type nitrogen generators being the technology of choice,” Thorstein states. “Holtec’s strength was in building larger PSA systems marketed under a series titled HNS, however, in 2017 we launched what has become a highly successful smaller product line designated HNBS, and this has allowed us to further cement our reputation for being a one-stop-shop for generators of all sizes.”
At the same time that the company has been increasing its physical product range, it has also been developing important supporting technology, such as its HoltecConnectTM and EnergyAssistantTM features for PSAs. The former is a remote monitoring and control tool that allows the company to operate and troubleshoot its nitrogen generators from anywhere in the world, which has become particularly useful in these challenging, Covid-19 dominated times. The latter, meanwhile, turns Holtec’s generators into variable capacity systems, where users can save up to 60 per cent of their air if they only consume 40 per cent of the rated capacity. Also in the case of PSA technology, Holtec has also developed and proved-out a comprehensive and accurate design simulation program to ensure its system designs perform as predicted every time and at the optimum efficiency. As a result of having this simulation program, there is now no longer a need to run costly factory acceptance tests for large systems, as they consistently meet or exceed the guaranteed performance.
One of the biggest recent developments involving Holtec was its announcement in June 2020 that it would be investing some $3 million into purchasing and updating a 50,000-square-foot facility in its home of St. Charles, Missouri. “This investment represents an immediate increase in shop floor space of over four times our previous location, with an additional equal amount of space that is currently being leased to a tenant,” Thorstein details. “We looked at a lot of properties before we found one in St. Charles that met our requirements. One was for it to have high ceilings, so we could install a large overhead crane, which is already in place. By having this capability, we can assemble larger nitrogen generators in-house with increased efficiency to reduce cost and fabrication time. A larger forklift truck was also purchased to increase our production capabilities. Another big investment was a large air compressor so we can test large nitrogen generators as well, without having to charge our customers extra.
“Other benefits include the fact that, previously, we had to store parts and materials at several different locations in Illinois and Missouri, whereas now everything is stored under one roof. This reduces storage, shipping cost, and production time, and increases our manufacturing efficiency. We have therefore been able to reduce the price and delivery time of many of our nitrogen generators to make us even more competitive. We have a big back yard where we are able to build large containerized nitrogen generators, which was a more difficult task at our old location.”
Having the right infrastructure and technology in place is, of course, of vital importance for any business, but as Thorstein goes on to highlight, it is the people that make up Holtec that are the most important element of all. “Our products and services are provided by our employees and their creativity, and without them there is no business,” he proclaims. “Purchasing our new facility shows our employees that we are in this for the long run, and it has energized everybody in a very positive way. Not only has it led to increased efficiency, but also to new thinking and even a more pleasant working environment. We have also found that, with Covid-19, having a bigger place makes it easier with social distancing to keep our critical business in operation.”
At the time of our conversation with Thorstein, the company was in the midst of preparing to appear as a speaker at the Growing Global 2020 – Globalization in Transition online interactive event on September 25, 2020. “The Growing Global event is hosted annually by the World Trade Center of St. Louis,” he tells us. “We have been working closely with them for many years, and they have connected us with Missouri’s Department of Economic Development and other resources to help Holtec and other Missouri businesses grow their export business. At this year’s event, we will share our experience in order to help other companies understand the important aspects of growing their export business. We expect it will be a good opportunity for us to connect with many possible local customers, as well as new suppliers.”
Looking beyond the Growing Global 2020 event, Thorstein feels that with its new facility having lots of space for expansion and growth, Holtec is in a good place to further grow its sales and distribution network, and in turn, add new employees to its team so that it can meet increased production demand. “We have the potential to double or triple our revenue in the next several years, and therefore get the best use out of our new facility,” he adds. “Effective research and development will be needed to continuously improve our nitrogen generators for this to become a reality.”
In looking ahead to the future, Thorstein is also able to reflect on the past and on the success that Holtec has had. “When I started this company in my basement more than 20 years ago, it was a very different time,” he reminisces. “Not many people had the special blend of nitrogen generation technology expertise and manufacturing experience to field a competitive nitrogen generator product. Since then, the landscape has changed drastically. Where Holtec has led the way, many other companies have attempted to follow. We have outlasted many of them, but every day we are hearing about others just starting. Our goal is to outlast these too.
“We will do so by spending a lot of time brainstorming, testing, discussing, debating, and sometimes even yelling at each other about how to create the best quality, yet affordable, nitrogen generator. We believe strongly that the strength of one’s reputation goes a very long way, so we are very passionate about making sure all of our customers are happy customers. Our promise is very simple. When we sell a nitrogen generator, it’s going to do what we said it would do; and if by chance it’s not right, we will make it right. In 20 years of business, that has never been an issue, so it’s not a scary or bold claim for us to make, ever.”
Holtec Gas Systems
Products: Nitrogen generation systems