Committed to Innovation

Virginia Transformer Corporation

As an engineering company manufacturing high-quality transformers for over forty years, Virginia Transformer Corporation has earned a reputation in the United States and worldwide for its many years of experience, expertise, innovation and quality.

The company produces one of the broadest ranges of small and medium-power transformers available from a single source for customers across a wide variety of industries and sectors.

President of Virginia Transformer Corporation for the past thirty-one years, Prabhat K. Jain has watched the company grow over the years while remaining on the leading edge of technology and innovation. Founded and headquartered in Roanoke, the company is a thriving seven hundred employee-strong enterprise with large modern facilities in Pocatello, Idaho, Chihuahua, Mexico and Delhi, India.

Since it was established in 1971, the company has grown to become the fourth largest manufacturer of power transformers in North America; with his background in mechanical engineering and material science (and holding an MBA), Mr. Jain has overseen much of the company’s growth and expansion into new industry sectors.

Although it has significantly evolved from its early focus of manufacturing drive isolation transformers for the mining and steel industries, the company saw increasing demand from these heavy industry and utility power applications which prompted it to broaden its product offerings in 1989 to 10 MVA units. (Megavolt ampere – a unit to measure apparent electrical power.) The product line has since expanded to include designs from 300 kVA to 100 MVA, 900 BIL.

Today, with three plants in North America, the company has the capability to manufacture up to 100 MVA, 230 kV class units. As a designer and manufacturer of power transformers in North America, the company’s products also encompass dry-type transformers up to 15 MVA, 35 kV. Virginia Transformer is now a one-stop shop for clients and is able to provide incoming substation units, power systems, process units inside buildings for large projects, and all necessary installation.

Virginia Transformer provides optimized electrical power solutions to an assortment of markets. “We have about half a dozen sectors of the marketplace that we service, and oil and gas is a significant sector for us,” says Mr. Jain. Other sectors served by the company include data centres; mass transit; mining in the western part of the United States; coal in the eastern part of the country; and utilities, such as power generating companies who use transformers for the generation and distribution of energy. The company, building on its reputation for creating unique designs, is also on the cutting edge of future uses such as those in the world’s renewable energy market – wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal power.

Contractors and distributors all across the nation use the company’s transformers in their projects. Well-known in the industry, Virginia Transformer serves a number of notable clients such as California Edison, Dominion Electric, Ottawa Hydro, Manitoba Hydro, General Electric, Siemens and many others.

The company’s products are also sold to many areas worldwide. “We are exporting transformers from our plant all the way up to Alaska and all the way down south all the way to Chile – also the Middle East, some in the Far East and some in eastern Africa as well,” says Mr. Jain.

Over the past forty-two years, the dedicated team at Virginia Transformer has also collected in excess of ten thousand designs in its archives – an invaluable resource for the company and its many customers. By concentrating on making its selection of transformers more diverse and constantly investigating both internal and external design and functionality, the company has earned a competitive edge over other manufacturers around the world.

It has, however, refused to rest on its past successes and has reduced its defect rate by an average of eighteen percent each year for the past ten years. This impressive feat has been achieved through continuous improvement in design and manufacturing processes which assure customers of quality products from start to finish.

“With our internal process, we pursue continuous improvement,” says Mr. Jain. “Very simply stated, we look for internal defects that occur in the processes that we have and then we collect those defects and we analyze them as to why the defect occurred and then we remedy the root cause of the defect.”

If, in a rare occurrence, a design defect occurs, it is caught internally – through the quality assurance process – and does not go out to the customer. Through a proactive process, an action plan is then laid out to eliminate any defects so they will not reoccur. If the defect is due to an operator’s skill, the operator will be tested, re-trained and tested again to see if they have the ability to develop necessary skills. If not, they are reassigned to another role in the company.

Indeed, transformers are designed, engineered and manufactured by staff who undergo rigorous, extensive, and ongoing training programs that continue throughout their careers at the company. Of the company’s staff of seven hundred, approximately one hundred are engineers who possess not only graduate and post graduate degrees in multiple areas of specialization, but are able to offer clients combined staff experience in transformer design which exceeds three hundred years.

All transformers are designed and built for a specific application. In this way, the company is able to optimise and meet customer requirements for the lowest possible cost. “If we were to standardize our transformers, the cost would actually be higher,” says Mr. Jain of the company, which, at the request of its clients, can also design custom transformers to certain specifications.

Virginia Transformer makes both liquid-filled (transformers containing a highly refined mineral oil with excellent electrical insulating properties) and dry-type transformers. Many are designed to withstand a range of environmental challenges, from damp, humid conditions to extremely hot, dry, dusty locations. They can perform at different elevations; survive seismic activity in areas prone to earthquakes; and resist gases, such as those found in mines.

Regardless of where they are situated, all transformers must perform reliably, and years of first-hand knowledge has led the company to create numerous design innovations, such as its UNIClad system. Coils in the UNIClad system are encapsulated and further isolated from the environment. This unique development results in a premium quality dry-type transformer which is infinitely superior to traditional cast coil transformers in terms of efficiency, reliability, and cost. These transformers are not affected by the humidity in the air, dust, short circuits and impact overloading or fumes. Additionally, since the windings of the coil are excluded from these elements, the coil will last considerably longer, with UNIClad systems effectively being forty-year life transformers, as opposed to a standard twenty-year lifespan for this type of transformer.

“Besides the area of continuous improvement, we are active in technology and innovation,” shares Mr. Jain. “Our skill set leads us to create innovation within our designs, which is unique because some were designed a long time ago and are constant in their features and functionality. So, we are bringing new features to transformers using state of the art technology, like robotic welding – we use that in our shop – and we also have the ability to monitor some processes in the shop using ELTs so we can do a statistical review of the processes and the results.”

The company’s welding robots improve quality and reduce costs, leading to the shortest lead times in the industry and the highest quality and reliability available anywhere. All company facilities are also ISO 9001 certified, to ensure they operate under the most demanding quality assurance processes.

Built on the experience of the past, Virginia Transformer remains at the forefront of product design for traditional sectors and has emerged as the manufacturer of choice for emerging power generation areas such as solar and wind farm projects. “We are dedicated to bringing about innovation.”

October 20, 2017, 2:05 PM EDT

Wind on the Rise

In the world of renewable energy, wind power is growing fast. It is projected that 10 percent of the energy generated in the United States will come from wind farms by 2020. Offshore wind farms are a relatively new addition to the American energy market, but the technology has been well established in Europe and is now taking off state-side as well.