Pride in the Process

Henry Technologies

Henry Technologies Canada began in Brantford back in 1967 under the name Chil-Con and manufactured chillers, condensers and heat exchangers for the refrigeration industry. Seventeen years ago, Henry Valve purchased Chil-Con and seven years ago, Henry was in turn bought out by a privately held company, Hendrick Holdings, out of Wisconsin. “They totally supported us in developing the Brantford and Texas facilities. They have been very good in seeing us develop and grow,” says Mike Walsh, the company’s sales and marketing director, of how the company has changed from being a manufacturer of chillers and condensers to a fabricator of pressure vessels and heat exchangers for the global market.

The company designs and fabricates pressure vessels and heat exchangers from carbon steel, stainless steel, titanium, copper-nickel and other alloys for some of the most demanding operating conditions. Its products are found in ice arenas, food processing facilities, cold storage facilities, gas compression and other industrial applications.

Henry Technologies’ portfolio of equipment ranges from eight inch diameter vessels and exchangers, to the largest that can be put on the road at a ten to twelve foot diameter – anywhere from 1,000 to 300,000 lbs. Henry Technologies has built – and shipped to the United Arab Emirates – a heat exchanger with a 96 inch diameter and a 45 foot length, which weighed in at just under 300,000 lbs. Needless to say, this was the company’s most challenging project shipped offshore to date.

A large job like that, Mike explains, can take up to two months to run through the shop but it takes over a year from the start of the design process to when it is shipped out the door. Thermal and mechanical designs must be approved and accepted on site by the client and its engineering teams. This means that a lot of ideas and paperwork go back and forth prior to the work even hitting the shop floor.

Henry Technologies takes pride in designing all of its products in-house. “Our thermal and mechanical designs are done in-house using in-house developed programs, engineering programs, and purchase programs such as HTRI and PV Elite,” explains Mike. “We currently use versions of AutoCAD and Solid Works 3D to do all of our fabrication and approval drawings. In terms of Quality control, Henry Technologies has current ISO-9000:2008 certification. Quality programs and management programs are in place to ensure 100 percent quality.”

The company’s superior production capabilities make it one of the most competitive players in its field. Though Ontario is typically not one of the most cost effective areas to manufacture this kind of product, Henry Technologies’ manufacturing capabilities and its shop process reduce labor costs substantially which allow it to compete globally. The company has a manufacturing facility in Texas where, for example, heating and cooling costs are lower, but the company wants to maintain its Ontario manufacturing base and highly skilled staff.

The Texas facility, though, has enabled the company to open up into the oil and gas market. “That’s really our main target right now for manufacturing, both here in Brantford and Texas,” Mike explains. “Obviously Texas has a long history in oil and gas, especially the refineries in and around the Texas Gulf area. It’s opened up the opportunity for both our manufacturing and design capabilities for the Texas facility and also allowed us to build product here in Brantford for those markets, through their customer base.” In Brantford, Henry Technologies maintains a 100,000 square foot facility with labour of roughly 60,000 person hours/year. The larger Texas facility has 170,000 square feet of manufacturing facilities and 120,000 person hours/year.

With increased overhead costs in Ontario, why doesn’t Henry just move all production to Texas? Partly, this is due to the extensive experience and expertise in manufacturing and welding of the Ontario employees. “We have one hundred employees here who would like to keep working and be productive. The company has been here for forty-three years. We’re still manufacturing; we have a good base here. Now we are looking at moving into other product lines.”

Currently Henry Technologies is close to completing the process to earn an N-stamp, which will allow it to work with nuclear facilities around the world making components for the safety side of nuclear facilities. This includes pressure vessels, exchangers, rolled shells and other key components. To meet these stringent requirements, some of the company’s processes evolved, mainly document control, and Henry Technologies has been hard at work for a year and a half to implement all of the requirements needed to serve the nuclear industry.

The result has been a great deal of modernization at the Brantford facility in particular. “Manufacturing-wise, the company made a big transition about seven years ago and put a lot of new equipment in which is fairly modern,” says Mike. We are probably one of the most modernized facilities in the type of work we do – which makes us efficient. For our standard products, there is not a whole lot more we can do other than train welders and machinists, but going into the nuclear industry is a major innovation for us. It will open up the power generation market globally for us. This will help us to bring in more people, but the people we have now are pretty strong, so there is a lot we can do with what we have.”

Indeed, the biggest challenge for the company is finding new people to come into the industry. Henry Technologies has a strong employee base, many of whom have been with the company for a number of years – especially individuals on the shop floor and in the engineering departments. “We would like to add to that, but one of the challenges here in Ontario is getting people interested in this field of manufacturing,” Mike explains. “Retaining skilled workers is not a big issue but finding them is, so we do some in-house training. We will bring welders in and train them without any experience to be certificate welders.”

Many welders come out of technical colleges such as Mohawk; however, a lot of programs are geared toward work in the automotive industry as opposed to skills such as welding steel plates. Some high school programs still teach teens how to weld, but it’s not like it was 25 years ago when welding was more in demand and students could get two to three years of experience at a high school level and be able to come in to work to top up with on-the-job training.

To be sure, it is a highly specialized industry. On the design and engineering side of things, the company looks for people with mechanical engineering backgrounds – Certified Engineering Technologists, etc. “It takes a special type of person that is interested in thermal design. Once they are here, however, they stay for quite a while. Most of our employees have been here for ten years; some for twenty-five; and still others since 1967!” The experience and expertise the team brings to manufacturing welded products is extensive.

It helps that the company has some strong partners in Ontario. The Export Development Corporation (EDC) helps it enter into new markets via financial assistance, bonding, and insurance. The EDC is a government agency which acts as a finance group and seeks out export opportunities for Ontario manufacturers. For a time, the government had been lax on areas of assistance and emerging markets, but recently it has come around and is working hard on establishing trade missions to various locations.

Henry Technologies has a presence all over the globe. It has partnerships in the United Arab Emirates and manufacturing facilities in Chatham, Illinois. There are also facilities in Glasgow, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia. Though it works on different products and its equipment can be found throughout North America, Europe, South East Asia, Australasia, China and Russia, the bulk of what Henry Technologies manufactures goes into the oil and industrial refrigeration industries in Alberta and the Texas Gulf area.

Further expansion is on the horizon via the Middle East and North Africa because of the vastness of the oil reserves in those areas. Saudi Arabia is putting refineries up for oil, gas and petrochemical industries faster than any other country on the planet. “It is a huge market for us, so our focus is to be part of that by manufacturing some of the components here and doing the design work with partners in the Middle East. Sometimes we come across political ramifications; we worked in Libya before Gaddafi left and had some issues getting paid when everything blew up.”

Understandably, safety is one of the highest priorities within the company. Henry prides itself on the fact that there are very few accidents in its facilities because everyone is trained in health and safety. “The people who work here are very important to the company, so one of the key aspects is health and safety. We have an in-house training program; everyone that starts here has to take the program and be fully aware of all the policies that we have in place.” There is also ongoing training and an incentive program which awards a quarterly bonus to all employees if there are no incidents.

Henry Technologies’ loyal and long-serving workforce – together with its highly trained new recruits – have, it seems, done all the right things to make the company the global leader in industrial and commercial components for the refrigeration industry even as it continues to grow and expand into different markets around the world. “It is a subtle but important distinction that we define our role based upon who we serve and how we serve them, as opposed to what we make.” It’s this attitude that has enabled Henry Technologies to continue to blaze a trail in its field.

December 19, 2018, 7:17 AM EST