Turbo Blowing the Competition Away
APGN, Inc. has come a long way since its founding in 2006. Built upon Omar Hammoud’s twenty-five years of experience in the aviation and gas turbine industries, APGN brought a new level of innovation, using its knowledge to find technical solutions for some of the most complex technical issues.
From the early days, when Omar Hammoud risked everything he had to get APGN off the ground as a one-man entity, to proving the capabilities of this efficient new technology, the company has quickly asserted itself as a trailblazer.
“I worked with General Electric, United Technologies and Saffron, a French company that is the equivalent of GE and United Technologies,” Hammoud said, “So, in 2005, I left the aerospace and defence and aviation industries, and I started my own company.”
“I was doing some consultations for the investment community on Wall Street on tech development and evaluation of businesses in space and defence and also technology in aerospace and defence, and by the end of 2005, I identified an opportunity to cross over some of the technologies that were applied in aerospace and defence in the industrial segment.”
APGN turbo blowers offer a small but mighty presence through energy savings and low noise and vibration, and keep construction and maintenance costs down. Today, APGN’s range of high-efficiency turbo blowers is being used in industrial processes and water treatment operations for customers and municipalities around the world, including New York; Washington, DC; Seattle; Houston; Chicago; Vancouver; London; Mexico City and many others. There have been a total of 1,100 installations over the past eleven years.
Because it disrupted an industry dominated by loyalty to old technology, Hammoud was met with some resistance. So, he set out to prove the technology in various ways, offering product demonstrations and even providing free trial uses of units to build the reputation of the product and the company.
A major obstacle was low bid procurement, acknowledged Hammoud. “We face challenges in our own market in Canada with the private public partnerships where the winning teams ignore the project design that specified our product to lower their costs after they are awarded the projects. To overcome these challenges, we work hard with the engineering community and the owners to educate on the differences between the technologies.”
APGN’s turbo blowers feature a NASA-inspired air bearing, permanent magnet synchronous motor technology from space shuttles, impeller technology from jet engines and variable speed drives from advanced manufacturing.
“By bringing the efficient component technologies from aviation, gas turbine, aerospace and defense, we were able to come up with a product that is thirty to forty percent more efficient than old technology, even when the old technology products are new. The impact becomes greater when the old technologies erode over time.”
APGN products perform reliably and require minimal maintenance, as they do not need lubricants. The product has been proven through 25,000 starts, the equivalent of twenty or more years’ worth of operation. Likewise, as an environmentally sustainable product, its turbo blowers simultaneously reduce energy consumption and operating costs.
All of the company’s single- and dual-core turbo blowers are ‘plug and play,’ meaning they are designed for easy set-up and operation. The blowers come preassembled in a hermetic enclosure and have a footprint that is fifty-five percent less than that of conventional blowers. Turbo blowers offer great durability for outdoor installation and come in a variety of configurations.
Each unit is smart technology enabled which has modernized the interaction between the product and the operator. Equipping its turbo blowers with smart technology has mitigated the risk of failure and has also brought APGN closer to its customers regardless of where they are in the world.
“We made every product smart connected so we can see from our office, or our service technicians, or our consulting engineers, we can see how the product is performing at any time during the day or night, and when there is a fault in operations, we receive an alert directly from the product, and we see it before the customer sees it,” said Hammoud.
The company is certified to UL and CSA standards in the U.S. and Canada and to CE standards in Europe. In addition to being ISO 9001 certified, it is striving to achieve ISO 14001 certification. APGN’s commitment to safety, training, quality standards and environmental sustainability was also recognized recently as the company received Achilles UVDB Verify Category B2 accreditation. Hammoud himself oversees the company’s quality management system.
“We have a very strong quality management system,” Hammoud noted. “I pay very close attention to the quality but not only the quality of the products, the quality of how we do business every day, how we respond to the customer, how we write documents, how we submit proposals, how we implement solutions on our customer’s side.”
Whether it is at its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Blainville, Quebec, where its management, engineering, sales, customer support and administrative staff are stationed, or at its 60,000-square-foot production facility that was opened in 2010 in Plattsburgh, New York, the company is compliant with all regulations to which it is subject.
There is consistent service, expertise and performance from the team of knowledgeable professionals. With staff in Quebec, New York and Texas as well as abroad in the United Kingdom and now even the United Arab Emirates, the team has grown to seventy, a far cry from the days with one employee.
“We created a superior customer service team that manages to hold hands with the customer and walk them through what will be a good way to install the product, how to maintain it, how to operate it,” said Hammoud. “We spent a lot of investment in creating a layer of service technicians who go to the site.”
“They repeat the tests we do internally on the product, but on the customer side to make sure it’s installed properly, it operates properly, and they teach the customers how to take care of it, and that listed us above everyone in the industry because of our focussed approach.”
It selectively hires to ensure the talent is the best available and matches its culture of high technical competency and passion for developing innovative solutions. “We are very selective of our employees. We go the extra mile to hire the brightest and most educated engineers to work with the customers, so we don’t compromise on that even though it costs more. We pay for these resources because it’s an investment that we believe is very worthwhile,” acknowledged Hammoud.
Education is an important element of APGN’s success. It invests in training for both its people and its customers. Hammoud was determined to attract and retain sophisticated customers who understood the value being offered so the company holds technical seminars that help employees master the products and the technology while empowering its customers and assisting them to achieve accreditation for related licenses. The company also aids customers in finding and applying for grants.
“Operators must maintain a level of continuous education, and they really appreciate our efforts, supports and education,” explained Inside Sales Representative Jonathan Saia. In addition to conducting seminars, APGN publishes white papers that serve as an additional educational resource.
APGN received the ‘Best Technology Product Award’ from Corporate Vision Magazine in 2016, the ‘Best of Canada Award’ from Canadian Business Executive Magazine in 2016 and has ranked in Canada’s top five hundred fastest-growing companies in 2013, 2015 and 2016 on several magazine lists, also winning UK Corporate Venture Magazine’s ‘Best Turbo Blower Technology and Business Innovation’ in 2016.
Hammoud provided two examples of APGN’s turbo blowers in action. The company worked with the City of Thunder Bay in replacing old positive displacement technology that was underperforming. Three of its turbo blowers replaced sixteen older, smaller blowers. The result was an electrical savings of thirty-three percent, the equivalent of $250,000 annually.
“We teamed up with Ontario Clean Water Agency – a Crown agency – Lakehead University and the City of Thunder Bay to review the design for that plan and come up with an innovative solution that would help them reduce their operating costs and make the operation more efficient,” Hammoud recalled.
“We submitted our proposal to the Ministry of Environment in Ontario, and we were awarded $1 million that went to the City of Thunder Bay to procure our product, and we changed the design from the way it was operated to a more efficient design that will reduce the amount of connected power.” This was prudent as Ontario continues to battle rising energy costs.
A similar project was undertaken in London, Ontario, where APGN helped the city acquire grants to fund the replacement of existing, inefficient infrastructure, saving the city money and improving performance.
“We did that project in 2014, and it was phenomenal. They ended up saving something like seventy percent of the power consumption,” said Hammoud proudly. “That led them to take a look at their remaining plants, and by December of last year, we received an order from them to replace the old technology in three more plants.”
Despite having proven the multiple advantages of its innovative its turbo blowers, APGN faces a number of challenges. One difficulty is in accessing funding that has been earmarked for innovation.
Hammoud is concerned that companies with size and clout – the Bombardiers of the world – are usually first in line for much of the available funding, which leaves smaller competitors, regardless of how effective or proven their technology is, waiting for what funding remains.
But, just as scepticism didn’t prevent APGN from securing success, this funding challenge will not stop it either. One can likely expect more great things from APGN, including expansion into new markets and what is sure to be countless innovations that blow the competition away.