Simmering with Success
Much is the same at Nationwide Boiler Incorporated, since Business in Focus last featured the California-based firm in its December 2018 issue. The scope of its operations, however, continues to expand.
The company is headquartered in Fremont, California, with sales office in Visalia, California and Washougal, Washington and roughly twenty outside sales and service representatives throughout North America. The Fremont location also features a machine shop where the company maintains, reconditions, and repairs boiler equipment, as well as a test facility to demonstrate emission and capacity requirements.
“When we spoke last, Nationwide had just secured what we believe is the largest rental project in our industry. That involved three 200,000-pound-per-hour boilers rented to a facility in Saudi Arabia. That same facility ended up renting an additional two 70,000 pound-per-hour boilers with economizers and feedwater vans,” states Marketing Manager Chelsey Ryker.
The Saudi Arabia project was announced in September 2018 and centred on a trio of 750 psi/750F superheated steam, skid-mounted water-tube boilers. These massive boilers were shipped one-by-one to Saudi Aramco’s Jizan refinery, and the final unit arrived at the site early this year. All equipment is now online and providing steam to the facility.
Another recent ground-breaking project spearheaded by Nationwide involved urea-based selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology. Boilers equipped with SCR systems emit 90 percent less nitrogen oxide gas (NOx), which is good for both the environment and human health.
Over a decade ago, the company introduced a cutting-edge SCR system for boilers called the CataStak™. Like other systems at the time, the CataStak SCR initially used ammonia as a reducing agent, a substance that is classified as a hazardous material and calls for specific handling requirements. After much research and development, the company produced an alternative solution utilizing urea as the reducing agent. The 32.5 percent urea-water solution is commonly known as Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF), and readily available for purchase. The substance is non-hazardous and converted to ammonia within the system.
Nationwide’s urea-based SCR systems have become highly popular. “We have over 180 temporary and permanent CataStak installations since we began offering the system, and many of our recent sales have been urea-based,” she says.
While the company had sold such systems before, last summer it became the first company to provide urea-based SCR systems for a temporary boiler project. Nationwide has now supplied ground-mounted, urea-based CataStak SCR systems for multiple boiler rental projects. The first two of these rental projects included two trailer-mounted saturated steam boilers and six trailer-mounted, superheated steam boilers, each boiler installed with a CataStak SCR system. A third project came shortly after the first two, utilizing a urea-based CataStak with the “World’s Largest” 110,000 lb/hr superheated steam, trailer-mounted rental boiler.
“The rental business has been very strong. We’re working on many large-scale rental applications right now, with a combination of additional rentals, sales, and control system projects in the works,” Ryker continues. “Rentals are always our biggest source of business,” she says, noting that nearly three-quarters of the business is supported by rentals.
While the company’s primary area of activity is still selling and renting boilers, trailer-mounted mobile water-tube boilers, temporary steam plants, and other related equipment, Nationwide has been benefitting handsomely from the major projects launched last year.
The October 2017 acquisition of Pacific Combustion Engineering (PCE), based in Washougal, Washington State, is also starting to produce benefits. PCE’s expertise lies in touchscreen programmable logic controller (PLC) controls for boilers and process equipment. PCE is also a manufacturer’s representative, selling burners, packaged boilers, economizers, instrumentation and boiler room parts. Their panel fabrication shop maintains a UL-rating and they have the knowledge and experience to build equipment to the highest safety standards.
“We had been working with Nationwide for close to twenty years, supplying them with control panels and fuel skids for their boiler rental fleet and for new equipment packages. We also build the ammonia supply skids for their CataStak SCR systems,” says Jack Valentine, General Manager at PCE. “We knew each other well, so it was a good marriage. We’ve expanded greatly since the acquisition, almost tripling our manufacturing space and increasing our employee count by almost 70 percent.”
Pacific Combustion Engineering still uses its own name but operates as a division of Nationwide Boiler. Currently, Nationwide is utilizing PCE’s expertise for an internal assignment. “We are going to be upgrading all of our rental boiler systems to PLC-based controls with touchscreen capabilities. It won’t happen overnight and will be a long-term project, since many of our boilers are operating at customer sites at any given time. This project, though, will provide major value to our customers and allow for improved operation of each boiler system,” says Ryker.
As a result of the purchase of PCE, Nationwide has broadened its promotional efforts. The two might share a booth at a trade show, for example, and the range of trade shows has grown. The arrangement has proven highly beneficial for both companies.
“To touch on the marketing side, one of the things we’ve done since bringing PCE into the fold is increase the promotional side of PCE’s product offerings. We have new marketing materials, an updated, integrated website highlighting products and services offered by both Nationwide and PCE, and we now have sales reps attending additional industry events in the Pacific Northwest. This includes the Northwest Food & Beverage World as well as Washington State and Oregon State Healthcare conferences,” she says.
“PCE never had a professional marketing organization; we just kind of waddled along with word-of-mouth. With the increase in marketing and access to Nationwide’s customer base, our sales have increased by over fifty percent since the acquisition. I can attribute that to a much more professional sales and marketing organization,” says Valentine.
With the addition of PCE, Nationwide now counts roughly sixty-seven employees in total. “We’re growing, but growing prudently,” says Ryker. All staff are typically “self-starters,” adds Valentine and many “have been here twenty-plus years.”
Asked what accounts for the company loyalty, Ryker refers to Nationwide’s great benefits package and mission statement. “We want to be the type of company that people want to work for, buy from, sell to, and refer others to. We make sure everyone is in a comfortable safe work environment, are happy where they’re at, and look for people who are passionate in what they do. We build upon that with our customers.”
Ryker cites “getting the right people” as the biggest challenge facing the company. This is particularly acute “on the service side due to an intense amount of travel. Our service technicians travel continuously to different states to start up our equipment. It’s a lot of work, and it’s a very technical skill being able to start up a boiler. It is a constant struggle, but we are always looking for the right people to step up to the plate,” she says.
Valentine says it is much the same story at PCE. “Service people are always a challenge. Our service area is a grey-haired group. Some of the youngest service guys are in their fifties. It’s challenging finding younger guys who want that lifestyle, but it’s lucrative. Most of our senior service technicians are making strong incomes.”
Nationwide is very active on the charitable front, and this May, the firm hosted its thirty-ninth annual charity golf tournament. The event was a big success, with the company donating nearly $65,000 to the Make-A-Wish® Greater Bay Area and The American Boiler Manufacturers Association Randy Rawson Scholarship Fund.
The company is already gearing up for the fortieth annual tournament, which will be held in May 2020 in Pebble Beach, California. In addition to the golf tournament, Nationwide also does a food drive for area food banks and a “year-long sock drive for the homeless,” says Ryker. “Supporting our community is something we strive for and want to maintain.”
Nationwide’s vision for the future is both optimistic and pragmatic. “We definitely want to continue to grow. If an acquisition opportunity comes along, we’re going to look at it and take advantage if it’s the right one. And we will continue to be innovative in the industry. We like to come up with new products and designs and we’re always working on our next ‘wow’ project,” she states.
“Our tagline is ‘Integrity, Dependability, and Real Customer Service.’ It’s what we’re known for, and we want to offer solutions for our customers that provide reliability, cost-savings, and peace of mind,” Ryker says.