Clearing the air

Since 1978, Milwaukee-based Anguil Environmental Systems Inc. has been designing systems to help manufacturers limit their airborne pollutants.

The company designs, builds, installs and services thermal oxidizers, which treat exhaust with heat, agitation and time – essentially burning the contaminants out of a company’s emissions.

Anguil’s systems can be found in boat-building facilities, wood and paper processors, chemical and pharmaceutical plants, metal-coating plants and other manufacturing or processing sites that produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants, said Kevin Summ, marketing manager at Anguil.

“Based on the chemical composition (the customer has), we can increase the temperature, time or turbulence,” Summ said.

About 90 percent of the thermal oxidizers that Anguil sells today are regenerative thermal oxidizers (RTOs), a more energy efficient method of oxidization than other types. Almost all oxidizers are powered by natural gas, and the energy usage achieved by using RTOs is significant. For example, the Brady Corp. installed three RTOs at its coated products division in 2003 and reduced natural gas use by about 80 percent.

At times, RTO models can even use the chemicals themselves as fuel, instead of burning natural gas, Summ said.

“If we have toxins that are combustible, we can turn off the burner and destroy toxins with no fuel,” he said.

There are no standard models of oxidizers at Anguil, Summ said. Each model is custom-designed and built for each client.

“We have some systems that have uniform elements, but no two are exactly the same,” Summ said. “And they all have custom controls.”

Anguil has about 50 employees, 20 of whom work in engineering and 10 in service. In its early years, the company decided to focus on engineering and design, said Gene Anguil, president and founder. During the early 1980s, Anguil and a partner opened a manufacturing plant in Montello, where they employed about 20 workers.

“That lasted about three or four years,” Anguil said. “These were not necessarily skilled workers – these were farm boys.”

Problems with quality control led to several lost contracts. Anguil, who didn’t have a background in manufacturing, decided there had to be a better way. In Milwaukee, he enlisted several contract manufacturers, who continue to build Anguil’s equipment.

Two of those contract manufacturers, Reardon Metal Fabricating Inc. and A.G. Industries, are located next door to each other in the 4400 block of North 124th Street on Milwaukee’s far northwest side and build the majority of Anguil’s equipment sold around the world.

His experiences with contract manufacturing have convinced Anguil that his company is on the right path, even though it’s an unusual one. When orders fluctuate, Anguil is able to ramp up or decrease production with its contract manufacturing partners.

Because the company doesn’t employ its manufacturing workforce, it doesn’t have to worry about laying off workers during slow times. And during slow times, contract manufacturers can take on other jobs, he said.

“Looking at what we do and what we could do if we had our own manufacturing base, I’m convinced that we’ve got the right model,” Anguil said. “We have three or four companies here in Wisconsin that are willing to jump through hoops for us because we’re a significant part of their business.”

Just because Anguil’s employees don’t build its equipment does not mean they’re not involved in the manufacturing process. Mechanical and electrical engineers spend significant amounts of time at A.G. Industries and Reardon, supervising final assembly of the machinery and making sure it works properly before it is shipped.

And when the machinery is shipped to customers, engineers routinely travel to the job site to supervise final assembly. Anguil’s service workers are then dispatched to assist and supervise in installation, Summ said.

Some of the company’s jobs require oversized facilities, Anguil said. Last year, it rented space in the Chase Commerce Center near Chase and Oklahoma avenues, to build oversized equipment for the ethanol industry.

“We brought our subs into that facility,” Anguil said. “And we’re leaving that facility at the end of December because it’s not clear what will happen in that market.”

Markets such as the ethanol industry, and the popularization of “green” initiatives have given Anguil a boost in recent years.

“We had $15 million in revenues for five to six years until about three years ago,” Anguil said. “We’re now close to $25 million.”

The company is now making strides to increase sales and revenues. The firm has started selling the metal heat exchangers used in some of its older oxidizers to be used in other industrial processes, Anguil said. The company hired a new salesperson to lead that initiative about one month ago.

The firm also is in the early stages of a joint venture in China, Anguil said. The company now does business through Anguil Environmental Asia Ltd., which is in Taiwan. Its business partner recently bought land in China and is in the process of developing a factory to build some of Anguil’s systems that can be sold in Asia, Anguil said.

“He (our partner) will put together the assembly facility there,” he said. “He will be in charge of a group of welders, and smaller parts will be made by other, smaller shops.”

Anguil also is exploring a potential partnership with an English manufacturer who makes industrial dryers. That company is interested in entering the oxidizing market, he said, and the companies are exploring how they might be able to bring a product to market jointly.

“If that relationship came to fruition, we could sell heat exchangers to them,” Anguil said.

While Anguil is interested in boosting its international manufacturing and sales, its best business remains in the United States, Anguil said.

“Our intent is to maintain as much manufacturing capacity and support local industry as much as we can without penalizing ourselves and without losing market share and income,” he said. 

Anguil Environmental Systems Inc.

Address: 8855 N. 55th St., Milwaukee
Industry: Custom thermal oxidizers used in the manufacturing process
Employees: About 50
Revenues: About $25 million
Web site: www.anguil.com

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