Change in the business world seems to be happening at an ever increasing pace. We don’t need to look far to see how some industries have failed to adapt quickly enough and are now dead or dying. The once mighty Kodak is bankrupt. Music publishers, newspapers, book sellers, and traditional advertisers are on their knees.
Fortunately Van Air Systems is in good shape and thriving. Others in our industry have not been so fortunate. Several of our former competitors exited the dryer business following the recession that began in 2008. Many more once-independent competitors have been gobbled up by conglomerates. Numatics, a division of Emerson, stopped making dryers several years ago. Airtek disappeared into the Parker-Hannifin empire. Atlas Copco owns Pneumatech. IR owns ZEKS. I’ve lost track of how many dryer companies SPX swallowed whole.
Yet Van Air Systems’ success and ability to remain independent has not been a matter of luck. We’ve needed to reassess and reform our business model.
Buyers of compressed air capital equipment seem to be cautious still about the economy, preferring alternatives to costly capital investments. This has benefited our single tower deliquescent dryer business. The deliquescent dryer is the old-school workhorse of the industry. High tech this type of dryer is not. Yet sales have soared in the last few years. Why? Partly because a deliquescent dryer is relatively inexpensive. But also because we’ve exploited niche markets and applications for the product. For example, the deli dryer has become big in the oil field where simple, functional, and rugged equipment is prized. The North American oil patch has boomed in recent years.
We’ve also pushed into the rental equipment market. Within the last several years, Van Air Systems has added the Blast Pak, a skid-mounted, single tower, deliquescent drying system; the Prep 40, a skid-mounted, heatless regenerative drying system; and next year we’re introducing the Cool Prep, a skid-mounted after-cooler and filtration system.
We now offer an off the shelf heatless regenerative product for natural gas, the HLSXG series, and its ex-proof air drying companion, the HLSXA. These are unusual products with tight application ranges, to be sure. But these are also products that separate our catalog from the “me too” mass producers, the imitators, and the importers.
Van Air Systems has evolved and adapted, finding niches that keep us relevant. It’s an adapt or die world. And we’ve chosen the former.