Leading with Integrity
The qualities of leadership are sometimes unseen but always felt. In a very tiny nutshell, that just may be the Altronic story. Although it is a leader in the prime mover market, you’re not likely to see the brand splashed across the housings of the machines powered by their technology. That said, every major player in the energy space who depends on flawless performance and reliability knows Altronic – and most depend on it for mission-critical engine and compressor technology.
A member company of Hoerbiger, a global force in the compression technology, drive technology, and hydraulics sector, the Girard, Ohio-based firm began in 1965 as the Economy Engine Company. Today, Altronic is the world leader in the development and manufacture of ignition and control systems for industrial engines.
BOSS recently sat down with Dr. Diana Grauer, the firm’s Vice President of Engineering, to take an inside look into the world of industrial product development, and to get a rare look through the Altronic lens to view the way they define engineering excellence.
The company’s products are designed for the energy industry, specifically for the oil and gas sector. With ownership of roughly 80 percent of the market in engine controls and compression tech designed specifically for oil and natural gas production, Altronic is the go-to developer for the biggest names in energy production equipment.
“The electronics industry moves incredibly quickly, and that’s where our suppliers are and where our supply chain is. We spend a lot of time understanding the innovations and technology there, and then translating that into products for the oil and gas industry,” Grauer explained. “Relative to 20 years or so ago, the oil and gas industry has really started adopting technology quickly — specifically, telematics, monitoring, and control of assets.
“We have customers who are demanding rapidly changing products in order to take advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), to take advantage of automation, remote operated systems, and remote controlled systems, so we investigate those technologies for our customers as part of our supply chain, and then we bring those technologies to market as products for them.”
Situated between electronics manufacturing and O&G, Altronic leverages electronic components, creates systems, and then moves them as products into the oil gas and energy industry, specifically into power generation, wellhead, drilling, and midstream pipeline applications.
Close collaboration is intrinsic to the work performed by Grauer’s teams. “When we talk about collaboration, there are many customers that we've developed technology firsts with. We developed the first knock detection system for an industrial engine application. When natural gas technology was really new, we worked with a customer and actually developed one of the first detonation management products. But these solutions won't ever carry the Altronic brand. What you'll see is our customer’s brand on the product and our work will be integrated as part of their solution.”
The nature and complexity of specific technological requirements dictates an extremely close relationship between Altronic’s engineers and their customers’ development teams. “I have engineers now in two different sites actually putting beta versions of products on the customers’ equipment to do verification and validation testing. It becomes an incredibly integrated partnership,” Grauer stressed. Altronic’s engineers are “continuously involved in brainstorming, in demonstration and deployment, and then when it comes to product support further down the life cycle of the product, our subject matter experts are on the front lines for supporting our customers throughout the life cycle of the product.”
A tight focus on the product development life cycle is essential. “We're focused on cycle times, on efficiency, and delivering an incredible amount of added value for every step that we take along the life cycle of a product,” she said. “We’re implementing a hybrid approach to product development. We've got hybrid product managers that own a particular technology, and then they are responsible for the entire life cycle of the product from conception all the way through development through to obsolescence and end of product, end of production, end of support.”
In addition to developing products with OEMs, the company moves its products through a dedicated distributor network in the aftermarket. “We also develop specific products for our distributors,” Grauer noted. “Our distributors are always looking for incredibly innovative products that allow them to be above and beyond their competition and the original manufactured option.”
For that market, the firm is currently developing the DE-4000, a controller product that integrates the state-of-the-art IIoT technology. “The DE-4000 has wireless functionality and allows for remote monitoring and control. It's an incredibly interesting product that’s really going to revolutionize how the operators of our equipment actually function.”
Altronic’s supply chain is the beating heart of the organization. “We collaborate with our suppliers through the development process to bring the best technology, parts, and components into our products. They are involved in our product development cycle from Day One.” The company’s sourcing and supplier quality engineering teams are brought into every project at or very close to the ideation stage. “That allows us to accelerate the development cycle because our quality and sourcing teams know who has the best products. They know who has the best technology. They know our suppliers, and we absolutely invest in those suppliers and collaborate with them to develop the best products.”
“There’s a huge ecosystem of development and innovation that goes into an end product, but that innovation doesn't just happen at the end of the life cycle, when the engine moves off the manufacturing floor and is deployed to its operating site. The innovation starts well in advance, with having the right supply chain and the right supplier relationships. It starts with having the right manufacturing, the right resources, and the right quality checks.
“There's an incredible amount of people involved in every product development that we do. I think that people miss that because they see just a big piece of equipment on a drilling site, and they don't see the components and the groundbreaking things that the supply chain is doing to bring that product to fruition.”
Hoerbiger Engine Division represents the accumulated knowledge and experience of many of the world's leading experts in combustion technology drawn from the automotive and industrial engine industries.
Hoerbiger contributes a wealth of expertise in automotive processes, including fuel admission technology and mechatronics — combining electronic and mechanical components — coupled with an unrivaled research and development program.
Altronic, A Member of the Hoerbiger Group, has long been regarded as the world's leading manufacturer of ignition and control systems for industrial engines. These products represent the industry standard for quality. All are designed to improve engine performance and enhance reliability. Many also improve operating efficiency, helping to reduce emissions, which contributes to a healthier environment.