Leading with Integrity
Chromalox, the inventor of electric heating technology, keeps global industry running at peak performance — and the ideal temperature.
Thermal technology is the ultimate cool. Without complex process heating technology, the industrial world as we know it would come to an immediate and complete halt.
If this is your first exposure to Chromalox, the pioneering Pittsburgh stalwart founded by the inventor of electric heating technology, you might think it heats structures. Christopher Molnar, the firm’s VP of Global Product Marketing and Engineering, gets that a lot.
“People think we just keep buildings warm,” he told BOSS. “What they don't understand is that we're really a process heating technology provider, which means we install electric process heaters into every kind of fluid, air, gas, liquid — anything that's flowing and moving in a customer’s manufacturing plant, whether to create chemical reactions, elevate process temperatures, or change physical properties. Companies can't manufacture their end product without our technology being an integral part of that process.”
In 1915, seeking an alternative to the common but unreliable and dangerous “open coil” heat technology of the day, Edwin L. Wiegand developed a metal-sheathed resistance heating element that changed the course of industry. Wiegand’s work — initially done at his dining room table — triggered technological advancements that brought electric heating into every corner of life.
“We've been solving customer challenges for over 100 years,” Molnar noted. “We’ve solved heating issues on the moon and in space, in the ocean, in the air, on offshore oil platforms, at power plants, in refineries. Our solutions are installed in everything from commercial food equipment to commuter trains to beverage plants to molten salt energy storage systems and everything in between.”
Today, Chromalox serves three segments of the process heating industry: Its Heat Trace segment creates temperature management solutions for piping systems, valves, and tanks; the Industrial Heaters and Systems segment specializes in industrial process heating; and the Component Technologies segment delivers component thermal solutions.
“Our job is to sell you a customized solution to solve your problem. We're known for engineered solution and for excellent quality. Our customers recognize that when you buy a Chromalox system, it's designed to operate exactly the way you need it to operate and it's going to last for a very long time. All the industries we serve know that to be true and trust our products and services. Innovation and expertise are reflected through our long history.” Those industries include alternative fuels, laboratory and analytical equipment, chemical processing, defense, oil and gas, transportation, and virtually every industry that uses thermal technology to move or transform substances.
With that kind of portfolio, it’s no wonder that engineering giant Spirax-Sarco scooped up Chromalox in a 2017 acquisition for an electrifying $415 million.
Generating Heat, Kismet, and Profits
For Spirax-Sarco, the acquisition represents a strong strategic fit with long-term potential, buoyed by an attractive direct sales model and the ability to expand into their markets. “We discovered a strategic affinity between the companies during our initial introductions to one another,” Molnar revealed.
“Chromalox is a 100-year-old electric heating company, but we have a long-term vision that leverages a century of experience and knowledge into any and every thermal application, beyond just electric heating. Spirax-Sarco had a similar vision. They're the experts in steam, and they wanted to expand their addressable markets beyond just those that steam provides. You hear the term ‘synergy’ get overused a lot today, but in this case it genuinely rings true. Not just the strategic vision, but the history, the culture, the ethos of both companies. It was a natural fit.”
From a business standpoint, Chromalox deliberately searches for shifts in industry that are unexpected, much as Wiegand searched for alternatives in heating technology at the very beginning. “Change is at the core of our strategy for growth. We believe that market shifts and challenges create opportunity. Whether it's regulatory, market-driven, reactionary technology, or innovation, these changes produce new opportunities that weren't available to us before. At Chromalox, we like a little bit of chaos,” Molnar admitted.
Chromalox DirectConnect™ medium voltage electric heating systems are an example of what comes out of good chaos for the forward-driven firm. “One thing we noticed about a decade ago was an increasing demand from customers in the size and scope of thermal processing equipment. System requests were getting larger and more powerful and the customers wanted multi-megawatts of heat output,” Molnar explained. DirectConnect “allows the customer to operate our heaters at higher voltage than is typical. They can operate very high-powered systems from the medium voltage that's already present in their plant and save a tremendous amount of cost on the installation and operation of that medium voltage heating system. That's where our technology and product development converge with changing market dynamics to enable this new trend, which is being called the electrification of industry.”
Fossil fuel heating technology maintains a significant presence in industry across the board, despite environmental issues and lots of regulatory hurdles. “There's been a push in most Industries at the plant level to eliminate fuel-fired equipment and to move toward renewable power, and the clean, efficient use of energy in the plant,” he said. Chromalox’s electric systems enable that transition for heating applications.
“Sustainability has gone from being a nice-to-have to a must-have. When you see that customers are willing to spend significant money, time, and resources on a sustainable solution versus a traditional solution, that should tell you something. If sustainability is important to them — to become a strategic component to their business — then it’s important to us,” he pointed out.
To cope with a furiously growing demand for thermal controls in industries that didn’t exist 20 years ago, Chromalox is focusing some of its R&D efforts in the new field of IoT technology. Also on deck is wireless control technology. Plants have massive amounts of wiring and often thousands of control points to manage. “We’re the only company in the industry to offer a true wireless heat trace monitoring network that enables you to eliminate miles of instrumentation and power wiring. Customers can cut 20 or 30 percent of installation costs compared to traditional hard-wired installations. So that's the kind of product development we think about, how we can help our customers achieve their objectives,” he said.
“Every customer of ours is making something. We believe if we do our job right we will help them make it better, faster, at lower cost, and more efficiently. Our electric heating products are designed and our people are trained to fulfill our customers’ needs, to solve their challenges. That's what Chromalox Advanced Thermal Technologies is all about. Our lives revolve around how to make our customers more successful, help them to be better at what they do.”
We think that’s the coolest thing ever.
Chromalox is a thermal technology company. It engineers thermal solutions for the world’s toughest industrial heating applications. Its Heat Trace segment delivers temperature management solutions for piping systems, valves, and tanks. Its Industrial Heaters and Systems segment delivers process heating solutions for revenue-generating industrial processes, and its Component Technologies segment delivers component heating solutions for industrial equipment manufacturers. Chromalox was founded in 1917 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.
Today, Chromalox is a trusted expert that helps companies solve the world’s most demanding and complex heating challenges. Chromalox partners with its customers to find elegant solutions to the most difficult and unique heating challenges. The company believes that its unique combination of technical expertise and a highly customer-centric approach positions it as the leader in advanced thermal technologies.