Engineering, service expertise and domestic manufacturing make AGC Heat Transfer a leader in sanitary heat transfer solutions.
Look around an office, a convenience or grocery store, a restaurant or even your home; you will see dozens of items that have gone through a heat exchange process during their evolution. AGC Heat Transfer, a leading supplier of sanitary plate heat exchangers, is vital in the production of these items.
“Innovative features in plate heat exchanger design in the sanitary market are our core business. We have established ourselves as the experts,” says Penny Vander Velden, Director of Sales and Marketing. This expertise is especially relevant in the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries.
This targeted focus, along with a dedicated service approach and a commitment to manufacturing in the U.S., has secured AGC as the premier supplier and manufacturer in this space.
The importance of heat exchange
The purpose of a plate heat exchanger is to transfer thermal energy between two fluids, without the fluids mixing together. For example, a manufacturer may want to cool milk with glycol but not mix the milk and glycol together.
Since its establishment in 1995, AGC has focused on designing and developing the best heat exchanger plates for sanitary applications, which are used in a variety of industries, including dairy, brewing, condiments, beverages and liquid egg.
Plate heat exchangers offer several essential functions and benefits:
• Maintain consistent and precise temperatures for heating and cooling
• Improve energy efficiency by reusing fluids to heat and cool fluids
• Transfer heat while maintaining sanitary separation of fluids
• Versatility to be cleaned in line during the cleaning in place (CIP) process
• Modular design that can be scaled up or down
The heat exchange process is not a “one and done” step for manufacturing or processing facilities. On the contrary, heat exchangers are hard at work throughout the production cycle. For example, a dairy plant that processes 10 million pounds of milk per day requires that every drop of milk go through a heat exchanger for pasteurization. The milk may then pass through several more plate heat exchangers for other purposes related to heating and cooling thereby transforming the milk through the production process.
In short, heat exchangers are critical to ensure food and beverages are safe for consumption. The vitality and efficiency of heat exchangers is also essential to the livelihood of the organization itself. Any downtime or malfunction of a heat exchanger could mean the entire operation must shut down, resulting in lost sales, delayed customer service and long-term damage to the brand and reputation of the company.
With a global presence, AGC partners with some of the largest, most recognizable brands and manufacturers in yogurt, cheese, fluid milk, whey permeate, brewing and ice cream.
Exceptional service and made in the U.S.
Fast, efficient, responsive. This is AGC’s promise to the hundreds of customers who rely on the heat exchange process as part of their daily operations. Whether via new equipment sales or through the maintenance of existing heat exchangers, AGC holds itself to the highest service standards so its customers can stay operational.
To uphold its promise, the company does a few things differently than its peers. One distinction that sets AGC apart is the fact that it combines the roles of sales and engineering. At AGC, these professionals are referred to as ‘sales engineers,’ and they serve as a single point of contact for the customer.
“The person you call for a heat exchanger or new plates is also the person who will engineer and design the product for you,” says Vander Velden. “You won’t work with five different people to complete a large project. Instead, you work with one person who gets to know your application and can assist with the fine details of engineering and building the equipment that is right for you.”
From start to finish, AGC lends its expertise at every stage of the project. This knowledge and relationship carry forward to preventative maintenance of the equipment, which provides customers with an even deeper level of service that helps extend and elevate the performance and life cycle of the equipment.
“Our service team is especially knowledgeable about our equipment and how it is intended to operate,” explains Vander Velden. “During a scheduled service visit, they inspect every plate in the heat exchanger and provide a full report on the condition along with photos of any issues.”
These reports become a planning tool for the customer, helping them determine if parts should be replaced immediately or accounted for in future budget planning. The reports are also a helpful resource for auditing and strategic planning initiatives.
Additionally, AGC provides installation supervision. Whether a customer is looking for support installing a new plate pack or starting up a new heat exchanger, they can be assured that the carefully designed and engineered equipment is properly installed and up and running smoothly.
In addition to continuously evolving its product line, AGC offers full rheology testing services in its dedicated Research & Development lab. “This is where we analyze and test product samples from customers to confirm that the heat exchanger and the plate configuration are appropriately designed for the client’s needs,” says Vander Velden.
“The addition of powders to fortify milk or stabilizers in ice cream mix causes the liquid to react differently as it goes through the heat exchanger and this can cause premature fouling if the design is not optimized. Rheology diagnostics is a value added service, which helps affirm that we’ve built the right equipment for the customer’s application.”
In addition to manufacturing new equipment, AGC supplies new gaskets, upgraded plate packs and a range of spare parts, which helps serve customers quickly and efficiently. An important aspect of this timely service is the location of the company’s facilities, right here in America.
Operating out of Bristow, Virginia and Fairview, Oregon, AGC sets itself apart in the sanitary heat exchanger market by engineering and manufacturing its frames and plates in the U.S. The focus on domestic manufacturing has allowed AGC to boost its already strong customer service through superior speed and efficiency.
In Bristow and Fairview, the company presses plates and performs cleaning and regasketing of customers’ existing plates. The Fairview location is where AGC designs and manufactures its frames.
The Fairview facility—a new, 63,000-square-foot facility and “a symbol of growth and commitment”—provides essential floor space where AGC houses a new hydraulic press, expanding its plate pressing capabilities for plate production on both coasts.
The increase in manufacturing ability, combined with ample storage space, allows AGC to stock many plates, gaskets and frame components. “We have everything in-house, so our lead time is absolutely the best,” says Vander Velden. In many cases, this allows AGC to ship small replacement parts within 24 hours, significantly reducing customer downtime.
The deep impact of U.S.-made
AGC’s commitment to domestic manufacturing provides essential jobs for employees within the two manufacturing facilities. This focus also reduces some of the recent challenges many manufacturers are experiencing related to supply chain issues due to the pandemic.
“Despite the disruptions everyone is facing with raw materials, we’ve been able to minimize disruption to our lead times and continue our highly responsive customer support,” says Vander Velden.
“In early 2021, we built an inventory that helped weather the storm of supply chain issues. Staying ahead of these issues and navigating the challenges continues to be a part of our daily operations and planning.”
A foundation for future growth
AGC’s four Business Principles—social, business integrity, environment, and transparency—affirm the company’s values to be socially responsible while achieving its business goals. By aspiring to these principles, the team continually finds ways to contribute to a sustainable future while improving everyday conditions for the people they serve—from employees and customers to other suppliers and end consumers.
The company’s commitment to transparency extends to its environmental initiatives which focus on optimizing the use of natural resources with minimal environmental damage. Efficient utilization of energy, reducing waste and the efficient and safe production of food and beverages are a few of AGC’s priorities.
“Ultimately, our employees are our most important resource,” says Vander Velden. “Without them, nothing gets out the door and they are the primary reason we can establish long-lasting relationships with our customers, which sustains our organization.”
What’s on the horizon for AGC? A continued commitment to AGC’s already established strong points which have made it a market leader—a strong sales engineering team, exceptional service and a commitment to domestic operations.
According to Vander Velden, “In a business where it’s easy to get over-ambitious and try to do too much, we will continue to focus on our core business of supplying the sanitary market with the best plate heat exchanger solutions.”
That sounds like a solid business plan for the future.