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Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
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Christy Rivers -
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published – February 28, 2022
CEOCFO: Mr. Flora, what is Aptia Engineering?
Mr. Flora: Aptia is a manufacturing, engineering, and technical consulting company. Our largest market is the botanical extraction space but we also work in a number of other industries. We engineer and manufacture equipment solutions for people who need light industrial stainless process equipment.
CEOCFO: Would you give us a few examples that show the range of what you do -
Mr. Flora: We manufacture equipment for a number of industries including hemp, botanical extraction, the food and beverage, specialty chemical, battery manufacturing, nanoparticle, and pharmaceutical space. Basically, anyone who needs light industrial stainless equipment can come to us for equipment engineering and manufacturing. We generally manufacture portable equipment skids that are smaller than a shipping container. That is the general overview of the markets we are serving.
A lot of people come to us with an outline of what they need to accomplish, but they do not know exactly how they are going to mechanize that process to achieve it. For example, a pharmaceutical client may come to us with a process that mixes and consumes both methanol and water. They need a way to separate the methanol and water from their product, and then a way to separate the methanol from the water as well. We would design a process that recycles and purifies the methanol, or methanol and water, so that they can be re-
As another example, botanical extraction clients often come to us asking for us to propose equipment to transform raw hemp or other botanical material into finished bulk extracts that go into consumer products. We work with these clients to determine the types and quantities of products that they wish to produce, and then we back out the pieces of equipment that are needed to make those products. In these types of applications, we can fill most needs with pre-
We meet client needs with a mix of pre-
CEOCFO: Is a lot of the equipment in these industries custom?
Mr. Flora: It depends on the industry. Many small and moderate scale equipment needs in the botanical extraction industry can be met with pre-
We are mainly doing custom work for larger equipment requirements in the hemp and cannabis space and for all of the other industries. The other industries use more varied equipment to perform specialized and sometimes proprietary processes.
It is always more economical to fill an equipment need with a piece of pre-
CEOCFO: Where does technology come into play?
Mr. Flora: A lot of the technology used in the process equipment world has been around for a long time. The technology is proven and effective for the most part. That said, there is a huge range of how well and effectively technology is implemented. For example, the basic technology of a falling film evaporator, FFE, has been around for decades, but a well-
CEOCFO: From the recent Aptia press release regarding your intelligent design, “It shines with your hydrocarbon extraction platform.” What are you doing differently from others?
Mr. Flora: The use of pre-
One example is hydrocarbon recovery. The standard thing to do is to heat the recovery vessel and to cool the solvent storage vessel. The heat exchange area of the vessel is all that is used in the process. This is really slow because of the limited heat transfer area and poor heat transfer efficiency. To make matters worse, other businesses provide recovery compressors that are not properly sized. Then they expect the operator to manually turn the compressor on and off as needed to match the speed of the process. This all boils down to underperforming recovery and batch inconsistency.
We redesigned the vessels and implemented specific heat exchangers to provide much greater heat transfer area on both the evaporator and condenser sides, which gives way faster recovery capability. Then we size a hydrocarbon compressor for each specific application so that the compressor capacity matches the client’s throughput requirements. We also run the compressor on a more advanced piece of software that automatically controls the compressor’s speed so that it matches the hydrocarbon load. This means that the process is always conducted under the same evaporation conditions, which greatly reduces batch variability. All in all, this recovery process is way faster, requires less operator labor, and creates more consistent products.
CEOCFO: Are businesses starting to look for a better and more efficient way?
Mr. Flora: It still depends on the business. In small and new state-
We are steadily seeing an uptick in the amount of business that comes to us as the botanical extraction market matures. We work primarily with experienced operators who are interested in increasing their production capacity or efficiency. Often people get started with a small piece of equipment from an importer, and then have to rebuy later to grow.
CEOCFO: What is your geographic reach today?
Mr. Flora: We have equipment in most states in the USA, as well as in Jamaica and South Africa. We are working on a couple of active jobs in South America as well.
CEOCFO: Are you looking to grow globally?
Mr. Flora: Right now, we are interested in expanding into the Canadian marketplace and into the European marketplace. This type of international growth is something that we are going to start to pursue throughout 2022 and 2023.
CEOCFO: How do you work with your customers in providing support and how turnkey are these systems typically?
Mr. Flora: The amount of training depends on the type of equipment they want. For example, if a client comes to us for a simple reactor system, then they often do not even need onsite training. For simple equipment like this, we typically go through the manual with the client and answer questions, and then we typically provide phone support as they set it up and commission it. However, when we get into more complex equipment like solvent recovery units, we typically send out a field technician to commission the equipment and to teach the operators how to safely operate it. On the last day that our field technician is out in the field, the client is actually operating the equipment under the supervision of our field technician. Our clients get a pretty good training upfront.
For maintenance, our equipment is long-
CEOCFO: Do you have subcontractors throughout the country?
Mr. Flora: It depends on where the equipment will be installed. In the US, one of our field technicians will provide onsite support. If the equipment is outside the country, we will either send a local technician or we will look for a local service contractor who can support our client. It depends on what make the most financial sense for us and for the client.
CEOCFO: How has COVID affected the business?
Mr. Flora: The main impact of COVID on our business was the supply-
CEOCFO: How about finding staff, lots of companies are having trouble now?
Mr. Flora: Our work is specialized, so there is a fairly long training period to bring new people up to speed and to build the knowledge that we need in all of our staff. Hiring is not a major problem for us because we have low turnover and we have good staff. We are not suffering from the common staffing issues. We have almost 100% retention and a relatively small team so it is easy to manage.
CEOCFO: Are you able to handle all that comes your way? Can ramp-
Mr. Flora: We do not take on more work than we can handle. We do, at times, have to tell custom equipment prospects that we cannot take-
CEOCFO: Aptia has a reach into many industries? How do you reach out and are there certain industry where you have more traction than others? Would you like to see the mix change?
Mr. Flora: The mix we have right now is pretty excellent and diverse, and it is also well insulated in terms of market instabilities and market change. We are very happy with our current mix of business. We just want to keep growing that portfolio and extending into more diverse and more technical applications.
CEOCFO: How are you reaching out to prospective customers?
Mr. Flora: We receive a lot of work through word-
CEOCFO: Why choose Aptia Engineering?
Mr. Flora: A couple of reasons. The first is quality. The quality of equipment and the quality of service that you get from Aptia is much higher than what you get with our competitors. Quality is a cornerstone of our business. We strive to provide excellent equipment solutions that are well thought out, do what we say they are going to do, outperform expectations, and outlast competing equipment options.
The second reason is thoughtful design. As we previously discussed, there is a huge range of how well and how effectively technology is implemented. We excel at engineering more efficient and smarter ways to implement technologies. This means superior performance and increased reliability for our clients.
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“A lot of people come to us with an outline of what they need to accomplish, but they do not know exactly how they are going to mechanize that process to achieve it.”
“A lot of the technology used in the process equipment world has been around for a long time. The technology is proven and effective for the most part. That said, there is a huge range of how well and effectively technology is implemented. For example, the basic technology of a falling film evaporator, FFE, has been around for decades, but a well-