At Associated Environmental Systems (AES) their superior customer service, coupled with the use of new technology and lean manufacturing methodologies has allowed them to be a leader in the environmental test chamber industry. AES chambers allow you to duplicate weather conditions in a confined space. They are critically important to R&D and the manufacturing of products that are used on a daily basis. These chambers save companies an exponential amount of money because now they do not need to travel the world to test their products in extreme conditions, but rather, are able to simulate these environments in a laboratory. Across industries throughout the world, Associated Environmental Systems’ chambers are used to optimize products to consumers and businesses, as well as government agencies. The industries they serve range from automotive to pharmaceutical and everything in between.
Associated Environmental Systems is a pioneer in incorporating new technology with their chambers. At AES it is known that growth is not found in comfort. CEO Beran Peter says, “Sometimes we try a new technology but it doesn’t succeed, or it’s not really good for our industry, but other times it works and it is revolutionary.” An example of this revolutionary technology is the AES X|Change, a data logging dashboard, and the first in the industry. The AES X|Change allows the user to run profiles, add an additional layer of security, and store up to eight years of data. This makes it extremely easy to log and monitor data.
AES has also designed and developed their Internet of Things (IoT) platform; giving them a major advantage among their competitors. They use microprocessor hardware and firmware, meaning that the hardware piece is not based on Windows or Linux operating systems, for example. Therefore, because it is microprocessor based – it does not need updates, or fixes delivered over open Internet communications systems. Beran explains how this benefits their customers, “our large customers in Silicon Valley, in particular, are comfortable allowing our chambers on their company’s corporate network, because they know they do not have operating systems on their network making them vulnerable to possible security issues.”
At Associated Environmental Systems their customers come first and foremost. They do everything in-house, from designing to manufacturing to testing the chambers. This means no third party is involved which is extremely advantageous for their customers. AES sells direct to end users, enabling them to offer their clients quick solutions, often even being able to provide quotes within hours. “Our customers want to work with us because we are fun, and we’re nimble, and are able to provide solutions quickly: often exceeding their expectations and their timelines,” states Beran.
AES has their market covered. Not only do they service their own chambers, but their competitors’ chambers a well. You can find Associated Environmental Systems chambers in production labs and research and development facilities around the world. The next step in their expansion is to increase their global footprint. Their plan is to be able to provide the same direct sales and support to their customers in Europe and Asia as they currently do with their customers in North America.
Associated Environmental Sys-tems has also incorporated lean manufacturing methodologies and are constantly looking to improve. Utilizing these methods has allowed AES, in just a few years, to double their output and improve their quality all while employing the same team. They also invest heavily in continuous training to ensure that they remain current and up-to-date. One unique aspect of their lean manufacturing training is that it is not exclusive to those directly involved in the design and manufacturing process, but is incorporated company-wide.
Nestled in the woods in Acton, MA is Associated Environmental Systems’ 100,000 sq. ft. headquarters. With two other offices strategically located in Michigan and California, they employ over 100 people, ranging from welders to software developers. The culture that has been set there is one that makes individuals look forward to coming to work every day; and those who do not work there, wish they did. Their main location has hiking trails, a volleyball court, and a horseshoe pit. They are also dog friendly, so many employees bring their canine best friends with them. “Every other Friday we do either a barbeque or have pizza, depending on the weather,” notes Beran.
However, do not let this laid-back culture fool you; they get work done. Though the skillsets at AES are diverse, their culture has cultivated cooperation. Their open concept office space allows employees to be able to bounce ideas off each other and collaborate to create unique solutions for their customers.
Vision for the Future
All signs point to further development of technology solutions when it comes to the future of AES. Beran predicts that building out an infrastructure that supports large data sets will be key. “Our cloud-based solutions and our Internet of Things (IoT) technology platform incorpora-ted into our chambers, which other companies haven’t done, is what is going to be important for the future,” he explains. Our platform works in a global society where companies have employees working around the globe, and share information back and forth to innovate and move at a faster pace.
Energy storage initiatives will also be crucial. Lithium ion batteries are now being used in products all over the world. Unfortunately, collecting the data that goes along with testing these batteries and compo-nents has generated challenges. In the past, an engineer would have to plug in a computer to every chamber to collect data. This would become very difficult to do when dozens, if not hundreds, of chambers were being used simultaneously.
Beran believes that their use of technology and IoT platform is the solution to this big data collection and analysis problem and is the future for their industry.
They are constantly redesigning and updating their products to meet and exceed global environmental regulations. One way they do this is by working closely with their customers and suppliers. AES vendors are the best in the business. “We have many vendors that are fantastic! Some of them, we have been buying from for 20-30 years,” acknowledged Beran. They work very closely with each of them utilizing a collaborative approach and consider them strategic partners. For example, they regularly meet with Copeland to incorporate new refrigeration solutions that are more efficient and better for the environment. As well as Watlow, which worked with AES software engineers to prototype a touch-screen controller and platform solution. McCollister’s Transportation Group, whose flexibility and great proactive customer service streamlines the shipping process. Fitts Insurance Agency's portfolio management methods makes evaluating coverage painless. They attribute the strong relationships with each supplier partner as a key factor to the company’s success and longevity.
Associated Environmental Systems has several accreditations. One example is their A2LA accreditation (ISO/IEC 17025:2005). This means AES "laboratory meets both the technical competence requirements and management system requirements that are necessary for it to consistently deliver technically valid test results and calibrations,” as stated in A2LA documentation. All of the Associated Environmental Systems’ service team and test engineers are qualified to calibrate test chambers to A2LA’s high standard.
AES team members enjoy giving back to the community. They work with local universities such as University of Massachusetts and MIT by providing fantastic opportunities such as co-ops for students. “We always have a constant flow of younger students coming through here which
makes the work environment exciting. Having college students involved allows us to open our thinking beyond what we see everyday,” adds the proud CEO. The company also sponsors numerous sports teams including hockey and baseball and the local community bus.
Most Valuable Assets
CEO Beran Peter truly loves and appreciates his team. He notes that Associated Environmental Systems’ success would not be possible without their hard work and dedication. In particular, he wanted to acknowledge several members of their Senior Team:
- Aaron Robinson and John O'Rourke, both Vice Presidents are long-time environmental chamber industry veterans.
- Laura Nixon, leads the manufac-turing floor and is continuously improving processes to lower costs and increase efficiencies.
- Brock Kenyon, leads the technology team developing IoT software that allows for secure big data processing and analytics of environmental test chamber data.
- Steve Munroe, Chief Operating Officer, has held key roles at Inc. 500 companies and brings his expertise for positioning the business for rapid growth.
“The tragedy of life is not found in failure but complacency… It’s not failure, but aiming too low, that is life’s greatest tragedy.”
Benjamin E. Mays
The story of Associated Environ-mental Systems is anything but tragic. Over the past 58 years, they have refused to fall into the trap of complacency. They are a leader in the industry because they are constantly innovating; whether that be by creating the AES X|Change data logging dashboard, their unique 360˚ Lucite salt spray chamber, or practicing lean manufacturing methods. Associated Environmental Systems will continue to make an impact on all of the industries that rely on them in order to produce high quality and reliable products for years to come.
Company Name: Watlow
Company Name: McCollister´s Transportion Group Inc.
Company Name: Fitts Insurance Agency