Industrial facilities function as very large machines, with various pieces of equipment fitting together to perform a task. And, like any machine, if the individual components do not function well together, that leads to significant issues. Therefore, when industrial operators need someone to design their facilities, they need someone who understands the intricate inner workings of such facilities. This is where The Mouat Company has found its niche, according to President Michael Morris.
Based in Birmingham, Ala., The Mouat Company has been serving industrial facilities since 1924, when Harry G. Mouat founded it as a sales representative company for the foundry industry. By the mid-1970s, Morris explains, foundries began looking for companies that could design, install and start up the equipment used in foundries, so The Mouat Company expanded its offerings to become a turnkey design/build contractor. By representing a revolutionary molding line in the 1970s and 1980s, the company honed its expertise in design and process control and gained customers in the automotive industry, including leading manufacturers such as GM, Chrysler and Honda.
The company’s success in the foundry industry allowed Mouat to maintain a narrow market focus. It was not until 2003 that it built its first industrial mineral processing plant for Silver and Baryte Industrial Minerals.
“By 2008, the mineral processing industry and frac sand industry had become target markets as we pushed further to see how we could apply the same proven technology and innovation in other industries,” Morris says.
Today, The Mouat Company still delivers turnkey industrial facilities for the foundry market, but has developed a strong presence in the mineral processing and frac sand sectors, as well. No matter where the company applies its expertise, Morris says The Mouat Company provides its customers with facilities that produce reliable, repeatable, high-quality results, just like any finely tuned machine.
“It has been good to see customers like Halliburton recognize what we bring to the industry,” Morris says.
Down to a Science
“Without a doubt, our strongest competitive advantage is our knowledge of each process,” Morris says. “We stay clear of industries in which we have no process knowledge. This gives us a competitive advantage in concept development and pricing. Typically, we can streamline the process and reduce the pieces of equipment, reducing capital cost and cutting operating cost, as well.”
This process knowledge came as a great benefit to the frac sand and mineral-processing markets, where customers previously had relied more on an employee’s experience when it came to producing the right mix every time.
“The process in each of our facilities is controlled by PLCs, so that the finished product is consistent and the process repeatable,” Morris explains. “In the frac sand facilities that we have built, we have removed some of the art that is prevalent in the industry. In many of the facilities that we have been through, we would see operators putting additives in the mixers manually. Historically, it took people with years of experience on the mixer decks to control the process.
“With our process, we have several mixers being operated from the control room by a single computer operator,” Morris continues. “There is no one on the floor varying each batch.” Through the use of precision-controlled feeders and pumps, The Mouat Company creates industrial facilities that reduce cycle time, downtime and labor. All of these factors increase product throughput and contribute to increased profitability.
“The process in one of the mineral processing plants that we built is so well-controlled, we had a plant manager tell me, ‘There is nothing left for me to do anymore, you just hit a button and it runs itself,’” Morris says. “Not all processes are that way yet, but we are working toward it.”
The Mouat Company performs practically all of the engineering in-house with a staff of mechanical, structural, environmental, metallurgical and chemical engineers. Along with this internal expertise, Morris says the company’s technological edge grants it a strong advantage over its competitors. Through the use of BIM, The Mouat Company has made it easier than ever for clients to envision their projects before a single shovel of dirt is moved on the job site.
“We believe in pushing the limits of technology in all aspects of the design/build process,” Morris says. “In the last three years, we have begun fully integrating 3-D CAD in all aspects of the design/build process.”
Morris says the use of 3-D modeling has made it possible for the company to design a facility down to the smallest detail. At the concept stage the model gives the client a complete view of what the facility will look like as well as identify any potential problems before the first foundation is poured on the job site. The model is further developed to generate general arrangements and detailed drawings. The 3-D models are ultimately downloaded into CNC machines that cut, drill and shape the steel for the fabricated equipment and structures, providing a level of precision that would not be possible otherwise.
Morris says the company also benefits from having an extensive historical database of costs. This allows the company to give customers a fixed price for the design and construction of their facility, and is facilitated through the long-term relationships Mouat has with its subcontractors and suppliers.
True to Form
In the future, Morris says diversification will be the key to helping The Mouat Company remain successful despite the fluctuations in the economy. He says being able to turn its attention to other sectors of the marketplace will be increasingly important as the economy continues to be volatile. The Mouat Company has seen this strategy bear itself out in recent years.
“As one sector of the economy turns down, it is important to be able to direct your resources toward other markets,” Morris says.
“Over the past four years, we have seen a depressed foundry industry while the energy sector has been very active,” he adds. “The oil and natural gas demand has been very good and has driven the mineral processing industry and frac sand industry to expand.”
As for where the company sees the best opportunities for diversification, Morris says it will stay close to its areas of expertise.
“The markets that we will continue to pursue will be highly technical and process-driven,” Morris explains. “That is where we add the most value and where we will be the most successful.
“They will be plants with common denominators with the plants that we currently build,” he adds, saying that the company’s knowledge base will continue to be its greatest attribute. “I think our customers will tell you that there are very few companies out there that do what we do.”