Not often do you find four generations working in the same corporation, but that is exactly how the Preferred Utilities Manufacturing Corporation in Danbury, Connecticut has operated since 1920. The company has come a long way since the early days and is proud to launch a number of new products this year.
The corporation is affectionately known as ‘Preferred’ by those familiar with the company– quite a compliment for such a large and dynamic operation. It offers products and engineered solutions for industrial, commercial, nuclear, and institutional facilities with boiler plants, emergency generators, mission-critical fuel handling requirements, and combustion processes.
Preferred’s main markets are primarily the Northeastern United States in New England and New York City, but its products are available all over the country. It also supplies some international clients, though 95 percent is sold domestically in the U.S.
Originally, the company was a representative for a burner product line, but in 1940, it introduced its own line of oil and gas burners, and combustion systems. Ruth O’Donnell is the marketing communications manager and is also part of a father-daughter team with owner, David Bohn. Her younger brother, Robert Bohn, also joined the company this summer after graduating from college. Ruth shares some of the company’s early history.
“My great-grandfather was a mechanical engineer. His brother was the business guy, and together they started out as a [representative] company. Then they developed their own product line in the forties and started the company on Long Island. They later moved to New York City and then to Danbury – although a lot of the sales focus was still in New York City. NYC was their main market for a long time, until the city developed a trend of favoring price over quality. Back then, Preferred wasn’t interested in producing the cheapest product. For this reason, my grandfather took us out of the New York City market. Today, we’re still only interested in manufacturing the best quality product even if it is a little more expensive,” she explains.
“More recently, the quest for quality came into vogue again, and we’re beginning to see a surge in the New York City market once more. As a result, our products are in high demand. It’s an interesting cycle.”
Around the 1970s, the company decided to focus more on controls and invested quite heavily in the burner and the boiler industry. It acquired Rimcor instruments, and in 1978, was able to use the existing products acquired from Rimcor while continuing the innovation of new control systems. Over the next two decades, the company transitioned from a boiler and burner company to a controls company.
Preferred still prides itself on moving with the times and launched its new generation control earlier in 2017. The new product is a loop controller that can control any process control loop, and is mostly utilized in boiler facilities. The company’s produced loop controllers since the seventies and eighties, but its latest design is the most sophisticated one yet. The PCC-IV loop controller is a drop-in replacement for existing PCC-II and PCC-III loop controllers.
“In addition to being a more modern version, it has enhanced capabilities such as better processing power, with a touchscreen where the older one had push-buttons,” Dan Wallace, vice president of research and development, explains. “In addition, it can entirely replace the soon-to-be-obsolete Siemens/Moore 353 models. Word has it that they’re not coming up with a replacement, so our controller could replace those controllers that are currently out in the field. There are thousands of them out there, so it is a good market.”
The company also recently started installing combustion systems that burn renewable fuel oil made by Ensyn Fuels. This gives customers, such as Youngstown Thermal District Steam Plant and Bates College, a renewable option that is environmentally sustainable and economical.
Preferred also installs complete, innovative boiler plant solutions for hospitals. After Hurricane Sandy, when many basements were flooded in New York City and emergency generators could not function, Preferred invented a waterproof pump for emergency generator applications that has since become the product of choice for many mission-critical facilities such as hospitals and data centers. Another great achievement is its new product line of ultra-low emissions burners, which are much better for the environment.
With environmental pressure on the rise, the company makes a large contribution to mitigating pollution with its ultra-low emissions combustion designs. These are low in NOx, CO, and CO2 emissions. Preferred also partners with fuel suppliers such as Ensyn Fuels to offer combustion systems that can burn challenging alternative fuels, all in an effort to improve renewable energy options.
Preferred has shipped over 16,000 burners and 3,000 boilers in its history and has developed its product range to include control systems, outage equipment for nuclear power facilities, fuel handling equipment, and more. Today, its patented innovations portfolio consistently outperforms the competition.
The company’s relationship with the American Boiler Manufacturers Association, or ABMA, has blossomed over the past three years. The association hosts multiple annual gatherings where members are informed of latest news and changes. ABMA is situated near Washington, D.C. and is the main industry resource for safety information, industry trends, and changes in government regulations. It also advocates for the boiler-burner controls industry in Washington.
In terms of market challenges, increasing environmental regulation pressure and a demand for higher efficiency products fuel product evolution, but the company’s innovators are meeting these challenges with sophisticated new technologies. There is also an increased demand for high reliability systems – especially for mission critical facilities. Its waterproof pump and flexible system controller (FSC) are two examples of how it is meeting this reliability challenge for mission-critical facilities.
According to Dan, the company’s product offering attracts clients with reduction of emissions without sacrificing fuel efficiency. In addition, Preferred places a high value on safety and reliability. Preferred leads the industry through innovation with a focus on environmentally friendly products and mission-critical and high-reliability equipment. He reckons that the new products are a good alternative to traditional methods because the end user saves money through increased fuel and electrical efficiency, reduced equipment downtime, and reduced harmful emissions.
The company will continue providing comprehensively engineered combustion systems and equipment for nuclear power facilities. Preferred aims to continue innovating and expanding its standard product offerings of burners, controls, and fuel handling equipment, amongst others. With its bold leadership and strong commitment to ethics, Preferred Utilities Manufacturing Corporation will undoubtedly be supplying America with superb quality and innovation for decades to come.