Filled with acquisitions, new business ventures and milestone achievements, 2020 has undoubtably been an important year for Chart Industries as it continues to find ways to better serve its global customer base and keep up with new market trends.
Even in times of a global pandemic, the US-based company has continued to thrive whilst carrying out its usual operations, expanding business segments and playing a critical role in the fight against Covid-19.
These are just some of the topics that gasworld speaks to Jill Evanko, CEO and President of Chart Industries about in the second instalment of its A Christmas Twist: The 12 Days of Content series.
gasworld (GW): Hydrogen and LNG have been big focuses for Chart in 2020. Can you tell us a little more about these activities?
Jill Evanko (JE): First and foremost, we are an equipment and solutions provider, with our equipment handling a variety of molecules. We believe the clean energy, clean water and clean food trends will continue in the coming decade. Our equipment is uniquely positioned to play in a hybrid of types of power, including LNG, LCNG, hydrogen, biomethane amongst others.
We are continuing to innovate so that we have the breadth of equipment needed in a packaged solution for these applications, such as developing a hydrogen onboard tank or adding repair and service capabilities to service LNG stations around the globe, most recently expanding in Europe.
GW: What were some other standout moments for you in 2020?
JE: Watching our team really come together during the height of the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our team is fantastic, and everyone has chipped in to help achieve the concept of OneChart, where we can make product in various facilities, flex manufacturing schedules to meet delivery needs, and be agile with ramping up and down production depending on demand.
I am also proud of our team for being a finalist in the World LNG Award categories of Outstanding Contribution and the World LNG Award for Energy Transition 2020. It is a testament to the entire Chart team that has and continues to innovate to bring the most efficient technologies and equipment to the market, especially as the market is evolving more and more toward renewable energy sources.
GW: In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Chart increased its production of specific critical care products in the US by more than 60%. How did the company cope with this increased demand and is the demand still high?
JE: It was unfortunate that the reason for the increase in demand was the pandemic, but we were very pleased that we could step up to help. The combination of being able to manufacture tanks and mobile equipment that can be used for medical grade oxygen use in multiple locations around the globe, our supply chain strategy of having backup suppliers in each region that we participate, and finally, our quality team that ensures our product certifications meet the market where the end use occurs is what allowed us to ramp up so quickly.
We also have been strategically adding mobile equipment to our leasing fleet and offering customers some flexibility with a leasing option, in particular as it isn’t known how long the heightened need for equipment especially in pop up and field hospitals would be needed.
April was the highest demand for products for these applications in 2020 to date. Demand returned to pre-Covid levels in the summer months, but we saw a significant increase in demand in the month of October, nearly at the same level as April.
GW: What does business life look like for Chart in a post-pandemic world?
JE: Covid-19 was a catalyst for a lot of changes in everyone’s businesses, some short-term, some long-term. We did our best to make structural changes to the business that would set us up to be better positioned from a profitable growth perspective when the pandemic ends.
While we had to make difficult headcount decisions, we also worked to expand key areas of our business in the commercial and engineering areas, adding resources for hydrogen, for water treatment and to better support our core customers.
We also took advantage of a healthcare focused market and were able to strategically divest the life science piece of our portfolio, which freed up cash to accelerate both organic and inorganic investment. We think our future looks very bright if we can continue to build on these strategic blocks that have been laid.
GW: What are going to be the main focuses for Chart in 2021? How would you like to see the company develop?
We will continue to focus on our high growth areas of clean energy, specialty products and repair, service and leasing while getting “sticky” with more and more customers globally. One of our four key themes is customer orientation and I want the teams to do whatever is needed to make our customers happy.
We are also focused on continuing to grow globally – it has been great to see how we can utilise our manufacturing in China and India to free up capacity and work across the organisation. And certainly not the only other one, but safety continues to be our #1 priority – it would make my year if we had zero accidents in 2021.
GW: Finally, in the spirit of the time of year and theme of the series, if you could have one industrial gases related thing for Christmas, what would it be and why?
I would love to have a variety gift pack of cryogenic and hydrogen pumping equipment… which our Chief Technology Officer is working to deliver to me by Christmas!
A Christmas Twist: The 12 Days of Content series continues tomorrow with an exclusive interview with EIGA.