Executive Interview Series with Jarvis Penner, General Manager, Antec Controls

In today’s day and age, quality air control has never been more top-of-mind. Antec Controls, based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba, knows this more than anyone.

In just ten years, Antec Controls has come to work with some of the largest healthcare organizations throughout the U.S., from hospitals to research facilities, as well as many post-secondary institutions in bio and chemical research laboratories, and pharmaceutical facilities, both in manufacturing and research and development.

Antec Controls offers Healthcare and Laboratory solutions designed to deliver vital precision airflow and environment control for critical spaces. The Antec Controls product line includes industry leading airflow control devices with high turn down capabilities and control systems that can provide energy savings while creating a safe working environment.

Business Elite Canada spoke with General Manager Jarvis Penner about the company’s manufacturing capabilities and exemplary customer service and product line.

Q: Please give us an overview of Antec Controls.
A: Back in 2011, Price Industries was looking to expand into laboratory controls, after our Sales Reps were requesting an additional product line focused on critical controls in laboratory and healthcare spaces. Seeing this opportunity in the market, Gerry Price put out the new challenge to a group of Price Industries engineers for those that were interested. I was eager to take the opportunity to build this part of the business from the ground up and encouraged Matthew Nesbitt to join me. The two of us took on the role of being dedicated lab controls designers and began developing our first product that year.

Our product line started with our room pressure monitor used in healthcare spaces, and we then moved into tracking control and pressure control, with all three products released in 2013 after the development cycle. Later that year, we moved into creating lab controls and have since continued to add to our product line as we continue to grow the business and team.

During the development cycle of our initial product releases, we built lab spaces for testing and built our own manufacturing facilities. In 2015, we moved into a new office space to make room for our growing team, and this year we are excited to be celebrating our ten-year anniversary.

Q: What are the services Antec Controls provides?
A: Antec Controls provides solutions for room pressurization in critical spaces. Occupant safety is our top priority, and we ensure that through accurate and precise airflow control in spaces where there are airborne pathogens that need to be contained. We offer various valve and control types in order to find the best fit for each customer and the project. Working in these critical spaces it’s important that all users, from patients to technicians, can be worry-free in their environment. We create products and solutions that eliminate these worries for the occupants, knowing that the systems in place are going to do their job and keep them safe while they work on, or are involved in, lifesaving activities. While we focus on safety, we also want to ensure that our products are running in the most efficient manner possible, without excessive energy usage. This is something that has become a major focus of ours; creating products that reduce the costs of energy consumption, while at the same time allow for owners and users to monitor this to ensure they’re achieving savings.

Q: Please distinguish between your services for Engineers and for Owners?
A: We provide consulting engineers with product information, design guides, guidelines for standards and codes to comply to help them easily and accurately design their HVAC projects. We pride ourselves on being transparent with information, allowing for easy access to documents through our website. Training is an important aspect of our business, and we offer both online and in- person training for engineers to support them in the design of critical spaces. We also provide training and education support to Owners, as well as products with redundant safety features and unique safety options for the marketplace. We create products that owners can be easily trained on and are able to do their own maintenance and service through our software, Antec Toolbox. This is a program that we created that allows for simple start up and commissioning of our products, letting our customers be more autonomous while in the field.

Q: How has your business evolved since it started?
A: We have made huge strides since 2011. We’ve added in-house manufacturing and capabilities for our controls design, as well as capabilities for automation within our manufacturing facility. We’ve expanded our product line and added multiple different airflow devices to our offering. We’re proud to be the only manufacturer that can offer venturi valves, high accuracy airflow devices and terminal units, allowing us to fit the needs of more customers and be able to find solutions for more applications.

As our business has grown, so has our team. We were initially only a small pair of design engineers, and now we’re a team with over forty employees. We’ve also grown our representative network, starting out with only six reps who carried our product line. One of the business concepts that we have focused on since our inception is what’s called the Hedgehog Concept, developed by Jim Collins in the book Good to Great. He established this concept from an ancient Greek saying, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” In brief, this concept intersects three main points to help businesses become great: 1) Focusing on what you’re truly passionate about, 2) Focusing on what your company is the best at and 3) Determining what drives revenue. With this in mind, our current focus is on improving and innovating our existing products rather than expanding and creating a massive product line, and this is something we’ve remained focused on as our business continues to grow. We value excellence, and our goal is to continuously improve our product line to make it world class.

Q: How do you anticipate your clients’ needs before they arise?
A: It’s important to take a look at trends and the major concerns that are coming up in the market and make sure we’re able to adapt and address these concerns with our own customers before they arise. We’re always listening to what is going on in the HVAC and healthcare industries so we can accurately forecast what may be coming down the line.

Over the years, we’ve seen a shift in that owners and building operators want to take more responsibility over their own buildings. Because of this shift, we’ve added to and adjusted our product line to allow for our customers to be more autonomous with our products. By doing this, building owners can quickly make changes without the need to hire outside contractors in order to get that work done.

As time goes on and buildings continue to age, it’s inevitable that systems and products will eventually need to be updated. We include a retrofit option in our offering that allows for a simple upgrade to the controls system to ensure they’re up to date and running smoothly, without the hassle of reinstalling an entirely new valve. Energy consumption is another customer concern that is becoming more and more prevalent, and we are making sure we can address this and provide effective solutions for our customers. Our product line includes various valve options to ensure the best fit for a number of different healthcare spaces, based on the needs of the customer and the building. We’re also able to convert constant volume valves to variable volume valves, greatly reducing the energy usage.

Lastly, one of the key components of our business structure is education. We spend a lot of time educating the market and our customers to help them understand which airflow control devices will provide the best solution to their job—we are unique in that we can talk about both the benefits and disadvantages, because we carry several options. This allows us to be very transparent with our customers and representatives while helping them gain an in-depth understanding of product capabilities.

Q: Please describe some of the specific challenges for HVAC in highly controlled areas like an operating room.
A: Designing and implementing HVAC systems in critical spaces takes an incredible amount of collaboration with consulting engineers and contractors on site, and there are a variety of factors in building construction that need to be taken into account during the design process. It’s important for us to have solid communication with everyone involved throughout the entire process so that we can ensure our products are functioning at the highest level possible.

We also want to ensure that the owners of these buildings have a thorough understanding of the products and the system, so that they can maximize energy savings and clearly recognize the safety features that go along with them. This is why education and training is such a large component of our business structure, as we understand and value the importance of making sure our users know our products almost as well as we do.

Q: What is on the horizon for Antec Controls for the next five years?
A: We have established a fabulous team and business here in Winnipeg. Over the next few years, as we continue to develop our market throughout North America, we’ll continue to develop our team locally in Manitoba. It’s important to us to support both the community and economy, by developing and improving our products in our local offices.

In terms of products, we’ll continue to improve and add features for our customers, with the priority that they are simple for users, while always ensuring the safety of occupants and can provide energy savings wherever possible.

We’re really excited about the recent launch of two new products that were created with these values in mind. This fall, we’ll begin shipping out our new touchscreen fume hood controller, Cava™ and following that, our cloud-based monitoring system, Curve™. Cava™ allows for simple commissioning of an entire room through one device and has direct BACnet connection capabilities; something we weren’t able to offer with our previous fume hood controller. Curve™ allows building owners to monitor and control their buildings remotely, connecting them with the real-time information in their critical spaces.

As we hit our ten-year anniversary this year, we’re really proud of what we accomplished in the last decade in the critical controls market, and we’re looking forward to more successes in the future.