MD&M WEST: FIRST-TIME EXHIBITORS
AG Industries manufactures filtration systems and filters such as these bacterial and viral filter disks and
high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) compressor filters and mufflers.
Harry Amann spent the early 1980s in hospitals and people's homes renting such medical equipment as oxygen concentrators and tanks, hospital beds, and mobility systems. "Then he realized that all these machines and big bulky equipment he was renting to people had disposable filtration systems that were being replaced sometimes as often as every 8 hours," says Harry Amann's son, Michael Amann, vice president of AG Industries (St. Louis).
Starting with die-cutting simple felt and foam filters, Harry Amann eventually sold off his medical equipment in order to buy larger machines for filter manufacturing. From its humble start as a small home-care provider, the company has evolved into a provider of disposable filters and filtration systems. And, since then, has experienced considerable growth. "We just moved into a 30,000-sq ft building in January  and we're about to put another 30,000 sq ft on," says Michael Amann. "I think that is a testament not only to the company we've built, but also to the importance of filtration in the medical industry."
The importance of filtration is not always realized by manufacturers early in the design stages of product or equipment development. Luckily, the company is experienced at both designing filters for new machines and retrofitting filtration systems for finished equipment. Though it's easier from a design standpoint to address the filtration requirements of a machine in the earliest phases of the design process, Amann says AG has yielded several patents from situations where his company had to try new ideas when retrofitting existing machines. "We have to get creative in that scenario because we're not able to design a filter and then build a machine around it. Rather, there's already a machine built and we have to kind of stick our filter in," says Amann. "We've been able to streamline some manufacturing processes due to that."
Filtration needs become glaringly obvious during testing, says Amann, when manufacturers realize they're not getting the output they want via air, or the filtration efficiency of the prototype they're using isn't quite what they need. In addition to offering design and retrofitting services, the company also keeps filters in stock for companies looking for off-the-shelf or less-expensive alternatives to custom-made systems. The filtration systems the company designs can also double as muffling systems. "The different ways we design the interiors and exteriors of our filters allow us to move air through the filters in certain ways to reduce noise as it moves through the machine," says Amann.
But the company's strongest capability is its speed, he says. "Our goal is to be as fast as possible. We use a lot of streamlined processes and lean manufacturing to enhance our cost containment in an effort to compete with overseas providers," Amann says. Having monitored the overseas-outsourcing trend over the last several years, Amann maintains that allowing customers to continue to make things locally gives them more speed and agility as they bring products to market.
To stay on top of industry trends, Amann watches for new filtration membranes and filter media that he says are constantly being introduced to the market. "We stay on top of those because most people having a machine built for them want our filter to have as little resistance as possible while achieving the highest filtration rate possible." Because resistance and filtration rates work against each other, developing new types of media and membranes that simultaneously enable low resistance and high filtration rates is an important technological trend the company is pursuing.
And, as the company develops the acreage around its current facility to add more machinery, it's also committed to following the trend of going green. "What we like to see and continue to research is a trend toward using more biodegradable and biocompatible plastics," Amann says.