I have read many business books over the years describing what it takes to motivate employees, build teams and grow a profitable company. For the past 20+ years, I have also been fortunate to be in corporate leadership positions that have tested my abilities to these very things. The last 6.5 years as CEO at TAS, however, have truly been the most rewarding in terms of having the opportunity to completely re-mold a company into a great organization with a very promising future. Reflecting on TAS’s 20-year anniversary is an opportune time to share a snapshot of our history related to this incredible journey.
TAS was founded in 1999 with a vision of building large, modular systems to augment gas turbine power plants to allow them to maintain power output as the ambient temperatures increased (referred to as Turbine Inlet Chilling or TIC). The company innovated and optimized many critical elements of the TIC systems and improved large-scale modular system design, manufacturing and commissioning. From 1999 through 2007, TAS established itself as a market leader in TIC deploying over 60% of the systems implemented in the U.S.
The TIC market was cyclic, however, and TAS brought in outside investment beginning in 2008 to accelerate growth and diversify the company. TAS expanded its TIC solution to include a generation storage capability, diversified into international district cooling projects, developed a waste heat recovery/geothermal technology and took on combined heat and power projects. The company also had established a good relationship in 2009 with a hyperscale data center customer to develop modular cooling units for their data centers. The breadth of thermodynamic and power expertise combined with exceptional modular design and build capabilities were unmatched for a company of TAS’s size. Beginning in 2010, TAS began to experience significant challenges associated with rapid growth and diversification including taking on large international projects with heavy specification driven contracts. In early 2013, TAS investors sought out a CEO who could help the company overcome these challenges and restore a healthy path to growth.
Taking over on May 1, 2013 as the CEO of TAS, the team was facing a myriad of issues. The strain created by the rapid growth and diversification had resulted in high SG&A, organizational silos, lower morale and financial hurdles. There was no time for studies, or consultants; immediate actions were required. Fortunately, there was good talent within the organization that wanted to turn the business around. Taking advantage of that talent, we created teams to focus on the immediate issues, significantly reduced SG&A spending and quickly implemented common sense business process improvements. To break down the organizational silos and improve morale, we also instituted a comprehensive leadership training program named TAS Forward , at a time when most companies would have cut training to save costs. The training was developed and executed totally in house and was a catalyst to increasing collaboration and promoting a customer focused organization. TAS Forward helped us build our next generation leaders across the business and provided:
- Knowledge & insight across all TAS business areas
- Real-world, cross functional problem-solving exercises to enhance organizational collaboration
- Insights and perspectives to enhance employee development and promote a culture of high performance
By 2016, our team focus on solving issues, increased collaboration and frugal financial management yielded significant results and TAS was in position to move forward and grow. But another significant challenge surfaced because the TIC business on which the company was founded and had become a market leader was significantly declining due to increased emphasis on renewable energy and reduced energy demand. TAS took the challenge as an opportunity to pivot and reinvent our business. We focused on our data center and high-tech customers and worked to develop modular products that were relevant to them. Once again, we created in house training associated with these markets and customers and collaborated where we wanted to go. We internally created a new brand and technical focus for TAS specifically related to these customers.
TAS saw that the core expertise and key differentiators that made TAS successful in the power market matched well to the data center and high-tech infrastructure markets and customers. We focused on the key trends in these markets that include:
- Increasing digitization require more data center infrastructure
- Increasing demand for high density computing being driven by machine learning, AI, video, autonomous operations, and gaming
- Higher compute densities driving more cooling demand, more efficient cooling as well ways to reduce water usage and improve life cycle costs
- Lack of skilled craft labor at job sites driving the need for more offsite modular construction
- Customer desire for integrators that could custom engineer, manufacture and deliver systems on very compressed schedules
Gaining top tier supplier status with high-tech customers has been a long road. I believe it speaks to what TAS has to offer and how we have progressed our culture to be compatible with these high tech, highly collaborative companies. These customers desire highly customized, engineered, and confidential infrastructure solutions, seamlessly integrated with their overall system requirements delivered with the latest technology improvements all provided in a cost effective, high speed modular delivery format.
In our 20th year, TAS is well positioned in growing markets with the right expertise and leadership team. We are excited with a partial list of key accomplishments including:
- Increased our manufacturing facilities from one to three in the last two years and now have over 600,000 square feet
- Achieved a current TRIR of 0.6 and have completed over 2 million hours without a lost time accident
- Successfully delivered over 3500 data hall modules over the last year to 3 different data center locations
- Delivering on highly engineered modular systems for a high tech customer in Europe and the U.S.
- Developed considerable intellectual property and operating experience associated with two phase immersion cooling systems and currently building a prototype for a major hyperscale customer
- Developing new products for edge and micro data centers
I am very proud of the transformation that we have accomplished, and we are excited and committed to the future of our company. TAS continues to make material investments in people, equipment and product development and look forward to the next 20 years!
President and CEO of TAS