From Startup to an International Market Leader
Solberg Manufacturing, Inc.
Having grown from a startup in the family garage to an international market leader in filtration, separation, and silencing, award-winning Solberg Manufacturing, Inc. is celebrating fifty years as a trusted partner to its customers, colleagues, and suppliers. Its inventive filtration solutions play a role in operations around the globe. For Solberg, the filter is no longer an afterthought; the filter completes the system, protecting equipment while also reducing air, noise, and other forms of pollution.
The Solberg name has become synonymous with quality in the aerospace, food processing, agriculture, pneumatic conveying, wastewater, medical, power generation, printing, plastics, and other manufacturing industries. “If you can think of a market, we’re probably touching it somehow,” explained Clint Browning, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “Basically, anything that rotates and uses or processes air – we can protect it as well as the surrounding environment.” Solberg solutions are critical to improving the lifecycle and performance of machinery.
“We always seek out our customers’ biggest needs challenges and partner with them to provide the most elegant solution possible. So, nowadays, we’re well known in the industry for being application experts,” President Tor Solberg noted.
The company was founded in 1968 by Charlie Solberg Sr. – an electric motor salesman with an entrepreneurial drive – and was born of a need for reliable, better performing products. Solberg wanted to improve upon products sold in the market and this desire remains critical to the company’s success today. His first product, in 1968, was a prototype for an inlet filter silencer for small air compressors. His filter silencer design resulted in lower pressure loss, was quieter than products available at that time, and was widely adopted by Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and Resellers in the marketplace. Solberg was in business.
Since that time, Solberg has expanded both its product portfolio and its reach. Today, it has nineteen locations serving over seventy countries in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and beyond, offering localized support in a global market.
“We started as a distributor, and we worked our way into manufacturing over time. As our sales grew, we designed new products which we decided to make on our own. We took more and more on and built up our capabilities until we realized we were a manufacturer,” said Tor Solberg. “We call ourselves a distributor that happens to make what it distributes. We have multiple engineering groups set up to serve the global regions, and we have sales and distribution centers around the world. We also have manufacturing and supplier partners across the continents as well,” he said.
“If you look at the way we collaborate around the world with setting up new locations and how our employees operate, one of the things we try to do is become very localized in our efforts to serve the customer base in their regions of operation, and it goes a long way.”
Solberg is ISO 9001:2015 certified which is, “the most recent and difficult standard to achieve, and we did it on the first try.” Solutions comply with the most rigorous regulations, including ATEX, which are European requirements for equipment used in and around explosive environments. Applications include pneumatic conveying, biogas, metallurgy, pharmaceutical, power generation, or any other environment with a potentially explosive atmosphere.
“Adhering to these stricter standards allows us to provide our filters for some of the most sensitive plant environments, which sets us apart in the filtration industry,” explained Ray Kulpa, General Manager of Solberg’s UK operations. “PED is another challenge that we regularly rise to.” PED is the European Pressure Equipment Directive.
Solberg is committed to the environment through its products and practices. In addition to recycling and waste reduction strategies, it has made a huge investment in solar power. Last year, it increased solar power capacity to just over 900 kilowatts, and uses the sun’s energy to power its manufacturing equipment, reduce fossil fuel based energy consumption, and realize lower energy costs.
Its carbon emissions in the U.S. have been completely offset by renewable energy credits that were attained through a combination of green energy, onsite solar, landfill sites and wind farms. The power is generated via a combination of wind energy and the methane produced from the garbage decomposition. Solberg noted that the investments have been paying off.
In 2017, Solberg’s energy reduction qualified it for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge Program.
The company earned U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Green Power Certificate of Partnership, maintains Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) compliance and partnered with Energy Star to monitor energy use. Solberg even achieved LEED certification at one of its facilities.
“That’s a testament to the efforts made by the Solbergs to help redefine what success in business looks like. We didn’t have to be LEED certified; we chose to do it because our commitment to lessening our impact on the environment is important to our employees and a significant driver of our business culture,” said Browning.
Solberg is also a certified B Corporation (B Corp). Its ability to comply with rigorous social and environmental performance standards earned it B Corp’s 2013 Race to the Top Award for Social and Environmental Change and 2015 Best for the Environment Award.
Solberg has worked itself into a major force within the renewable energy sector, specifically in biogas/biomass, renewable natural gas and landfill gas to energy applications where its solutions address facility-specific needs.
Jason Cox, Market Manager for Power Generation solutions highlighted Solberg’s expertise as a solutions provider in the renewable energy sector. “Experience and agility allows us to utilize our vast install base and application knowledge to rapidly provide an economical, site-specific solution.”
The company has partnered with engine dealers, engine OEMs, engine and equipment packagers, engineering firms and end users to ensure the right products are provided for specific engine brands and sizes. Solberg’s breadth of innovative crankcase ventilation solutions and depth of applications knowledge has proven to be an asset in addressing critical needs in the Waste Management and Renewable Energy sectors where alternative fuel engines are used for power generation.
It has also identified several emerging sectors in which it can have an impact. The medical cannabis oils and essential oils markets are seeing new levels of growth and generating new opportunities and challenges that need to be addressed. “Solberg has always focused on the customer and how we can better protect their equipment. When new markets emerge, our team spends extensive time understanding the process, the physics of how the contamination moves and reacts within the gas flow (especially under vacuum) and what we need to do to manufacture a product that actually works,” Mike DeLisi, Market Manager for Vacuum Technology, explained.
This is especially true of industries like medical cannabis oils and essential oils where countless hours were spent developing application specific solutions for both sides of the vacuum pump.
DeLisi addressed the challenges faced with this type of application. “Typically, we are trying to stop contamination from entering and exiting a vacuum pump. In most of these essential oil processes, we are actually trying to capture valuable product from entering the mechanical workings of the pump. This recovery effort may sound easy, but under vacuum, these oils and terpenes are very difficult to manipulate.” The company has developed advanced vapor condensing technology with large, cold surface areas on which the product will condense and then drain into the collection area.
For the discharge of the vacuum pump, Solberg uses a combination of proprietary coalescing and odor adsorption technologies to capture contaminated oil mist and prevent odors from escaping the discharge of the pump.
There is almost no application or process too challenging for Solberg. “Our mission and purpose along with our core values and guiding principles are the secrets to differentiating ourselves and our solutions in the marketplace. We believe that a sincere interest and passion for helping others find success is the root of our own success and surest path to maintaining market leadership in the future,” stated Browning.
A new manufacturing facility will be coming online later this year in the United States, and expansions are ongoing in other parts of the world. As Solberg continues to grow, it is changing the way the industry thinks about filtration in countless operations around the world.