A Nanaimo-based world leader in mobile air compressor systems is celebrating 30 years in business.
VMAC Global Technologies, which develops and manufactures compact vehicle-mounted air compressor systems, hosted a midday celebration for current and former employees last week that included lunch, a cake cutting and an afternoon of storytelling from current and former employees at the company’s research and manufacturing plant on Kipp Road in South Wellington.
Jim Hogan, company president, shared tales about how he and co-founder Tony Menard met in Nanaimo and the projects they worked on together in the years leading up to forming VMAC, which included developing small jet engines to power a high-velocity target drone that emulated the flight characteristics of the sea-skimming Exocet missile. The Canadian Armed Forced needed to develop countermeasures against the anti-ship weapon that destroyed a British warship in the Falklands War.
VMAC was later formed in Ontario when the engineers were asked to develop better quality mounts for a trucking company’s air compressors. The work led to them developing their own vehicle-mounted air compressor systems. The company later moved to Nanaimo, where Hogan grew up.
Today the company has more than 100 employees and a ballpark annual revenue of $20 million.
“In early days of a business you never know what to expect, but we’ve known for a number of years that we have some technology in a nice niche market that could be grown very effectively,” Hogan said.
It hasn’t always been easy. The company weathered the economic downturn of 2008 and lost Tony Menard, when he was shot and killed in 2010. Hogan took over as VMAC president.
VMAC’s biggest technological breakthrough in compressor technology came when it designed the helical gear compressor, which is more compact, efficient and reliable than the reciprocating piston compressors that preceded it.
“Our traditional product hasn’t changed too terribly much … it’s getting refined all the time and, of course, there’s new applications as new vehicle model years come out,” Hogan said. “That’s a competitive advantage we have is we’re very good at putting our product under the hood of new trucks quickly as they come out. That’s no simple thing.”
Looking to the future, VMAC has spent several years developing compressors that work with new vehicle engine and drive train technologies that cut emissions and fuel and maintenance costs.