Interview: Austin American Technology Merges with Aqua Klean Systems
Austin American Technology (AAT) is on the forefront of engineering and manufacturing high–performance cleaning systems for more than 35 years, delivering solutions worldwide. AAT was founded in 1986, as a provider of SMT rework systems and process engineering testing services. In 1988, the focus shifted toward the high-end electronics cleaning segment with the introduction of the world’s first automated stencil cleaner. We recently spoke to Austin American Technology President & COO Todd Rountree to find out more about the merger with Aqua Klean Systems and how both companies will grow as a result.
Todd, we understand that you have a big announcement and that congratulations are in order?
Can you give us a little more information about AAT and AKS, and what benefits the merge creates?
We joined forces to become the world’s largest and only full-service electronics cleaning equipment manufacturer. Both companies serve the automotive, medical, military, and aerospace industries, and this merger further improves the high level of service that clients have come to expect.
AAT, based in Austin, TX, has a rich history of serving clients for more than 35 years with cleaners that utilize modern technology for use with PCB cleaning, SMT, stencil and misprint, flip chip, BGA, and more. Similarly, Aqua Klean, based in Southern California, handcrafts and assembles all products and provides cleaning systems that fit into virtually any process. Founded in 1996, AKS is committed to excellence and has the experience necessary to produce the best cleaners in the industry.
Together, we serve clients ranging from small shops to the largest electric vehicle brands – from medical device manufacturers to military, space, and more. This merger allows us to combine resources and expertise to offer superior cleaning equipment for our customers, both existing and new.
Will you close one of the locations and bring everyone under one roof?
No. As of right now, everything is as it always has been and,for the predictable future, that’s the way it’s going to be. We see significant value to keeping a footprint in both locations, servicing all of our West Coast customers, just like AKS has for the past 16 years and like AAT has in our 37 years in business. We will continue to manufacture and service out of both locations.
What is the benefit of having a presence in both Texas and California?
While there are many, we feel that the most important is expanded reach and the ability to provide even more services not only across North America but worldwide because we are now the largest cleaning equipment manufacturer in the electronics industry. The reason I say that is because we offer all the equipment, including inlines and batch cleaners, and we are the only one that manufactures a fully automatic stencil cleaner here in North America. That has been a staple at AAT, and I think it’s going to quickly become one for AKS.
Any change with employees?
No, every employee has been retained and it will stay that way. The only thing we will actually do employee-wise is add to our team, especially on the manufacturing side of things.
We’ve been following AAT and AKS, and it appears that both companies are experiencing all-time growth rates. So, when you have two companies growing andcompeting with each other, what really was the reasoning behind bringing this merger together?
Mike and I have been working on a few projects over the past couple of years. He has been selling some stencil and batch cleaners for us, and we’ve been selling some water recyclers and water–only inlines for him. We got to a point where we were working together. We realized that we really clicked as far as our business acumen and even our relationship. We decided that it was ridiculous to compete against each other when we could help more customers – and the industry at large – by partnering and working together. After that, everything aligned. This partnership just makes sense because each of our strengths complements the other’s weaknesses. Together we are a much, much stronger teamthan we were alone.
It is important to point out that typically in a merger situation, one company is trending downwards while the other is growing but, in this instance, that is not the case. Each company is at an all-time high. We decided now is the right time to merge because we can grow even faster together, becoming the strongest, most successful company possible.
How do you think the merging of two family businesses will fit together?
I think it is going to go well because each company brings its own strengths. For example, Mike has a lot of sales acumen, great product knowledge, extremely good engineering, while I lack in the engineering and design. In the past, we relied on AAT Owner Steve Stach for that portion but he is taking more of a backseat role these days, so Steve’s knowledge will be much appreciated. Also, I tend to be organized and fiscally responsible. Mike likes our structure and organization. We have a lot of software, and we stay up to date on things like that. So, again, our strengths combine to make us the strongest, most efficient company.
Will you rebrand or change the company names?
Not at this time. Both companies have built a great brand over the years and both companies have longevity and quality behind their company names and brands. We do not want to change anything yet. At this point, we want to make sure that the industry has enough time to accept the merge and realize that we are one company now. We want to make sure the core business is successful and that all of our customers are being taken care of. So, for the next couple of years, our branding and messaging will focus on that. We will see where it goes from there.
That sounds smart. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about the merger?
We want our customers – and the industry – to know that the AAT and AKS merge allows us both to better serve them. We have new strengths, new technologies, and more that will result in many new opportunities and innovation. Additionally, with service and manufacturing in both Texas and California, we now have the furthest reach and depth of anyone in our field, which allows us to provide our customers with the best service and support. Additionally, our customers will be able to purchase the best cleaning equipment worldwide.