In these days of non-linear loads, it is becoming increasingly important to mitigate harmonics in order to maintain power quality in various operations… Got it? No? Well don’t feel bad, even electrical engineers have trouble understanding this problem which plagues power systems around the globe.
Yet one Canadian company from Brampton, Ontario has made their name by doing what many could not – understanding harmonics. In fact, Mirus International not only understands harmonics better than most, they’ve become quite good at fixing the problem as well… they would even say the best.
“Harmonics is an extremely difficult problem to understand, but because we’ve all been working at it since the inception of this company and even before, we get it,” says Tony Hoevenaars, Mirus President and CEO.
“That’s why we are able to compete with the big international electrical companies, because of our expertise. Several times we’ve even been approached by clients who have had harmonics equipment installed by these big players, which hasn’t worked. We’re generally able to provide them with solutions that do work, and if we can’t meet their demands, we have no problem pointing them in the right direction.”
So what do they do exactly? Pay attention fellow laymen … this is tricky: When power enters a home or other power consuming entity, it does so at a fundamental frequency of 60 hertz (standard for North America). But electronic devices, or loads, that draw power from that supply don’t necessarily do so at the same frequency or linear waveform.
“Non-linear” devices, like computers, draw current in irregular pulses, which layer multiple frequencies on top of that fundamental, even-flowing 60 hertz frequency. These additional layers are referred to as harmonics. Think of them in the same way that voices layered on top of each other create harmonics (or harmony) in music. Capiche?
The problem is harmonics in power systems are not desirable like they might be in a barbershop quartet. They cause distortions in the power system that can lead to devices overheating or even failing. And when you’re talking about drilling equipment on oil rigs or electric propulsion systems on ocean fairing vessels, power failures or interferences aren’t really an option.
So long story short (ish), Mirus’s products fix harmonics problems. Their world-class filters and transformers clean out distortions within power systems to ensure that loads and devices draw that nice linear current, rather than that undesirable, harmonic-laden, Beach Boys style current. And their mastery of this very technical, but very important, niche of the electrical power sector is what sets them apart from their competition.
Last year the company was named one of the 500 Fastest Growing Companies in Canada by Profit Magazine, and this year Mirus was honoured at the Ontario Export Awards with the Emerging Exporter of the Year Award.
Hoevenaars estimates that 20 per cent of their sales are to Canadian customers, 35 to 40 per cent to the US, and the remainder to countries all over the world. But some markets are more difficult to penetrate than others. China in particular, presented a challenge for Mirus.
Severe taxes and tariffs on imports, coupled with long shipping times from Canada and premiums on transport combined to make China, and most of Asia-Pacific for that matter, a tough market to crack. So when an opportunity came along to acquire an operational factory in Suzhou, China, Mirus had to act quickly to gain a foothold in the fast-growing emerging market.
Mirus’s bank, RBC, was willing to provide $1 million in capital financing for the acquisition, but needed Export Development Canada (EDC) to guarantee the amount, because of the risk involved in an unsecured loan of this kind. EDC’s export guarantees help small and medium-sized business like Mirus, which may not have the assets to back a loan of this size and level of risk, to get the working capital they need to expand their international operations and grow.
“We were happy to guarantee the financing for this acquisition as a move like this will help to makes Mirus more competitive in the Asian market … overnight,” said Megan Malone, EDC Small Business Account Manager. “They will be able to ship items faster, offer more competitive prices, and gain access to local supply chains. This really sets them up for growth in the Asia-Pacific region, and helping Canadian companies in this way is pretty much our MO.”
For Hoevenaars, it’s a big step forward, and an exciting one. “It’s a new challenge for us, but we’re confident in our products and our people, and we can’t wait to get started over there.”