Gray, a global leader in engineering, design, construction and automation, has purchased Anderson Dahlen, a major manufacturer and fabricator of specialty and stainless steel equipment for the food and beverage, pharma, and vacuum technology industries.

Anderson Dahlen is the eighth company to become an endorsed brand of Gray, which provides a spectrum of design-build services for not only the facility, but also the equipment and automation that goes into it.

Over the years, Gray’s management team has made focused and intelligent acquisitions to build a strengthened team of engineers, system integrators, machine builders and automation experts.

“Being able to offer the manufacturing of premium-quality specialty alloy components and equipment for multiple markets, including food processing, is exciting new territory for us,” says Stephen Gray, president and CEO, Gray. “The evolution in the food and beverage market continues to intensify globally. Adding Anderson Dahlen to the Gray family of brands allows us to fulfill critical demands and stay ahead of our customers’ needs.”

Anderson Dahlen, a 75-year-old, family-owned company, will maintain its headquarters in Ramsey, Minn., and continue operations under its current leadership. President and CEO Tom Knoll says the agreement will allow both companies to meet constantly expanding customer goals.

“Anderson Dahlen’s engineering team has an innate ability to listen to our customers’ needs and solve the challenges they’re facing by designing and building turnkey equipment,” says Knoll. “Incorporating the Anderson Dahlen skillsets with Gray’s turnkey platform of services will provide the marketplace with combined capabilities required in this constantly changing market.”

Gray’s Tyler Cundiff, no stranger to food and beverage, will oversee the company’s business in the industry in his new role as president of Gray Food & Beverage Market.

“Spending the past 15 years entrenched in the food and beverage industry has given me a greater appreciation for what our customers face every day,” says Cundiff. “With the growing world population, food and beverage companies are forced to reinvent themselves to keep up with this tremendous demand. Our talented engineers and project managers dedicated to highly technical and specialty solutions are equipped to tackle our customers’ challenges both today and tomorrow.”

An intelligent search leads to like-thinking companies

Just as a good marriage should bring together like minds with complementary personalities and talents, Gray’s search began formally a little more than a year ago and centered on finding a company that thought the same way about design-build of machinery and provided a compatible range of products and services.

“We began a search for this acquisition project a little over a year ago to identify who might be a good partner,” says Cundiff. “Very early in the process, Anderson Dahlen was a very high choice. It was somebody that we had a high level of respect for and a strong desire to come together, and after several months of getting to know each other, we both aligned very well. It’s been a very good match, which has become obvious to us.”

Anderson Dahlen was not looking for a suitor. It had plenty of long-standing customers who expected custom designed and built equipment for special purposes—equipment that wasn’t likely to be found on the shelf.

“Anderson Dahlen wasn’t a company for sale,” says Cundiff. “It’s a very healthy company where the leadership will stay intact, and they will operate autonomously because they’re successful in what they do.

“One of the main reasons why we came together is that once we started to learn more about each other, we saw that Anderson Dahlen was a company very similar to Gray—culturally, very similar. The value they put on their relationships and customer relationships is very aligned [with Gray]. The other thing was with Gray being a design-builder, Anderson Dahlen is a design-builder of very specific and unique equipment. Anderson is not just manufacturing equipment; they’re doing projects.”

What Anderson Dahlen does, says Cundiff, goes far beyond tank fabrication and skid assemblies. The company designs, machines and builds custom stainless steel equipment dedicated to food and beverage, pharma, or whatever industry needs a machine for fluid processing, material handling, cooking or moving product about a plant.

“We do not tend to manufacture things that are commercially available,” says Perry Henderson, Anderson Dahlen VP of marketing and business development. Much of Anderson’s work is through long-term and committed relationships, adds Henderson. For example, the company has provided specialized and proprietary equipment for major players across the food industry—where the process is highly specific.

Anderson Dahlen also works with smaller food and beverage manufacturers, with products and services that include large-scale manufacturing equipment, mixers and blenders, screw conveyors, and other varieties, says Henderson. Not only does Anderson make custom equipment directly for food processors, but it also takes special orders from equipment suppliers that don’t have the means to make critical components or large stainless steel equipment.

One prized relationship over the years is with another family-owned company, DEMACO (De Francisci Machine), which makes pasta manufacturing equipment. Anderson has partnered with DEMACO over the years to supply specialized equipment for resale and supports it with service and parts, Henderson says. Anderson Dahlen places tremendous value on partnership and has many long-standing customers it thinks of as family, he says.

Single source design-build does it all

In the food industry, there are a lot of terms that are used like “turnkey" or EPC (engineer, procure, construct) on some larger projects. Traditionally what that means is the customer has one company that will do all the engineering, all the construction, all the automation and controls integration, and all the equipment procurement, says Cundiff.

“Now even in an EPC or turnkey model, the procurement of that equipment from that single-source provider is typically going out and sourcing that equipment from outside vendors,” says Cundiff. Now Gray will have the ability not only to serve as a customer’s single source turnkey service provider or EPC partner, but also to integrate further and collaborate even into the manufacturing sector, he says.

“Anderson Dahlen as a Gray company will be able to step in and build and provide certain pieces of equipment for that particular project,” says Cundiff. However, on any project that would fit the EPC description, there would more than likely be many different equipment suppliers, he adds. “Anderson Dahlen would have a certain fit in its area of expertise, but we would also go out and source equipment from various other vendors that we have strong relationships with.”

“If Gray has a project build or expansion, there’ll be a number of equipment providers, and that’s typically the case,” says Henderson. “Where we would normally fit would be where there’s probably not a commercially known solution. It might not be something they want to shop and have 10 people look at. We build the stuff in-house because we control the build internally and don’t just integrate and shop out all the components.”

Gray and Anderson Dahlen are similar in their styles of designing and building structures and equipment, says Henderson. Where there is a need for proprietary equipment, both groups collaborate in the process to help the customer realize that equipment. For processors that have purchased off-the-shelf equipment that broke prematurely, Henderson says this is where his group can step in and design and build a much more robust machine or piece of equipment.

“We also recognize that customers have very specific needs that might not be of the turnkey nature,” says Cundiff. “Our approach is to be flexible for our customers and have the ability to provide discrete services, such as manufacturing, fabrication, engineering, automation and construction. Of course, Gray has been very successful with wrapping these services in a turnkey model when customers desire this approach.”

The Gray family also includes Spec Engineering, a Gray company, a food and beverage engineering and equipment fabricator in Chicago; Inline Engineers, a Gray company, a process and packaging engineering company based in Louisville with offices in Cincinnati and Atlanta; and Gray Solutions, a Gray company, focused specifically on food and beverage operations, controls, integration and automation.

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For more information about Anderson Dahlen, visit