American Air Filter Powers Through the Pandemic and Beyond Leveraging RISE with SAP


Before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unlikely you spent much time thinking about air filtering or air quality, but in the last year this has become an area of increasing importance. Hospitals, airplanes, schools, office buildings, restaurants, and factories — just to name a few — are reconfiguring their air handling and filtration systems to support the fight against COVID-19.

While American Air Filter (AAF) has been delivering clean air for 100 years, it is now a critical capability for all businesses across the U.S.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, AAF air quality systems became critical for many customers to maintain operations, explained Bob Betts, director of SAP programs at AAF: “Like many times in the past, AAF is answering the needs of our customers, delivering safe and high-quality work environments.”

That’s why AAF recently committed to the new RISE with SAP offering, SAP’s holistic business transformation as a service offering designed to address the true needs of companies like AAF, as they embark on their intelligent enterprise journeys.

“Providing a safe working environment through clean, filtered air for our customers and their businesses is our top priority, and we’ve seen growth in just about every market segment,” Betts said. “RISE with SAP enables us to provide the tools necessary for all AAF staff to execute against this objective.”

Reacting to COVID-19

Founded in Louisville in 1921, AAF now operates on a global scale, cleaning air and building specialized filtration products for uses spanning the residential, commercial, industrial, and more. AAF has expanded its scope to include pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and instruments, schools, industrial supply areas, and office buildings in an effort to reduce the spread.

According to Betts, the company responded well in the early days of COVID-19, closing most of its corporate offices and leaning into the automated processes built into AAF’s factories. As a result, they were largely able to maintain the production and delivery rates of pre-2020, at a time when customers needed them most. But, as all companies in the air filtration business, AAF experienced filter media shortages, especially the filter media used in COVID-19 masks.

“Air quality is something you really take for granted until you need it,” Betts said, “and then it’s a No. 1 priority.”

The company’s future growth, Betts said, is expected to be driven by a continued increase in standard retail business — through both brick-and-mortar hardware stores and e-commerce sites — as well as a rise in small companies improving their home HVAC systems.

“We’ve set out to use and leverage SAP systems to grow our revenue without exploding our cost in proportion, all while improving our service to customers along the way.”

The RISE with SAP Solution

AAF decided to integrate its enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems before Betts even joined the company. When he was hired, his mandate was simple: take the digital transformation concept and make it real.

“This is the future of our company,” he said. “Everyone at AAF — from top to bottom — is deeply invested and involved in turning this company into an intelligent enterprise. We made a tremendous investment in tomorrow. Now, it’s time to deliver.”

The private cloud offered the clearest path forward for AAF, enabling the company to take best-practice implementation processes and modify areas with tremendous return on investment (ROI) potential that weren’t necessarily included in the standard configuration. Through RISE with SAP, SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition running on AWS, slotted in with a suite of SAP solutions in use at AAF, including: SAP Commerce Cloud, SAP Service Cloud, SAP Sales Cloud, SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP Integrated Business Planning, and SAP Ariba Supplier Lifecycle and Performance, as well as SAP Manufacturing Execution (discrete manufacturing) and SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence (process industry).

“We will have visibility from end to end,” Betts said, “which helps us in so many ways — and ultimately helps us produce higher quality products for our customers.”

The AAF Path Forward

“The system now helps us keep a constant — and accurate — eye on where our materials are, the full history of customer interactions, what’s shipped, what’s not shipped, what’s in production, and more,” Betts shared.

As someone who has worked with SAP for many years, Betts said his extensive experience and unique insight in technology positions him and the company for a bright future.

“With RISE with SAP, AAF is poised for long-term success in the cloud. SAP is as trusted a technology partner as you can find, and when they say something will work one way, it will work that way. That reliability is very important.”

Steve Baird is managing director of the Midwest Market Unit at SAP.