in Vol. 16 - November Issue - Year 2015
Focusing on Value
Pete Blackmur, Vice-President-Sales of Clemco Industries Corp.
Robotic blasting solutions improve productivity, enhance quality, and often reduce labor costs. Robotics are becoming more cost-effective and therefore more accessible to smaller manufacturers and rebuilders
In this machine, the ID and OD of raise bore drill pipe thread is shot peened
Heavy equipment wheels are blast cleaned in this large automated machine to allow the manufacturer to produce 20,000 parts per year. Safety platforms allow worker access.
MFN was able to get an interview with Pete Blackmur, Vice-President-Sales, Clemco Industries Corp., Washington, Missouri, USA.
(?) MFN: We interview your company on a fairly regular basis and acknowledge that you are a world leader in air-powered abrasive blasting. What do you want our readers to know about Clemco?
(!) P. B.: We are proud of the course our company has followed and remain steadfast to our core principles. Since the company's founding, the driving force behind Clemco Industries Corp.'s marketing efforts has been finding appropriate solutions for its customers. Clemco engages in dialogue with them in cooperation with our distributors during the quotation development process in order to detail unique requirements. Whether the solution is ZERO automation, a Clemco Industrial Blast Facility, or a standard manual hand-cabinet, we seek quality solutions for cleaning, peening, and finishing problems our customers face. And the goals are consistent-save money, improve processes and quality, increase throughput, comply with environmental restrictions, and provide a safe work place for employees.
(?) MFN: Why do you think your company has had so much success over the years?
(!) P. B.: I think our success derives from the people who set our course and culture from the beginning, our commitment to that course, and our desire for continuous improvement. We recognize the importance of relationships, customer service, and listening to our customers. We strive to improve ourselves in spite of the numerous changes that have taken place over the years in our markets and in the competitive landscape.
As a global company, there is no doubt that our greatest strength lies in our people resources. We work as a team to leverage that strength to provide the greatest value to our customers. I think there's great benefit in sharing ideas and employing each other's strengths.
(?) MFN: You mention changes that have impacted your business. Can you elaborate?
(!) P. B.: We have seen great movement in the industries we serve-aerospace, medical, transportation, oil & gas to name but a few. The manufacturing processes our customers employ and the materials they use, the air-quality and safety regulations that impact their operations, economic and competitive pressures all play a role in changing their needs and preferences. Our customers now require different systems and solutions than they did twenty years ago. And, like it or not, the internet has had an impact. Customers like the convenience of searching for and even purchasing on-line.
Clemco is very aware that these factors affect us daily and that we must keep pace with change. Certainly more and more companies look to blasting for their surface treatment operations now than in the past. In addition, because of that growth, the nature of the customer has changed. The companies new to blasting sometimes prefer a low-cost solution. Nevertheless, Clemco is not a low-cost provider. Rather, we are a collaborative, problem solving, best value provider.
(?) MFN: Do you think companies such as yours should move in that direction?
(!) P. B.: Clemco has never intended to be a low-cost provider because we choose to continually invest in our business and improve ourselves-our engineering, manufacturing, marketing, and service resources. Don't get me wrong, we are always looking to reduce costs like everyone else, but our objectives are to innovate and add value for our customers. We've kept pace with our customers' needs by investing in new equipment to improve deliveries, in processes to improve quality, in employee training to make us able to be more responsive, and also in information technologies to make us more nimble and responsive.
(?) MFN: With customer needs changing to react to new influences and pressures, how do you determine the best solution to a customer's specific surface treatment requirements?
(!) P. B.: Well, as always, the key is to listen to the customer: really listen, and ask the right questions. Just as important is to commit the questions and responses to paper for ongoing reference. We find that while paperwork is considered a detestable task, it is critical. We emphasize this process internally as well as with our distributors, and follow a systematic approach for any engineered project or system. The format we use brings together our design and our customer's requirements. We work through the process together to refine the customer's needs with respect to not only production rates, desired finish, media type, compressed air availability and myriad other variables and specifications to home in on his/her desired outcomes, but in consideration of any environmental concerns and other requirements our customer faces as well.
For example, let's say that the application dictates the need for a walk-in blast chamber with an in-floor recovery system. The customer's part and desired finish will determine the appropriate abrasive; or perhaps the customer already knows which abrasive is best suited to the job. There are various recovery system types engineered to handle specific media or abrasive characteristics. Many equipment suppliers try to shoehorn their recovery solution to fit any abrasive or production requirement. Clemco offers several types of well-established and proven media recovery and reclamation technologies; so we can offer the right solution for the customer's application, whether it's a screw, conveyor belt, pneumatic, blade recovery or even vacuum and sometimes a combination of these technologies. Additionally, the customer's part size, production requirements, budget and other factors will lead us to the correct answer regarding recovery configuration and size; i.e., whether a full or partial abrasive recovery is most appropriate. In recent years, customers have responded very favorably to our collaborative approach to their surface finishing problems and to our ability to adapt an appropriate engineered solution to their specific surface requirement. We can credit that ability to our far-reaching resources, both in the USA and in Europe and Asia.
(?) MFN: Given the current climate, would you care to share any of your plans for the future?
(!) P. B.: We follow what our customers tell us. What I mean is, that while our core contractor products remain critical, we sense that the industrial sector offers certain opportunity. In the US market, more and more customers are bringing their blasting operations indoors. The days of blasting in the back parking lot or adjacent field are slowly coming to an end in urban areas and even in rural locales as commercial or residential development continues its steady growth.
Clemco is well-positioned to help customers with blast room facilities. We have products for every budget. Some customers new to indoor blasting want to start out small with a shovel-in or sweep-in recovery system. Others want a full facility with all the productivity-enhancing options. Today there is an enormous range of sophistication that can be applied to blast facilities and automated systems. Our industrial facility line runs the gamut of equipment from the blast machines to media recovery and cleaning, to dust collection, and controls, and of course, the enclosures themselves. We work with customers of all sizes and have equipment systems that suit most applications. Customers are looking for more sophisticated controls for efficiency and safety devices such as carbon monoxide monitoring, to protect their employees.
(?) MFN: You make automated systems as well. How would you characterize the market for that equipment?
(!) P. B.: Once again, we have a broad range of both manual cabinets and automation. Our equipment is designed and built to last many decades and our best customers are those who use blasting as a key process. More and more of them are turning to automation and robotics to streamline their processes, improve safety in their operations, and reduce cost.
Industry worldwide is changing and advancing, and we're keeping pace. We're using developments undertaken in each of our locations, in concert with our customers, to continue to sharpen our capabilities in control and user interface, robotics as well as part and nozzle manipulation, abrasive media usage and reclamation, and the containment and cleanliness of work chambers and blast rooms. We see more customers requiring cleaner, quieter, and more efficient blast equipment, and automated solutions for their production needs.
(?) MFN: Clemco markets its products through distributors. How does that contribute to your value proposition?
(!) P. B.: Our products by nature are tech-intensive because blasting is a means to an end and every application is different. We are fortunate to have distributors with a depth of experience; they use that experience to help customers solve problems, thereby creating close relationships with them. Similarly, we have built close partnerships with our distributors based on our common goal to serve end-user customers exceedingly well: we both care about quality and attentive service.
Our Territory Managers support distributor sales personnel to keep them up-to-date with our new products and share application information. What we both bring to the table serves our mutual customers. The flow of information between us results in 360-degree feedback, which we use to drive our development process.
(?) MFN: Finally, what do you believe the future holds for Clemco and for the industry in general?
(!) P. B.: The future looks very good, considering current backlogs and in spite of what's going on in the oil and gas sector. We are positioning ourselves for an extended period of increased volatility in our markets. Our industry will continue to be subject to economic cycles and those cycles could become more frequent. Whether or not we call it a double-dip, a much overworked phrase these days, companies have become more adept at maneuvering through slowdowns in their businesses and they seem to have improved their abilities to react almost immediately to changes in demand. I am optimistic we will do the same.
Speaking locally now, one area of opportunity going forward could be crumbling infrastructure. While this subject receives much lip service, there has been little action in terms of government policy to address the problem. Studies indicate that corrosion is a US$300 billion annual problem in the U.S. The opportunities are far reaching: highways, bridges, and overpasses, utilities, transportation fleets, pipelines, production and manufacturing sectors as well as defense.
While the blasting industry's portion of the corrosion problem is relatively small, our customers could be presented with some significant opportunities if these problems are addressed in a serious way.
(?) MFN: Any closing thoughts?
(!) P. B.: All in all, we are optimistic about the future of Clemco and the industry. Our network of company operations and distributor partners is well-positioned and on course to identify and address new opportunities and to continue pursuing our goals. We are committed to applying our experience to creative and innovative solutions for our customers' changing needs.
MFN would like to thank Pete Blackmur for this interview!