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October 19, 2015 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


Pneumatic Valves for the Industrial Machinery Equipment Industry



Jeffrey J. Hand





Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – October 19, 2015


CEOCFO: Mr. Hand, would you tell us about ROSS CONTROLS? What is the focus for the company today?

Mr. Hand: ROSS CONTROLS is a pneumatic valve supplier to the industrial machinery equipment industry. Our differentiation and focus is really about our field personnel and their technical expertise. Our focus is to drive our poppet and safety technology into key industries, such as mechanical power presses, hollow glass and steel processing, that value long-term reliability and productivity. What is most important is that these industries promote what we would say is a ‘safety first’ mindset. If you look at our portfolio and where we are headed as a company, we want to be the leader in the field of safety technology. We provide a great deal of safety application solutions for our customer base.


CEOCFO: Are companies paying more attention to safety today or still need convincing that they should?

Mr. Hand: Absolutely. Business leaders are realizing they cannot afford to have their employees operating in an unsafe work environment. It also depends upon which geography you are talking about, but certainly North American and European based companies are leading the way. When I talk about safety, it is two things. It is not only protecting employees that are interacting with equipment, it is also protecting the equipment itself from possible damage and things not functioning the way they are designed to work. Certainly some other countries, maybe in Asia, are lagging on the safety side but North America, Europe and Brazil are very focused on safety.


CEOCFO: What is an idea of where and how your products are used?

Mr. Hand: When people ask me what I do, I usually start with most equipment in the industrial environment operate using one of three energy sources, electrical power, pneumatic power, which is compressed air, or some sort of hydraulic power, oil or water based. On pneumatic powered equipment, there are additional concerns as the energy is often still stored in the machine. Our valves and safety control systems control movements that are done pneumatically. They open and close air passages to allow air to move other functions on the equipment safely. The one application easily recognized by people relates to making glass bottles. There are many functions on glass bottle machines controlled by air and our valves perform very well in that difficult and dangerous environment.

CEOCFO: Where does the safety part come in? What is different when someone installs one of your valves, or is that in addition to whatever else they might have?

Mr. Hand: I think the simplest way to describe it is our history in safety goes back 50 years and it started with mechanical power presses. There is a valve on a mechanical power press that controls the clutch brake mechanism on the press. What was happening years ago was there would be what we call a single channel valve that if it did not function properly, the press could repeat and someone might be seriously injured. ROSS patented a solution in which there are two valves within one body. Through air circuitry, we make sure that the two valve elements move at the same time, and if they do not, we exhaust the air out of the system and make sure that the valve cannot allow a press to repeat. We have taken that technology - basically two valves that are monitored inside one body and they fail to what we call a ‘safe condition’. Depending upon the function and what you want the movement to do, we have different options of how to make sure that if the valve does not function properly, we put the application in a safe environment so people cannot get hurt and the equipment cannot get damaged.

CEOCFO: What functions are your people on the ground performing?

Mr. Hand: We look at certain industries that we think value our expertise and product portfolio. What we want is our field engineers or sales engineers to know as much about the equipment that our product is going on, as the customer knows. We want them to look to us on how to handle the pneumatic circuitry on their equipment. As you know, companies have put a great deal of effort into streamlining processes, and people do not have time or experience to think about the pneumatic circuitry of their equipment. In a perfect environment, they look to us to help design their equipment. In certain industries, we certainly have that ability to help them, but we are not trying to be that expert in every industry. We are focused on where we know we can be successful - where productivity is important to a customer and critical to them making money. When that is the case, we have a lot of success.


CEOCFO: Might a company be ordering one or two parts of your equipment?

Mr. Hand: Absolutely. We do much of what we call ROSS/Flex®. We are not trying to be a catalogue sales company. Certainly we have standard equipment and parts that we sell through different channel partners, but where we really add value is when a customer is willing to work with us and say they like a function but could we change this or that? We have a process that we call ROSS/Flex® and it is really a process, not a product, in which the customer works directly with our engineering team to rapidly custom design a product for their application. What happens in those scenarios is we improve their process and many times we put several functions into one part number. We ease their purchasing process. From our standpoint, we have a customer that has ownership in that product.


CEOCFO: What is an example of what your engineers need to look at? What are some of the subtle differences that your people understand to allow you to come up with as close to perfect a product as it can be?

Mr. Hand: The biggest thing is they understand the industry and the application. Typically, the customer has a problem and they are trying to speed up their equipment or they are having timing issues. Maybe it costs an OEM a great deal of time, as there may be many different components of pneumatic applications on their equipment. It probably takes them a great deal of time to put all of the valves and cylinders on their machine. If we can simplify their assembly process, many times all we are doing is putting several of these functions into one block that helps them assemble their equipment. It can happen in a number of different ways but the number one thing is understanding their equipment as well as they do and what they are trying to accomplish. For every customer that is different.


CEOCFO: You are a global company. What is your reach today?

Mr. Hand: I think the biggest thing is making sure that we continue to be at the forefront of geographies that are starting to talk more and more about safety. For example, we do not have a huge presence in Central and Northern South America, but the standards in those countries are starting to change and people are becoming more safety conscious. We are trying to make sure that we are expanding in those geographies that are following safety best practices. The multi-national companies are providing the same safety solutions to equipment all around the world. I would say Latin America is one where we are focused on trying to grow, and then I would say all of Asia but particularly China and India. Those countries are starting to realize that safety is not just about protecting people; many times it is about increasing productivity. If they can do both, protect people and increase their productivity, the customer is better off. We are still in many of these geographies in an educational phase about what types of things our products can do and what safety can do for customers both in productivity and liability protection. The two areas that we are looking to expand are Southeast Asia and Latin America.

CEOCFO: Are you looking with distributors in some of these countries?

Mr. Hand: Typically yes. We have wholly owned business in Germany, France, the UK, Japan, Brazil, China, and India. In those countries, a great deal of our business is direct. We are trying to get a closer relationship with the customer; however we do supplement that through distributors, agents and even integrators. We are finding what is important for us is we are talking to electrical control and safety suppliers because the controls engineers are the ones that are specifying safety.


CEOCFO: What are the challenges dealing on a global basis, particularly when you need to have very informed people representing your company?

Mr. Hand: There are always challenges. We manufacture in several countries but not in every region, so the challenge is always getting our product to the customer in a cost efficient basis. I think spreading the word is another challenge. There are opportunities to apply our safety technology in an environment, that even though it might be a little more expensive on an upfront basis, it is beneficial to a customer long-term. It is an awareness and an understanding that takes time for customers to realize and appreciate the long-term benefits for their organization.


CEOCFO: How is business?

Mr. Hand: This year business is mixed. We are an interesting company because we are a net exporter out of the U.S. and have been for a long time. The foreign exchange fluctuation with the US dollar strengthening so significantly has had an impact. However, without that impact, our business is definitely growing.


CEOCFO: What might be different a year from now at ROSS CONTROLS?

Mr. Hand: We have many strategic initiatives. You will see more presence from ROSS, both in the US and throughout the world, and the continued pursuit to being the full safety solution provider to our customer base. What is next is a continued focus and effort to educate and become recognized worldwide as THE pneumatic safety solution provider. What is great about ROSS is that we are very focused on what we do well - we are the pneumatic leader at providing safety solutions and enhanced productivity for our customers.


"What is great about ROSS is that we are very focused on what we do well - we are the pneumatic leader at providing safety solutions and enhanced productivity for our customers."
Jeffrey J. Hand




Jeffrey J. Hand


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