in Vol. 4 - March Issue - Year 2003
Guided By Principles, Customer Driven
Arnie Sallaberry, President of Clemco Industries Corp.
Technician checks automated cabinet with sophisticated PLC software. PLC controls proximity sensors and video cameras which monitor parts as they are processed.
Factory technician inputs settings for "teach and repeat" program to allow processing of a variety of parts automatically.
Interview with Arnie Sallaberry, President of Clemco Industries Corp., Washington, Missouri, USA.
Clemco Industries Corp. manufactures Clemco abrasive blast equipment, ZERO blast cabinets and automation, Aerolyte dry stripping equipment, and Clemco industrial blast facilities.
(?) MFN: Clemco Industries has been in business for over 50 years, and is considered a leader in many aspects of surface treatment. How did Clemco become involved in surface finishing and shot peening?
(!) A.S.: The early leaders of both the Clemco (named Clementina Ltd at that time) and Zero organizations independently recognized the value of using compressed air to clean or otherwise improve all types of surfaces. Clementina rented equipment and wanted a better, more efficient technology for its abrasive-blasting customers. In 1949, the company designed and built the first Clemco blast machine, a technology which has stood the test of time. Early customers included Chevron and Shell.
During the same era, Zero Manufacturing made stainless steel tanks and processing equipment. Zero found that glass bead peening enhanced the quality and finish of their final product. The ZERO cabinet line grew from this discovery; and soon thereafter, manufacturers such as Boeing and General Motors were using ZERO cabinets. Aerolyte Systems was born through the pioneering spirit of Clemco to use plastic media for depainting aircraft. Today, air force bases around the globe have Aerolyte installations. Zero moved into further labour saving machines with its automation technology. I think that our pioneering history in manufacturing and using these processes in-house gives us a unique perspective and a customer-based focus unmatched in our industry.
(?) MFN: Some firms, which grow through acquisition, bring acquired products into their portfolio and discontinue historical trade names. Why did Clemco choose to retain the ZERO name?
(!) A.S.: Clemco was not purposely pursuing a strategy of ‘growth through acquisition’; but when the opportunity to bring Zero Manufacturing into the Clemco family presented itself, it made sense on many different levels. Not only did Zero have a complementary product line and excellent technology, but also they had a solid market presence and a highly respected name in the industry. The ZERO trade name was recognized as a very important asset. We have extended the ZERO brand into new markets, and have expanded the field of opportunities for the ZERO technology into other applications, particularly with respect to aircraft depainting and component inspection and repair.
(?) MFN: Often, company culture exerts an important influence on its business practices and on how a business interacts with its customers. Do you think Clemco’s early leaders still impact Clemco’s business today?
(!) A.S.: Absolutely. Alfred J. Cleary, Clemco founder and board chairman for many years, and the Duncan family, founders of Zero, both imbued their organizations with the overriding ideals of integrity and excellence. Mr. Cleary often said that business is about people. His respect and concern for the individual are legendary throughout the industry.
In fact, Mr. Cleary’s philosophies endure and are embedded in the genetic code of the Clemco organization worldwide; and we operate by those same principles today. We demand integrity and excellence from every employee. In return, Clemco holds dear the values upon which the company was built: respect and concern for the safety and well-being of the individual – be they employees, customers, or suppliers.
(?) MFN: Continuous learning drives companies forward. How does Clemco accomplish that?
(!) A.S.: Clemco places great emphasis on listening and information sharing. We listen to our customers and to industry sources, and try to ensure that information is shared throughout our worldwide operations so that we can better apply our technology and provide the best solutions to our customers. By focusing on customer needs, we have continually been able to expand our capabilities and provide better solutions.
Through such information gathering and sharing, we have achieved a high level of success in automating the blasting and peening processes. Customers come to us with specific production goals, such as mass quantities, exact repeatability, or labour reduction and as we address those needs we expand our knowledge base and adapt that knowledge to other applications.
The degree of success we enjoy is possible, however, only with people who are willing and indeed eager to learn and to apply their knowledge to solve customer problems. I am extremely proud of the way our people dedicate themselves to listening to customer questions and providing answers. Our customers often compliment us for our responsiveness and service.
(?) MFN: What influences the direction Clemco takes in product development?
(!) A.S.: Certainly, customer needs drive product development. Here again, we strive to do a good job of listening and learning. Our distributors also play a key role in guiding our development efforts. We rely heavily on their input; and distributors serve as an important conduit for customer feedback. That’s why we encourage dialogue between our employees and our customers, distributors, affiliates, and industry associates.
Our customers have led us to design and build increasingly sophisticated systems. Many shot peening systems include CNC or PLC controls to ensure adherence to stringent peening specifications. We have worked with many aerospace and automotive manufacturers who use peening for strengthening and stress relief of critical components. Customers have asked us to address methods for precision media flow and robotic parts handling. These and many more applications are what drive our product development; and we welcome new demands to challenge us to develop ever increasingly efficient and productive machines.
(?) MFN: Clemco has been an ISO-9001 certified company for several years. How has this quality standard influenced your business conduct?
(!) A.S.: Originally, we approached ISO certification for marketing benefits, but I feel it has helped us better manage every aspect of our business. Our quality slogan is “Committed To Excellence”; our employees take ownership of that ideal. We have always placed great emphasis on quality, both in design and execution, but ultimately, our customers define quality for us. And now, years into the program, we continue to see improvement in all our quality measurements. Without doubt, ISO has become part of our culture as quality becomes everyone’s responsibility.
(?) MFN: Clemco has a presence on all of the major continents of the world. What are the challenges and opportunities of such broad reach?
(!) A.S.: The Clemco worldwide organization was one of the major synergies we recognized when we purchased Zero Manufacturing in 1986. We began building our international organization in the early fifties and have grown over the years to make us a world leader in the surface preparation and surface finishing industry. Outside the U.S., we have sales and assembly operations in Germany, Denmark, Spain, and Singapore, a manufacturing plant in Hungary, and a licensee in England. Our global strategy has involved a steady transfer of the ZERO technology for manual and automated blasting and peening to overseas markets through our European and Asian affiliates.
A key challenge of that knowledge transfer is communication, which is an area we focus on. Over the years, we have concentrated on perfecting communication processes that enable us to share information about applications and solutions with our overseas partners and to adapt our technologies to local requirements.
(?) MFN: To what do you attribute Clemco’s success in such a competitive industry?
(!) A.S.: There are myriad formulas for success. For Clemco, the formula consists of manufacturing a high performance, high quality, industrial product and combining that with people capability. The true core of our business is people. When I reflect on the Clemco organization, it’s our people, who make me most proud, and who set us apart from our competitors. Our employees dedicate themselves to producing cost effective and meaningful solutions for our customers. And it’s the people throughout our supply chain: our customers, our suppliers, our distributors, who are keys to our success. Every day, I am impressed and gratified by the customer-focused behaviours I observe from the conference room to the lunchroom.
For example, our sales and services personnel apply their experience and demonstrate their dedication to customer satisfaction every single day. They respond to hundreds of customer and distributor calls every week. Our complete sample-processing lab allows us to assess customer applications and develop surface treatment solutions by replicating any blasting or peening application and any degree of automation. However, what differentiates us from our competitors, I feel, is our intellectual capital, the people who serve our customers. Their expertise synthesizes all the variables in the blasting process and enables them to provide thorough answers to questions and solve complex customer problems. Combined, these ten individuals have been with our company over 250 years!
(?) MFN: Do you consider yourselves specialists in any surface-finishing sector?
(!) A.S.: We specialize in manual and automated blasting systems that can be adapted to any customer requirement. I really feel our technology and the expertise we have developed transfers very well throughout all surface preparation and surface finishing applications. The diversity of our experience enables us to design equipment to suit virtually every blasting or peening application. Our media recovery line of products includes various types of mechanical and pneumatic systems, allowing us to use any type or size of media. Our cyclone reclaim systems are considered to be among the most efficient and cost effective in the industry. Our proprietary dust collection offers a variety of extremely efficient solutions, including the increasingly popular HEPA equipment option, a technology, which alleviates environmental concerns. Additionally, our walk-in blast rooms can be designed to suit very small space requirements or to accommodate very large military transport aircraft.
One concept that permeates all of our designs is operator safety. Whether it involves the use of air-fed blasting helmets for an operator working in the blasting environment, or the use of cabinet door interlocks or light curtains to ensure blasting stops when the blast zone is penetrated, our machines can be manufactured to meet any applicable safety standard.
(?) MFN: Certainly, many of the traditional markets for blasting, peening, and finishing are going through difficult economic times. How does Clemco compete in such a climate?
(!) A.S.: Without question, the last two years in U.S. markets have been difficult, particularly in the manufacturing sector, an important market segment for us; but overall performance has been buoyed by strength in overseas markets. The current downturn in capital spending does not alter our basic philosophy of customer focus and providing surface finishing solutions to industry. Industrial customers are still looking for value and we will continue to compete on that basis. The fact that our technologies apply to such a diverse array of industries throughout the world drives our daily operations and fuels our commitment to continuous development and improvement.
We at MFN would like to thank Arnie Sallaberry
for this interview.