in Vol. 17 - July Issue - Year 2016
Continuing To Diversify Worldwide
Clemco International Inc. and Clemco Industries Corp. are sister companies with common U.S. ownership; both have engineering and manufacturing operations. Clemco Industries, with operational headquarters near Saint Louis, Missouri, primarily serves North and South American markets. Clemco International, with operational headquarters near Munich, Germany, is responsible for serving the rest of the world through locations in Europe and Asia. The Clemco companies design, build, and market air operated blast equipment serving contractor and industrial markets. MFN had the pleasure to talk to Seán R. Cleary, Global Business Development Manager and third-generation family member active in the Clemco Business.
(?) MFN: It's good getting to a chance to speak with you again. What's going on in 2016 with the Clemco group?
(!) S. R. C.: Quite a bit actually: we're focusing as always on the development of new and improved products, but we've also added staff in different locations, and we are actively trying to develop our presence in new markets. For instance, we are developing products for release to contractors dealing in energy and infrastructural applications, we are refining our cabinet lines to offer new design and features, and we are investing in expansion in the aerospace industry.
(?) MFN: Now, Clemco has always had a pretty strong presence in the aerospace industry, correct?
(!) S. R. C.: Within the USA, very much so. Clemco developed the Aerolyte brand in the early 1980's to provide a clean, safe alternative to the chemical stripping and hand sanding of aircraft by the US Air Force. Chemical stripping, as anyone who has done it can tell you, is a messy, dangerous, imprecise process for stripping the paint from an airframe. The cleanup is a nightmare, it's costly and time consuming, and leaves an inconsistent surface profile for the re-coating process. Along with others, my dad, Mark Cleary, developed an air-blast alternative to this process, employing specialized equipment blasting fine, recyclable media at low pressures, giving the USAF the answer they needed to address their issues with chemical stripping. 30 years later, Aerolyte is one of our leading products, and we are one of a very small handful of companies that can provide this kind of equipment.
We have sold dozens of Aerolyte rooms to the Air Force and other buyers in the USA and Europe, and we like to think we've created a new standard in terms of the stripping and cleaning of airframes and off-airframe component, parts cleaning for non-destructive inspection, not to mention shot peening and parts processing. However, with such a strong focus on development of the technology domestically, we've found that we need to step up our efforts overseas, as that is a market in which we want to see a larger footprint. We are hoping to develop the same kind of market presence in Aerolyte worldwide that we've enjoyed at home.
(?) MFN: So what is your plan for tackling this industry on a global scale?
(!) S. R. C.: By doing what we have always done: leading with top quality product and cooperating with trusted partners. In the case of Aerolyte, we've partnered with Aero Precision of Livermore California, one of the world's largest distributors of aircraft components and materials. During discussions about how we could mutually benefit each other, we both realized how strategically parallel our interests are in the aerospace industry, and so we have inked a contract in which Aero Precision will be a distributor of ours in the realm of Aerolyte product sales to foreign military groups that are using US-made aircraft. We're quite confident that Aero Precision will provide us with a great opportunity to provide Aerolyte equipment to all four corners of the world's military aerospace industry.
(?) MFN: Interesting. Are there other industries in which you are forming the same kind of relationships?
(!) S. R. C.: Well, in terms of relationships, we are still working hand-in-hand with old and new distributors worldwide, as well as providing close support to our customers. We are actively trying to forge new relationships not just in aerospace, but also in areas such as energy, be it nuclear, traditional, or alternative, as well as infrastructural support. We feel that the increased safety concerns associated with these industries present a strong opportunity for Clemco.
(?) MFN: Really, how so?
(!) S. R. C.: We see a strong movement worldwide towards a greater degree of safety and cleanliness in blasting, both involving the blaster and the blast environment in general. Blasters can't blast outdoors like they used to, and the blast process is subject to a much higher degree of safety and environmental oversight. More and more there are site and process requirements that severely restrict noise, forbid any dust egress or environmental impact, and mandate a growing degree of protection for the operator, sometimes removing him from the blast environment altogether. At Clemco, we've always felt this focus on protection and safety to be the cornerstone of successful blasting, so we're trying to continue to develop our products in tandem with the rising emphasis on safety.
(?) MFN: Could you give an example?
(!) S. R. C.: Certainly, one example would be dust containment, specifically by blasting with wet media. We see a growing global trend towards the complete elimination of dust in outdoor blasting, and one method of doing so is to introduce water into the blast stream. Clemco has developed products to effect this kind of dust suppression for years; we incorporate it into cabinets as well as site blasting equipment, and recently we've released the Wetblast Flex, a completely flexible system that can alternate between wet and dry blasting, allowing for total or partial dust control, and we've done so at what we think is a very competitive price point.
But this is only one example, we also see a strong emphasis on greater and more advanced personal protective equipment, and we've continued to answer this challenge with greater ergonomic control for the operator, more effective sound and air protection and containment, and when necessary, the replacement of the blaster with an automated system. In the growing number of blast environments, regulations are prohibiting manual blasting altogether, and we will provide equipment to answer this demand.
(?) MFN: Is there something specific in development with Clemco in this regard?
(!) S. R. C.: Yes, while we continue to develop a variety of semi and fully-automated systems that can provide blast operator replacement as required by the customer, we've also partnered with Sabre Autonomous Solutions out of Sydney, Australia to provide something truly unique. Sabre is a robotic system developed by one of our oldest distributors, and we've been working with them for some time now to introduce their product: a fully autonomous learning robot that can scan, map and blast a surface with no manual involvement. We've never seen any kind of technology like this, and we're confident that at least where manual restrictions are concerned, it will be a revolutionary product.
We feel that, while there will never been any full replacement for the human presence in blasting, the need for removal of an operator is a growing reality in a high-risk environment like a blast operation. Clemco, as always, will be ready to provide the best possible solution to remove risk and waste from the blast operation, and we feel that the Sabre system is the best and most state-of-the-art solution to those scenarios in which the risk index is such that, to truly be safe, a human life needs to be removed from the blast environment. Whether it is through the provision of automated robots, quality protective equipment, or high-tech controls for environmental protection, Clemco will continue to provide the very best.
(?) MFN: So, it sounds like Clemco is continuing its mission for the best attention to safety combined with the best attention to quality?
(!) S. R. C.: That's a good way to put it; I'll have to remember that one!
MFN would like to thank Seán R. Cleary for this interview!