VOL. 8 September ISSUE YEAR 2007
in Vol. 8 - September Issue - Year 2007
Clemco—A Global Strategy For The Surface Treatment Industry
Arnie Sallaberry, President, Clemco Industries Corp.
ZERO Automatic Multi-stage Surface Finishing Machine
Arnie Sallaberry, President, Clemco Industries Corp.
ZERO Automatic Multi-stage Surface Finishing Machine
Interview with Arnie Sallaberry, President, Clemco Industries Corp., Washington, Missouri, USA
(?) MFN: Over the past dozen or so years, the global business landscape has been reshaped due to a flurry of mergers and acquisitions. Many companies have changed names and have reorganized numerous times. Yet Clemco appears to be on a steady unwavering course—how so?
(!) A.S.: The Clemco organization is now more than 60 years in the making. Throughout our history, the company has been guided by one basic principle; and that is a commitment to serving the needs of our customers. Our every pursuit over the years has been framed by that philosophy; and we do not pursue any strategy that fails to enhance the value we offer our customers. We are distinguished from many of our competitors in our stability. As it exists today, Clemco is a family of companies that have grown and matured together over the course of many decades. Our acquisitions, including the recent purchase of Munkebo Production A/S in Denmark, have been made carefully to expand our technology while maintaining our customer-centric focus. Unlike others in our industry, we've not been distracted from our objectives. We've maintained a steady course of striving to better serve our customers with both product development and process and service improvements.
Early in our history, we recognized the opportunity of foreign markets for growth and have been well established in Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia for decades. Through these early efforts, we developed a global marketing strategy to serve customers worldwide. We acknowledge the importance of serving these global customers as they wish to be served. These days, our customers sometimes purchase in one country for delivery to one or more foreign facilities. Within our system, customers who do so can relocate the equipment, assured of local support, with minimal production disruption.
Through the years, our successes have come from the combination of various blast technologies, resulting from a long, rich history of predecessor companies and ongoing development. Through our Zero, Clemco, and Aerolyte divisions, we offer our customers a full range of surface treatment solutions. With our worldwide in-house expertise and partnerships with our distributors, we lead the industry in parts and service support to a broad range of industrial customers. We feel we offer our customers stability they can rely on and non-stop service they need year in and year out. I believe companies that pursue growth for its own sake risk doing so at the expense of their customers.
(?) MFN: You mention the importance in today's environment of serving customers globally. How does Clemco do that?
(!) A.S.: Clemco has been operating in the international arena since the early 1950’s. Our founders recognized early on that our business is a local one, dictated in part by local regulations, certifications, and customs as well as freight limitations, but also driven by the need to service the needs of our customers in a timely fashion. They realized that the appropriate service level can only be accomplished locally. That is why Clemco International was formed in the 1960's. We were a global company before the word “globalization” was invented.
As I've explained, we have a long history of local offices serving markets outside the USA. From the USA, we serve North, Central, and South America. Outside the USA, in almost every case, our offices are managed and staffed by locals. They are experts in their country, language, and culture. They know all aspects of the markets they serve and they deal directly and personally with their customers. A significant portion of our business is engineered products, which are designed specifically for our customers' surface finishing needs. For this reason, face-to-face communication is critical.
In most markets, we serve our customers through a well-established network of distributors. Around the world, our product lines are very similar, usually varying only to incorporate local market-specific features. With the internet driving a global marketplace, we find more and more frequently, we can engineer a base product that can accept slight modification to accommodate differing market-specific needs.
Clemco now has 13 sales offices in 10 countries around the world and distributors in another 75 countries. In addition, we have engineering capability in five countries and manufacturing or assembly operations in four others; once again, driven by our desire to serve our global customers on a local basis.
(?) MFN: Can you cite some recent examples?
(!) A. S.: One recent project was for a large producer of automotive turbocharger components, who wanted to use two different types of media in the same machine for a two-step finishing process. In this case, issues of nozzle and part manipulation as well as media cross-contamination were effectively addressed with creative engineering in collaboration with the customer. Over the years, this customer has moved our machines from plant to plant and country to country; and the local Clemco staff or designated distributor has provided the necessary support.
Another project was for a manufacturer of large oil-well drill bits, who wanted to automatically blast the investment from new castings. They required machines in several locations around the world and wanted to ensure there would be local service and support in all locations. With our global network, we offered a certified machine, and labeling and technical support in the local language as well as the service and support needed.
(?) MFN: What are the drivers of Clemco's Research and Development efforts?
(!) A.S.: We follow our customers. Customer needs and wants are a constant focus for us. In this regard, we use our distributors and our field sales force as “listening posts” for gathering information that we can use to develop high value products for our customers. They sometimes take us in unexpected directions; but we are always looking for opportunities to say “yes”.
(?) MFN: In which new directions have customers taken you?
(!) A. S.: In recent years, our distributors have led us toward opportunities that some might dismiss as “niche” markets of questionable value. However, we view them as unmet needs of customers. Without divulging our strategic marketing plans, some examples include specialty manufacturing markets, high-tech applications, and commercial aircraft stripping markets.
Another example involves the service sector. Unfortunately, many industrial companies overlook blasting operations when establishing regular preventive maintenance programs. Likewise, many maintenance departments ignore or lack the resources to properly address blast processes on a routine basis. To address this unmet need, we provide maintenance audit services on a contractual basis, providing one- or two-day visits to evaluate equipment and note needed maintenance. We address air flow readings, wear parts monitoring, media separation, and a host of other measurements. At the customer's request, we can perform the maintenance tasks, recommend them to the customer’s maintenance staff, or rely on the distributor to perform the maintenance activity.
(?) MFN: How do you characterize the breadth and depth of your customers' needs?
(!) A.S.: Clemco's core strength is in applying the principles of compressed air to project an abrasive media against a surface to meet the surface preparation and surface finishing goals of our varied customers. This core strength has translated into a range of standard products, accessories, and options for basic manual blasting as well as parts handling and nozzle manipulation requirements. We excel in providing specially-engineered solutions to help our customers achieve their goals—to meet production requirements, achieve exact repeatability, or enhance labor productivity.
(?) MFN: With a global strategy, and with customers on most continents, how has Clemco been able to address the various approvals and certifications that doubtless are obstacles to doing business?
(!) A.S.: Competing globally requires a certain commitment level. We actively embraced the challenges of seeking important certifications to that end. We now hold several industry certifications. We were first ISO certified in 1998, and currently hold the ISO 9001-2000 certification. We are an ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) code pressure vessel operation and hold Canadian and Japanese pressure vessel approval. We have recently gained CE/PED approval for certain vessel sizes. Work continues on CE approval for our full range of pressure vessels. In addition, we have NIOSH approval for our full product offering of operator safety equipment, including respirators and breathing air control devices. Through our European affiliates, we hold CE approvals on our operator safety equipment.
(?) MFN: How do these approvals and certifications affect your marketing efforts?
(!) A.S.: We have invested a great deal of time and capital in gaining those approvals and certifications. The impetus for pursuing those initiatives was of course commercial; but I feel those programs have solidified our quality assurance processes and given us a framework for establishing a robust and ongoing quality system with sustainable procedures. It has become part of our DNA, so to speak; and I believe our customers recognize the value of that mindset and understand what it brings to them. We like to promote that whenever we have the opportunity.
Our certification efforts actually sparked an interest that led us to embark on the lean manufacturing journey here at our Washington, Missouri plant. Based on the Toyota Production System, lean manufacturing seeks to eliminate all waste in the production environment by producing products closer to customer demand rather than to a sales forecast or to inventory. Even as a relatively low-volume, high-mix producer, Clemco now is a more nimble and more responsive organization. In an environment of rising demand, lean has allowed us to increase throughput, improve our orders shipped complete, and enhance quality.
(?) MFN: Can you give examples of the value Clemco delivers to its global customers?
(!) A.S.: For manufacturers and re-manufacturers of products with surface finishing requirements, Clemco creates manual and automated equipment, which will improve part quality, enhance throughput, produce repeatable results and reduce process costs. We design blast room facilities with application-specific media recovery technology.
Unlike many of our competitors, Clemco combines a technical expertise offering with a collaborative approach of experienced in-house staff and local distributors, to help our customers fulfill their surface preparation and finishing objectives. Clemco brings to every project a unique combination of quality, sound engineering principles, and an unrelenting desire to solve customer problems. With a rock solid reputation built on six decades of experience, Clemco will always be a willing and reliable partner in fulfilling the surface treatment needs of our customers.
We at MFN would like to thank Mr. Arnie Sallaberry for this interview.
Company listing by area of responsibility:
North, Central and South America:
Clemco Industries Corp
Tel +1.636.239 0300
Europe, Middle East, Africa:
Clemco International GmbH in Germany
Spain & Portugal:
Clemco International, S.A in Spain
Tel +34.94.453 5712
Scandinavia & Baltic Countries:
Ferlov Clemco in Denmark
Munkebo Production A/S in Denmark
Clemco International GmbH in Singapore