CLEVELAND—Demand for products with longer life, fewer leaks and less weight drives Parker Hannifin Corp.'s Engineered Materials Group to focus on innovative products.
Andy Ross, the group president, said a sluggish world economy with slow or almost no growth puts a greater emphasis on market share and innovation.
Through his first year leading the business, he is pleased with the progress it has made.
"I was building from a position of strength," Ross said. "We have a culture of continuous improvement regardless of how we perform. We're constantly looking for new ways to innovate."
Ross had a number of goals when he took over the group in June 2012. He wants Parker to be the safest place to work in the world, gain market share, implement and execute new strategies for success, recruit talent and develop employees for long-term success.
He also wants each of the 10 divisions within the Engineered Materials Group to be the best in its industry—the Chomerics, Composite Sealing Systems, Engineered Polymer Systems, Engineered Seals, Integrated Sealing Systems, Medical Systems, O-Ring, O-Ring (Europe), Packing (Europe) and TechSeal divisions.
The group changed its name from Seal Group to Engineered Materials Group in July. The rationale was to open things for the other types of products—beyond seals and gaskets—the group offers. Ross said seals and gaskets is a well defined area, and broadening the name opens itself up to different kinds of companies.
"We're so much more than seals from a product standpoint," Ross said. "We took a step back and looked at who we are and what we want to be. Our material science develops and markets materials to meet customer needs. We want to continue to leverage our material science capital to meet the needs of the customer. We're so diverse. We have so many different products that we look at the customer use and what the main point is."
Ross said nothing about his new role surprised him.
That's probably because he's been in the industry for 24 years, starting his career with W.S. Shamban. He joined Parker nine years later in 1998 as a product manager for the Engineered Materials Group. He eventually became national sales manager, then vice president of sales and marketing.
He was promoted to general manager for the Integrated Sealing Systems Division, and in 2007 was appointed general manager of the Hydraulic Valve Division—one of Parker's largest industrial operations.
Ross switched gears in 2011 and became vice president of operations for the Hydraulics Group before a slew of retirements put his current position in play a year later.
"Parker doesn't like to grow in silos," Ross said. "We like to give our people cross-departmental experience."
It didn't take Ross long to get assimilated again with the group with which he has spent most of his time. Nor did it take him long to drive new strategies: to be No. 1 in customer service, strong financial performance and achieve profitable growth. To accomplish this, the group strives for 95 percent or better on delivery time, 15 per-- cent operating income and 20 percent or better market share.
Ross also cited a strong distributor network as a critical element to the company's success. Parker has more than 300 distributors globally.
"Our distribution is second to none," Ross said. "We have a lot of companies who envy it and try to replicate or infiltrate it."
Having all the groups under one headquarters also provides Parker with the ability to collaborate seamlessly between groups in developing technology.
Ross said that the strength of the business is its people. He stressed that the company with the best talent and culture will win. Recruiting and developing talent is an ongoing process. Each division has no problem bringing in the people it needs and integrating them into the company's culture.
Parker's global presence provides many diverse opportunities for employees, something Ross says the company leverages every time it tries to attract new talent. He said the wealth of opportunities for employees worldwide is a strength Parker uses to keep its employees challenged and focused.
"The people are the business' strength," Ross said. "We have lots of talented, experienced and hardworking people who work around collective goals. Our people are by far the best in the business. We do everything we can to empower people to make the best decisions possible."