FAIRLAWN, Ohio—It is the small things that set Elmet apart in the silicone market.
The Austrian-based full systems supplier of silicone dosing systems and molds has looked constantly for ways to make its machines better with simple additions, such as a bucket to catch overflow, a hook to hang a bleed rod—used to unscrew and let the air flow as a new drum is being loaded on—or a color bracket to ease the burden of loading a container of new material into the machine.
That is one of the main reasons why Bob Pelletier joined the firm in February as director of technical sales, dosing systems, leaving Graco Inc. And according to the executive, Elmet's rise in North America only has begun.
“In North America, I think Elmet is well on its way to being No. 1 in the market based on customer response and the quality of the machines that they build,” Pelletier said. “Elmet thinks of everything in terms of making things easier. They think about the little things on the machine that makes life so much easier. You don't think about it until you start using the system.”
In an interview following his presentation at the International Silicone Conference on May 18 in Fairlawn, Pelletier said he had his eye on Elmet for some time, but as a competitor. The silicone industry veteran spent 22 years with Fluid Automation and four more after it was acquired by Graco in 2012. As he was out in the field selling similar silicone dosing systems for Fluid Automation, he took note of Elmet's machines, specifically how the company's technology had advanced continually over the course of the last decade.
Most recently, Elmet introduced a color additive system with a super high resolution flow meter to monitor the third and fourth streams of pigments and additives going into the machine. Pelletier said his former company had used similar algorithms, but the flow meter resolution it was using was 16 pulses per cc, and Elmet's was 640 pulses per cc, Pelletier said.
“You're not even in the same game,” Pelletier said. “It's like the minor leagues versus the major leagues. They just kept having advancements and advancements. It was getting very difficult to sell against them.
“I had a lot of those "Why didn't I think of that?' moments. They always seemed to be one step in front of me in terms of different types of devices.”
It isn't just the innovative culture that attracted Pelletier to Elmet. After spending more than two decades with Fluid Automation, he came to appreciate the firm's attention to service and family culture, two attributes he thought were lacking in a bigger corporation.
“We were always very reactive,” he said of Fluid Automation. “A customer would call with a problem or a down machine. Our key focus was to get that machine back up and running as quick as possible.
“If we didn't have it in stock as brand new and we had it on our demo machine, we'd strip it off of our demo machine, send it to the customer and let them use it until we got a brand new one to them. Customers really appreciated the fact we were concerned about their production.”
Pelletier found both at Elmet when he had to travel to the firm's headquarters in Oftering, Austria, for a two-week training period. While there he saw pictures of employees going ski jumping in the Alps. He discovered the firm holds a party every year where employees and their families go ski jumping followed by dinner.
“It's nice to see that; that's what I really liked about Fluid Automation. It was a family,” he said.
“The big corporate world, the corporate life, all about reports and numbers, didn't interest me after about 20 years. I was used to going into customers' facilities. They'd have a problem or something, and they'd ask me to take a look at it. Next thing I know, I'm covered in silicone or colorant because we're digging into something. That's always been how I've worked, and that's not what my focus was at Graco.”
Elmet's primary focus is elastomers, mainly liquid silicone rubber. The firm employs about 150 with its main manufacturing facility in Oftering. Pelletier is based out of the company's Michigan location, which serves as a sales, service and support facility for the North and South American markets.
The firm also has sales and support out of Hong Kong to cover all of Asia-Pacific.
“Elmet's philosophy has been to build it as best as you can build it,” Pelletier said. “They use top-of-the-line controls and electronics. They don't want it to break; they don't want it to be the weak link in the system. They want it to run forever. It's easy to sell the best. It's easy to sell a system that basically sells itself. Elmet spends an exorbitant amount of time developing new technology and working with manufacturers to develop new technology.”