In addition to attending the NFPA Detroit Regional Meeting and the Master Pneumatic Fluid Power Challenge at Macomb Community College last week, a number of us took the opportunity to visit a few members along the way. We started with Newton Manufacturing and Panagon Systems in the greater Detroit area and ended with Vonberg Valve near Chicago on the way back to Wisconsin.
We met with Noel Cook, the President of Newton Manufacturing. The company has been an NFPA member since the 1970s and is a producer of hydraulic power units that are used to start jet engines. The conversation during our tour of the office and facility covered a variety of topics, including past participation in standards development and previous large-scale projects Cook had been involved in. Cook also described some interesting real-world uses of the products the company produces and his experiences doing business internationally.
Here we met primarily with Karl Toth, Panagon’s President. The company specializes in piston pumps. Our conversation during this visit meandered a bit as well, but the biggest takeaways came from the production system we saw in place in the shop, which included 5-axis production machinery, 3-D printing, and a computer program Toth wrote himself to keep everything organized and running smoothly.
On the long way back to Milwaukee from Detroit, we sat down with Vonberg Valve President Michael Levon and Sales Manager Duane Henrich. As the name suggests, the company manufactures valves, both in-line and cartridge. We talked extensively about business, including the impact of the recession and changes in the industry over the past few years. Like the other companies, Vonberg had its own unique way of maintaining efficiency, which included using a carousel to quickly pick out parts for orders that come in.
Overall, the trip was a great opportunity to meet with and learn more about our members. It was also interesting for me to tour the facilities and see people working in the fluid power industry first hand, especially because these were my first member visits. Stay tuned for more road trip news as we visit more companies this year.
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