Below is our recent interview with Dennis O’Leary, Chief Business Development Officer at Industrial Magnetics, Inc.:
Q: Tell us about the early days of Industrial Magnetics. What were the biggest challenges?
A: We’ve been fortunate to have been in business for 57 years, and there are certainly more than a few challenges and changes that come with time. Early on I think it was difficult to find “adopters and influencers”- people at manufacturing plants and processing facilities who would take enough of an interest and time to learn how magnets could be seen as a viable solution. The challenge lies in being able to shift the paradigm from conventional, “tribal” or outdated ways to move, lift, transfer, hold or separate ferrous metal towards more reliable magnetic solutions.
Q: You’ve recently announced the completion of your new, onsite R&D lab for simulated application testing; could you tell us something more?
A: The new 1,400 sq. ft. lab features various magnetic products and test stands designed to replicate the customer’s application in the field and assist in choosing the right magnetic product for the job.
Most recently, work was completed on an automated testing system for both pneumatic and gravity-fed bulk materials conveying using our products such as drawer magnets and pneumatic line separators. This specialized test cell allows us to use customer supplied product samples to simulate bulk conveying applications for particle sized materials, granular products, pellets, etc., and test them at specified flow rates and product velocities. Customers will have the benefit of knowing how their magnet will perform in the field prior to installation, which gives them real confidence in the capabilities of their system before our solution is even built, shipped or installed.
A sampling of the lab’s other features includes a crane system with an air chain hoist for testing load weights up to a half ton, a pull-test machine with capabilities up to 15,000 pounds, gauss testing, and parts-per-million testing for ferrous contaminants in bulk material samples. Upon completion of the testing process, a full report is provided with pictures, video, test results and recommendations. Most testing can be completed in 7-10 business days and customers are welcome to attend the test sessions in person or via Skype.
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Q: What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
A: We care- it’s that simple. We care about meeting our promises. We care about meeting our quality specifications. We care about getting the product to our customer as promised. We care about meeting all the fit, form and functionality requirements we promised when we proposed a solution and were fortunate enough to receive a valued order. Like we’ve been doing for 57 years, the goal is simple: know the customer and the application, manufacture the best solution and deliver it as promised.
Q: Who do you view as your closest competitor and what key factors differentiate yourselves?
A: We operate in so, so many markets that our competition is bifurcated based on which markets we’re discussing. We produce magnets for the MRO, food, feed & grain, mining, industrial chemicals, automotive, robotics, conveying equipment and other OEM markets; the list goes on and on. I will say this: there are a bevy of solid magnet companies in the USA, and more outside of this country- all with excellent reputations. In general, however, our customers and core channel partners do appreciate that our speed-to-market and quality is second-to-none. We engineer the vast majority of our products, and rarely do we get “beat to the punch” on delivery. We can deliver an entirely one-off custom solution faster than our competition can produce a print-pull build. Couple that with a track record of building the right magnet the first time and eliminating rework and it becomes a very potent 1-2 punch.
Q: What can we expect from Industrial Magnetics in the future?
A: Continued, sustainable growth- both organically and via multiple acquisitions. I believe you grow to the size of your fish bowl, and we just doubled the manufacturing floor space at HQ in Boyne City, MI. We are always looking for acquisitions we can fold into our plant and we have completed two such deals in the past 14 months. Strengthening our workforce and growing our footprint into a wide array of market spaces helps to mitigate our downside when the economy suffers, since we are less reliant on a single or small handful of industries. So, we look to diversify by absorption: find the right company with the right value system and bring them into the Industrial Magnetics, Inc. fold.
People- human capital- makes a company; the products are often a “by-product” of the people who make them. We have a deep-rooted belief that if we put the energy we have for magnets into designing something else- it would surely be something we would be proud to sell. That thinking guides our future vision of balancing our core business with meaningful add-ons.