Bob Carrell, president of Hoffer Flow Controls, Inc., sat down with Water Online Radio for this live interview from the show floor at WEFTEC 2011 in Los Angeles. Carrell discussed the company’s recent entry into the water and wastewater market, its background and experience in flow meters, and what it can provide for customers going forward. Listen or read on to learn more.
Todd Schnick: We are back, broadcasting live from the Los Angeles Convention Center and tradeshow floor at WEFTEC. I am Todd Schnick, joined by my colleague, Todd Youngblood. Todd, have we ever been this intense at a tradeshow before?
Todd Youngblood: Not even close. What’s fun is to watch the folks in the booth down the hallway here. They’re grooving with the theme song. We have this whole place rocking with us.
Todd Schnick: Speaking of rocking, I’m looking forward to introducing our next guest. He is the president of Hoffer Flow Controls, Bob Carrell. Welcome to Water Online Radio.
Bob: Thank you very much, Todd. I appreciate the opportunity to be here today.
Todd Schnick: It’s our pleasure. Before we get into a conversation, Bob, why don’t you take a few minutes and just walk us through who you are, your background, and what Hoffer Flow Controls is all about?
Bob: Hoffer Flow Controls is a flow meter company in industrial, military, municipal – a lot of different markets. The company has been around now for 42 years.
It was originally founded in northern New Jersey and we moved to North Carolina, the northeastern corner of North Carolina, about 21 years ago. We are an integrated manufacturer there. We have a 32,000 square foot facility. We are currently in the process of expanding that by about another 8,000 square feet to that.
We do mechanical manufacturing and electronic manufacturing there. We do calibration on most of our flow meters there as well. We service a wide variety of markets with different technologies, turbine flow meters, magnetic flow meters, and ultrasonic flow meters.
Todd Youngblood: Bob, water/wastewater is not your traditional market. It’s relatively recent that you moved into that market space. Why?
Bob: We have measured water for many, many years – a lot of industrial and sanitary applications in the pharmaceutical and biotech arena. To a degree, this is just a natural extension to that when we introduced the newer technologies – the ultrasonic and the mag meter technology which is very common and very well received in this industry. It was a pretty natural extension when we decided to bring those products online to certainly look at this particular market.
Todd Schnick: Is it fair to say that it’s the advances in the technology that allowed you to serve additional customers in additional industries?
Bob: Yes. Being able to bring on those technologies that industry was comfortable with, or leaning more and more towards, were obviously prerequisites, really, for being able to come into this market and be taken as a significant, although new, player in this space.
Todd Schnick: Bob, what major trends do you see in water technology flow management over the next couple of years?
Bob: Some of these you’ve already seen in certain aspects of this industry. I think you’re going to see a broader and broader application of wireless technology being added to both measurement and control applications. It has a serious cost advantage, especially for retrofit applications, both within plant environment and distribution systems, and gathering systems.
Going hand-in-hand with that is battery-powered technology, particularly with flow measurement. You’re starting to see battery powered ultrasonic flow meters, which is a product we have.
Battery-powered electromagnetic flow meters are now starting to come into the market and make quite a splash with a variety of different users in this market. When you start looking at doing an expansion or looking to do a retrofit, you don’t have to run wires, and that is a huge cost savings for the customer.
Todd Youngblood: Bob, is there any difference in the value that you are providing or the value that your customers in the water/wastewater industry perceive? Is there a common theme across all the industries?
Bob: In this industry, I think reliability is probably as important as it is anywhere else and probably more so – especially in this day and age in the domestic market. Many municipalities are being, shall we say, economically challenged, and the reliability, the service ability, or the lack of need to service with a very solid design is critical.
That’s something we believe we bring to this market. Based upon our years of experience and dealing with a lot of different industries, we see that as our reason for being accepted by a number of customers in this market.
Todd Schnick: Let’s take that one step further. Help the thousands of professionals who are in the Water Online community better understand the value of what you do for your customers by sharing a specific recent win or victory that you did on behalf of one of your customers.
Bob: We recently were in a situation where we were asked to provide some fairly large electromagnetic flow meters to a customer on a retrofit basis. They had a fairly challenging requirement in terms of the timeframe in order to be able to deliver those flow meters.
When I say large, these are like 36 inches. In order to be able to build meters of that size, normally you want to have at least 10 to 12 weeks. They didn’t have that much time.
We jumped through more than a few hoops in order to be able to meet their timeframe, which was more like six to eight weeks, for which they were very appreciative. It saved them a lot of money with their contractor.
Todd Schnick: Bob, there’s a lot of different technologies and a lot of different sets of know-how in the water/wastewater business. How did you break into it, in terms of just knowing all those players?
It really is more than just knowing the customers. It’s knowing the other collaborators and different players in the industry. How did you go about doing that?
Bob: Our company has been around for an awful long time and our distribution channel has also been around for a very long time. Over the years they have gone into this market ahead of us with other products and services.
When we started looking at this market, that was one of the resources we leaned on very heavily to go out and survey our distributors and reps to find out what they saw as the needs and trends in the market. We understood the technology, certainly, but it’s more than just technology. It’s the whole package that you have to deliver.
You’re right, that really only comes with experience. We were experienced in flow measurement. We were not experienced in this particular sector. We did rely very heavily on our distributors.
Todd Schnick: That really says a lot to you. It sounds like it was your distributors, who maybe didn’t lead you into this niche, were a major, major player and gave you a lot of credibility. Kudos to you for having that kind of loyalty from your distributor system.
Bob: They have been around with us for many years. They have done very well for us before now. It was easy to trust them when it came time to start asking them the questions like “How do we get here?”
Todd Schnick: Hoffer Flow Controls is, in fact, exhibiting here, yes?
Bob: Yes we are.
Todd Schnick: What is your principle objective of attending and event like this?
Bob: We’re looking to gain some name recognition. We’re not the oldest player on this particular block by any stretch of the imagination. We’re looking to raise our profile.
Certainly this is the major event for this industry. It’s one we feel you really need to be at if you’re going to be participating in this industry. You really need to be taken seriously in this industry, especially as a newcomer.
Todd Schnick: My good man, we are about out of time. Before we let you go, share with the audience how they can contact Hoffer and about the good works you are doing.
Bob: Thank you very much. Hoffer Flow Controls, you can contact us by phone at 1-800-628-4584. You can go to our website, which is a great way because we have all of our contact information there. It is www.hofferflow.com.
Todd Schnick: Bob Carrell, it was a pleasure having you. Thank you for joining us today.
Bob: Thank you very much.
Todd Youngblood: Thanks, Bob.
Todd Schnick: That wraps this segment. On behalf of Todd Youngblood, I’m Todd Schnick with Water Online Radio. We’ll be right back.