Throughout its 168 years of existence, industrial valve manufacturer Powell Valves, headed by current Chairman, President and CEO Randy Cowart, continues to maintain its focus on manufacturing products to the highest quality standards, thus allowing for a greater emphasis on exceeding expectations with superior customer service. Supply House Times recently talked to Executive Vice President Brandy Cowart and Global Vice President of Sales and Marketing Tim Fries at the company’s Cincinnati headquarters about a variety of subjects, including Powell’s new Houston facility and its product modification capabilities.
Supply House Times: What has allowed Powell Valves to thrive over the years?
BC: Flexibility and staying focused on our customers. Our customers’ needs are paramount and Powell’s ability to quickly react and satisfy those needs has allowed our success for 168 years.
TF: This is an industry where our channel partners have a lot of options, some good and some not so good. We offer 168 years of a legacy of quality. We’re a privately held company and that provides us the flexibility to quickly adapt to our customers’ needs.
Supply House Times: Your new facility in Houston opened just about a year ago. How does that location help your customers?
BC: It gives us speed to market. Whenever possible, we are shipping all orders west of the Mississippi River from our Houston inventories. There are freight savings by doing this, but the greatest benefit is faster delivery for our customers.
TF: Getting our product closer to our channel partners and the end-user customers was a key driver in putting a brick and mortar presence in the Gulf Coast. Although all sales and customer service initiatives are handled in Cincinnati, Houston provides a hub for our expanding sales resources in the Gulf Coast and South America, plus it provides a showplace for product presentations.
Supply House Times: What does quality control mean to Powell Valves?
BC: We have a saying: “No quality, no sales. No sales, no jobs.” High quality is Powell’s standard. With Powell valves, you always will have quality. It’s our foundation. Every product we supply is the highest quality available in the marketplace. We devote a lot of resources to ensure the quality of our castings, materials and final product whether that’s with supplier development, radiography examination, or quality check points through manufacturing and final testing. And all of this is done with feet on the ground throughout the supply chain.
TF: We continually tell people we are an engineering-based company. Our end users demand quality and we’ve been at the forefront of that for 168 years. We continue to grow our engineering and quality staffs globally. We’re always at the top end of the scale with standards. With a customer we don’t consider it an order for today, but an order for a lifetime. We want to build sustainable relationships with our customers and we can’t do that without the highest quality possible. At Powell, superior product quality is an everyday thing.
Supply House Times: What do your modification and field services components (based in Manning, S.C.) bring to the table?
TF: Our in-house modifications facility provides our distributor partners and end users a tremendous advantage. We have $35 million of finished goods inventory in the United States and our modification capabilities transforms that value into $60 million because we can modify to customer specifications. Furthermore, those modifications are being performed by Powell personnel; therefore we have better control on quality and delivery. A distributor always is under the gun to deliver. The flexibility we have with our modification department adds value to the distributor. At that point, price isn’t the issue; it’s how quickly can you get it to me.
BC: By having this ability within our manufacturing plants, the product is shipped from Powell with all the certifications and warranties of an originally manufactured product compared to a product modified by a third party. This is a great value to our customers’ everyday needs and project requirements.
Supply House Times: What are some of the new product offerings on the horizon?
BC: Powell is continuously looking for products that should be added to our menu and we have all the engineering capabilities to design and create those products. New products are considered based on the value to our customers and as a complement to our existing product line. Right now, we’re introducing our bellowseal product line and working toward introducing a floating ball valve line and a trunnion mounted ball valve line.
TF: Every one of the new products we’ve offered has been because of a request from an end-user customer. They tell us we’ve been making valves for 168 years so why not make this particular one? We’ve also recently introduced our high-performance butterfly valve and dual-plate check valve. Our new ECO624 product complies with the API624 fugitive emissions requirements. Distributors are hearing about that from their customers, therefore we are taking an active role in educating our customers on the new standard.
Supply House Times: How does Powell Valves go the extra mile for its customers?
BC: Powell’s flexibility in decision-making, manufacturing, communications and strategy are key differentiators. We have the ability to quickly make important decisions that enable our customers to win business. Powell always is working on providing more added value to our customers. When talking about “value,” more always is better. We are quick and attentive to our customers’ needs. We want to help them be a better company so they can provide better services to their customers.
TF: Our president and CEO has a saying, “The boss creates the momentum.” That’s the case with customer service. Our quality promise and our customer service are rolled into one. If you eliminate the quality question you can put all your focus on serving customers. We’ve only had nine CEOs in 168 years and most have come through the sales ranks. We strive to understand what the customer needs and what the market wants. We then leverage our biggest differentiators — flexibility and speed — to quickly make decisions and that’s important for a distributor. In the industrial PVF business there are a lot of variables that can be out of your control. The one constant is how we control the level of service and product quality we deliver to our customers.