Apollo Valves President Glenn Mosack wants to change one key perception about the Matthews, N.C.-based company.
“I get told too many times we’re the best-kept secret in the industry for the X or Y we offer,” he says. “We don’t want to be the best-kept secret. We want to be the complete flow-control solution for people. We are the solution in almost every area water is used.”
And with the major momentum it is building through internal and external expansions dealing with its employees, distribution practices and on the mergers and acquisitions front, Mosack is going to have little trouble in debunking that myth about the 89-year-old Apollo Valves, which is the recipient of the 2016 Supply House Times PVF Ring of Honor Award.
The PVF Ring of Honor recognizes a manufacturer or master distributor (individual or company) in the pipe, valve and fittings marketplace that has enjoyed recent success through the execution of progressive and cutting-edge best practices. Apollo Valves joins previous winners Industrial Valco (2014) and Penn Machine (2015).
Welcome to the family
As of press time, Apollo, part of Conbraco Industries along with Elkhart Products and LASCO Fittings, was close to finalizing an acquisition of a company that plays in the same sector. That transaction is aimed at further strengthening the company’s long-term goal of being a one-stop system solutions provider to its customers through what will become known in the near future as the Apollo Flow Controls umbrella (encompassing Apollo, Elkhart, LASCO and the new acquisition).
“We’re open to doing anything we can to complement our product offering and make us a more complete part of the flow-control business,” Mosack says.
Expansion has been far from limited to just an outside acquisition. Apollo is excited about the addition of five distribution centers throughout the country. Locations in Reno, Nev., Orlando, Fla., and Arkansas already are operational and DCs in Chicago and Philadelphia will be up and running by the second quarter of 2017.
“Our distribution strategy is a big piece to the puzzle,” says Mosack, who represents the third generation of his family to lead the company (his father, Carl, who still comes into the office on occasion, retired as president in 2001; Grandfather, Clarence Mosack, founded the company). Conbraco was sold to Aalberts Industries in 2010.
“In order to do system selling you must have the product readily available and in close proximity to where it’s no more than two-day shipping,” Mosack continues. “The facility in Reno will be very beneficial to us getting product to our West Coast customers. We also know fill rates will be critical in these facilities. You need to be at 96-plus percent and our goal is to be 98-plus.”
The company’s distribution strategy also involves working hand-in-hand with its many wholesale industry partners.
“Distribution is the lifeblood of our business,” Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing Brian Ragone says. “It’s our channel to market. We have the best wholesale-distribution relationships in the industry. Our goal also is to have the best manufacturers reps in the industry. We work very hard and focus on helping contractors understand the value proposition of our products and solutions we provide to help them do their job faster and more economically.”
Additions also are on the horizon with personnel. Mosack says the company has budgeted to add 25 additional outside sales staff members in 2017. “We are adding more internal staff to drive more visibility and knowledge in the marketplace,” he says. “And we’re going to continue to add to that team. We also are adding internally to product management and research and development. We are staffing up in those departments with the idea to add the right products to the right mix.”
On that same front, Apollo is keenly aware of the challenges all industry companies face with long-term employees retiring and new ones being added. The company, whose average employee tenure is 14 years, established a career mapping program aimed at helping younger employees advance through the Apollo ranks.
“It’s been a big initiative of ours the last two or three years,” Apollo Valves Vice President of Product Management and Marketing Tyson Higginbotham says. “It allows new talent to come into the organization and have a career path. We want to bring the younger generation into manufacturing. It’s key to our long-term success.”
Mosack adds: “Our employees are mission critical. Without great employees we don’t have it — we can’t take care of our customers. We employ 1,250 people at Conbraco and they are our No. 1 asset.”
The company is heavily investing in new technology as well, with the implementation of a new software system and other Web-based initiatives aimed at helping streamline the customer-service experience even more. “We’re taking the technology piece to the next level,” Mosack says.
Long-standing staples of success
While Apollo is ramping up in a big way for the future, it still is extremely cognizant of its current-day strategies and processes that have lifted it to high success levels even during recent challenging economic times.
For starters, Apollo manufactures 95% of its product portfolio on U.S. soil thanks to foundry plants in nearby Pageland, S.C. (about 45 minutes from company headquarters) and Conway, S.C. (about 2.5 hours away near Myrtle Beach). The Pageland facility manufactures the company’s bronze- and brass-related alloys, while the Conway plant produces industrial PVF products. Mosack says the company invests on average $2-3 million a year into new-product development.
“Made in the USA is very important to us,” Mosack says. “We’re able to bring engineers into our facilities to see our attention to quality and detail and the consistency with which we make our products. People can come in and see it and touch it and see the high levels of quality every step of the way. We make our own molds. We’re vertically integrated, which allows us to control everything from A-Z, including controlling inventories, capital costs and making sure we’re providing the best delivery service possible to our customers.”
Apollo doesn’t want you to just take its word on its quality processes. It puts its money where its mouth is. Vice President of Engineering John Higdon, P.E., explains on any given week multiple audits are done by customers. And the audits don’t stop with Apollo products.
“Every department gets audited here at least once a year, even senior management,” he says. “That’s one of the single most important things that make us successful. We keep quality at the very top. We can’t be cost competitive if we are producing scrap or products that are potentially not good. We take extreme pride in the products we manufacture here.”
Forward thinking on the manufacturing front is top of mind as well. Apollo recently established a design innovation team in Matthews, tasked with creating the latest and greatest products to best serve customers’ needs.
“We brought engineers into one place to focus on new products and processes,” says Higdon, who adds a healthy offering of new products is due to be released in the very near future. “We’re able to respond to the marketplace very quickly. If a customer comes to us with an idea, we can make a prototype of the product in an exceptionally fast time. Anything we can dream of, we can make. We are very into the voice of the customer and continuously engage with them because they ultimately determine if we are successful.”
Higdon also is thankful for the investment Aalberts continues to make regarding capital earmarked for research and development and manufacturing. “The Mosack family and then Aalberts are very proactive in investing a lot of money in the company so we can have the latest and greatest technology, bar none,” he says.
Looking ahead, Mosack, whose brother, Cal, a former longtime Apollo executive, has moved over to parent company Aalberts where he’s focused on mergers and acquisitions, says the party is just getting started for Apollo, which has some lofty goals it plans on meeting.
“Our growth is going to increase our sales,” he says. “We always want to go 2-3 points above GDP. If GDP is 3, we want 6. If you do that for 10 years you are going to be 30-40% bigger. We’re going to do that through a combination of new products, innovation, acquisitions and organic growth. We still have a lot of room to get into specs we’re not in today. There’s still a lot of growth out there for us, even if the market’s flat. Our goal is for the end user to say I want an Apollo valve because I know it works and it will never let me down and we hear that every day.”
This article was originally titled “Sky’s the limit” in the December 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.