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Grundfos’ presence in the region dates back to 1988, when the center opened in a rented space. Two years later, Grundfos moved into its own 22,000 square foot building.
When John Petrella began working at Grundfos in the year 2000, one of his first projects as warehouse supervisor was to expand the building.
“In 2000, we added 16,000 square feet which became our primary finished goods warehouse,” said Petrella, now operations manager. “And in 2008, we completed construction on a 64,000 square foot addition.”
In 2007, when the second expansion was planned and built, the U.S. economy was very different and so was the intent of the facility.
“At that time, our intent was to add some additional assembly capacity here in the Allentown area to support our customer base on the east coast,” Petrella said. “The recession in 2008 caused us to change our strategy. We have a vacant area that has given us some flexibility for additional activities in the future.”
Today, the Allentown facility receives four truckloads of shipments per week from California, one or two mixed shipments from its European vendors and weekly containers from acquired companies in Italy.
“The long-term goals of our facility are to transition from just a Grundfos Fresno-operated distribution center for Grundfos Kansas City purposes into a truly North American distribution center offering support to all the companies in the region,” Petrella said.
The distribution center may look very different from other Grundfos facilities in North America, but the “one company” mentality persists and so do the Grundfos values. In particular, those at the Allentown facility have made strides in living out the value of sustainability.
Thanks to two baler machines, Grundfos Allentown is able to recycle all of the plastic wrap and cardboard the facility receives. They also recycle wood pallets and paper.
In addition to serving as a distribution center, the Allentown facility also features service and repair, production, testing and training.
“It’s important to assemble pumps here in Allentown because we’re closer to the customer base in the Northeast,” said Scott Sykes. “We also have a smaller group here in production, which gives us the flexibility and the ability to produce and deliver to our customers quickly.”
Likewise, the ability to repair pumps at Grundfos Allentown limits the transportation time for Northeast cusomers, who would otherwise have to send their pumps all the way to the Fresno facility.
And Grundfos Allentown’s capabilities are only expanding.
“In 10 years I’d like to see this facility occupied to its optimum capacity serving as a gateway from Europe into North America,” Petrella said.
Unlike basketball, tennis or soccer coaches, however, Hannah and Turner know that every last one of their students has the chance to go pro.
They are mentors for FIRST Robotics, a sport whose mission is to create tomorrow’s science and technology leaders. It is a sport that fosters innovation by challenging teams to design and build robots that will compete in regional and national events.
“The FIRST programs provide students of all ages an opportunity to get involved in science and engineering,” said Turner, a product engineer who mentors a team at the Center for Advanced Research and Technology in Clovis, Calif.
He said robotics exposed his high school students to mechanical, electrical and computer engineering, giving them an idea of how problems are solved in the professional field.
Hannah, a senior mechanical development engineer, said the robotics program helped students understand what engineering was all about. Engineers don’t just sit in front of the computer – they actually build and design products.
“The neatest thing is seeing the kids realize what they can accomplish,” said Hannah, whose team is from Mill Valley High School in Shawnee, Kan., and includes his son, Ryan.
In addition to designing and building the robot, the team members must handle money, practice budgeting, hold promotions, and recruit sponsors. The sport is not cheap. Just to enter, each team needs $5,000 to pay for a box kit of basic materials and an entry fee for regional events.
The $5,000 does not include the cost of travel and additional parts. Each team is allowed to spend an additional $1,500 for extra material.
“I enjoy watching the students create success from a box of parts,” Turner said, adding that he liked seeing them discuss, prototype, modify and re-test as one fully functioning team.
He said that he wished the FIRST robotics programs were around when he was in school and that he hoped to coach his children when they got older.
For both Hannah and Turner, involvement in robotics is more than a personal pastime. It is a reflection of Grundfos values. They partner with community high schools and focus on the youth, investing their time for the students’ futures.
Perhaps the most fitting value, however, is relentless ambition. Mentoring a group of high school students as they create a competitive robot to accomplish complex tasks in only six weeks? As Turner put it, “Enough said.”
For more information about FIRST Robotics, visit www.usfirst.org.
Christmas for Kids
This December, nearly 200 kindergarten students visited the Grundfos facility in Brookshire, Texas for “Breakfast with Santa,” an annual tradition that began at PACO Pumps and has been taking place for around two decades.
During the breakfast, the kindergarteners played games, met Santa and received presents. For many of the children, it was the only Christmas they had.
Executive assistant Debbie Murrile has played Mrs. Claus for the past several years. She said she enjoyed watching the kindergarteners’ eyes get big upon seeing the decorations and gifts waiting for them.
The noise level got deafening when Santa enters the room, said Murrille, who joked that part of her job as Mrs. Claus was crowd control.
“They asked me if I am Santa’s wife and if I live in the North Pole with Santa,” Murrile said, adding that other questions included “Does Rudolph live with us, too?” and “Is Santa real?”
Gail Quesada, director of human resources, said the best part of “Breakfast with Santa” was the smiles of appreciation from the children.
“It gives you a really good feeling that you are truly making a difference in these children’s lives,” said Quesada.
She and senior HR specialist Chau Nguyen were responsible for organizing the event, which included coordinating breakfast, purchasing presents and arranging for Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves.
In addition to getting employees excited about volunteering, “Breakfast with Santa” reflected company values.
“This is another way that Grundfos shows it cares about people,” Murrile said. “At the end of the party, the kindergarteners are tired but happy and leave with big smiles and arms loaded with presents.”
Tommy Cook knew he liked the Grundfos SL Pump right away.
“This product excited us,” said Cook, president of Pumps of Houston Inc., a company that distributes Grundfos products. “It has a lot of features and benefits that most companies have never even thought of.”
The problem for Cook, however, was how to tell people.
His team took on the challenge of selling the SL pump about 18 months ago. Although sending out brochures sparked the interest of some customers, many were loyal to Flygt, Grundfos’ competitor in the region, and refused to let Pumps of Houston bid on sales jobs.
“I figured we needed to take it another step,” Cook said.
He decided that customers had to be able to see the pump up close in order to fully understand the features and benefits. So Cook and his team put the SL pumps on the back of their pickup trucks and began demonstrating the product’s quality in the field.
“This method is very effective because it’s like no other pump out there and you can’t get that from the brochure,” Cook said.
The salesmen at Pumps of Houston started bringing the SL pump to sales meetings and tearing it down right in front of the customers, allowing them to inspect the rail system with the rubber seal and the operating control panel.
That’s when everything changed.
Cook said numerous customers told his sales team that they had been using Flygt for 10 or 25 years and probably wouldn’t be interested in a different brand. Then they saw the product firsthand.
“In almost every situation they changed their minds,” Cook said. “The success has been phenomenal.”
Cook and his sales team call the demonstrations “tailgaters” and make sure to bring snacks and drinks for their potential customers.
Jimmy Thornton, director of sales and marketing for Pumps of Houston, said tailgates were a Texas tradition.
“’Tailgate,’ to Texas, means party,” Thornton said. And bringing a little party to business gives the demonstrations a more relaxed atmosphere, making them less intimidating than ordinary sales meetings.
Denny Weber, submersible products manager at Grundfos, applauded the efforts of Pumps of Houston.
“They’re the prototype for distributors,” Weber said.