Proco Products: The Distributor Driven and Customer Focused Leader of Rubber Expansion Joints
Built on a foundation of partnership, marketing ‘know-how’, and a deep rooted understanding of the industrial industry, Proco Products Inc. has established itself as the leader of rubber and Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) expansion joints in North America. Its engineering excellence, customer focus, and dynamic products make its services continually sought after in a number of industries.
Pump Engineer had the pleasure of sitting with President and CEO, Mike Lassas, and Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Rob Coffee, to discuss the company’s commitment to maintaining a distributor driven business and how it is adapting to serve the ever changing needs of its clients.
By Angelica Pajkovic
Established in 1984 by Gene Johnson and Merv Vater, Proco’s product line can be traced back to the 1930s when Uniroyal Company invented the original expansion joint. After several years of production, Protective Coatings (the private label expansion joint manufacturer for Uniroyal) chose to divest its expansion joint product line. This decision provided Johnson and Vater with the opportunity to join together and purchase the necessary assets from Protective Coatings to found Proco.
With a grand concept in mind, Johnson and Vater worked together to establish a large inventory of expansion joints that ranged in size from 1 to 72 inches in diameter. Their goal was to ensure that if any distributor should call looking for an end user part, one would be readily available to be sent to the field. It was this goal and the commitment to manufacturing quality products that has driven Proco’s success.
Over the past 30 years the company has grown significantly from a single office facility to a global manufacturer with locations and representatives around the world. Upholding the values on which the company was built, Proco continues to operate as a distributor driven company. Since its inception, the company has developed a more project-oriented business, working closely with EPCs (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) for large capital projects. It maintains, however, its extensive agent/distributor network, selling more than 65% of its products through distribution channels.
“Although we see a number of manufacturers cutting the distributor out and going directly to the mechanical contractor or an end user, Proco will always be distributor strong,” stated Lassas. “We will strive to make sure that the distributor is always a part of our sale, as they are a key element to our success.”
To ensure that the needs of all its distributors are met, Proco continually stocks and prepares its inventory to be ready to ship at a moment’s notice.
“We have roughly 30 full-time employees and numerous contract manufacturing representatives who are ready to offer their expertise on whichever industry an end user may be inquiring about,” explained Lassas. “This way we do not limit our ability to offer comprehensive service; someone looking for a wastewater application can speak to a representative whose focus is on water and wastewater.”
The ability to offer its customers access to an extensive network of knowledgeable and industry focused distributors, is just one of the many ways that Proco provides superior service for the demanding marketplace.
Based in Stockton, California, the company makes availability a priority by responding directly to customer needs, no matter what time zone they are in. Opening at 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time and staggering its sales staff throughout the day, there is constantly someone available to speak to the customer.
“There is always at least one or two customer service representatives available at any given moment, so our customers do not have to worry about dealing with automated operators,” stated Coffee. “This way we can be sure that we are able to quote a price, draw up a submittal, or determine the availability of a product, without impeding the client with unnecessary wait times.”
In order to supplement its customer service, Proco also offers extensive technical support and after-market assistance. “Although it is rarely needed, we provide services such as on site assessment and troubleshooting, to assist our clients with any issues they may come across,” stated Lassas. “When we sell something, we want to make sure it meets all of the customer’s expectations. So if it is not right, we take it back and replace it with the correct part with no re-stocking fee and no questions asked. That way we can ensure that our customers get what they need and what they want.”
Dynamic Product Range
Proco’s principle objective is to provide quality durable products at a fair price and maintain a large inventory to support distribution. Although its primary focus is rubber and molded PTFE expansion joints for industrial pumps, piping systems, and ducting systems, the company also offers braided flexible hose assemblies, low torque sealing gaskets, rubber duckbill check valves and penetration seals. Despite the dynamic variety of products Proco offers, continuing to thrive in a competitive industry is not easy. Proco has therefore invested in the creativity and ingenuity of its employees, to maintain a competitive edge.
“We have recently embarked on the task of updating our catalog and making adjustments to our Series 440 style PTFE products,” stated Coffee. “In order to satisfy the ever changing needs of our customers, we have developed the Series 440E to include a line of products with limit cables as well as the standard limit bolt Series 440BD. Our innovative engineers are also in the final stages of developing a hand built EPDM product with an aramid fiber reinforcement and a peroxide cure which specifically targets the hydronic hot water systems in the HVAC market. By listening to our clients’ requests and continually seeking new technological advancements we are able to guarantee high quality products,” he continued.
In order to ensure its products maintain high standards, Proco regularly visits its factories and performs routine batch testing along with material identification testing to make sure that the formulations are correct and that the manufactured products will meet the rigorous demands of the applications they are used in. With an inventory of USD $3 million, the company also performs durometer hardness testing to check the elasticity of products in inventory to maintain integrity.
“We do not want to put an inferior product out into the market and so our quality assurance process revolves around the ISO 9001,” stated Lassas. “Cure dates and shelf life are important to us. We are constantly rotating our inventory and checking to be sure the durometer hardness level is exactly where it needs to be.”
EPDM & Neoprene Rubber NSF-61 Certification
As a company that promotes a strong international presence, Proco aims to accommodate as many global standards as possible. One of the most recent standards that it has been certified for is the NSF/ANSI Standard 61 certification on its Rubber Expansion Joints and ProFlex™ Check Valve product line.
NSF/ANSI Standard 61 standards were developed by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to establish stringent requirements for the control of equipment that comes into contact with potable water or products that support the production of potable water. Although this certification has been around for a number of years, it is difficult for rubber expansion joint companies to attain, due to the mixing, calendaring and manufacturing process; Proco is one of two companies that has a true all rubber certification for its EPDM expansion joint compound.
In an effort to further enhance the company’s ability to provide its customers with the best possible products, Proco is also in the process of obtaining the ISO 9001 certification.
Innovative Technology at Your Finger Tips
In conjunction with SolidWorks, the premier design software used by engineers to model parts, Proco has integrated its complete line of designs onto the 3DX media platform.
“We have created SolidWorks models for all items found in our catalogs and have in tandem located our drawings on a platform called 3DX Media. 3DX Media uses a configurator to create models in many different formats,” Coffee explained. “This configurator allows engineers to download a drawing or build a 3D PDF of the product they need, which will contain all the pertinent details of the expansion joint they want.”
The system provides users with the ability to download Specific file formats that can be used to: design their piping schemes; provide access to immediate technical design information; learn more about Proco product lines; or forecast any potential issues a project may undergo, prior to the construction phase.
“This configurator is a great asset not only for engineers, but for distributors as well,” continued Coffee. “By logging which files are downloaded, we are able to provide feedback to our distributors about what types of products are chosen and who chooses to use them. Having our catalog available to the industry has been very beneficial to the engineering community.”
Looking to the Future
Proco prides itself on its commitment to its customers and the industry as a whole, which is evident in the company’s involvement with numerous technical and trade organizations. Proco has been an outstanding member of WEF (Water Environment Federation) in the water & wastewater market, as well as an active member of the Cooling Technology Institute (CTI) and the American Water Works Association (AWWA).
In addition, Coffee is directly involved with both the Fluid Sealing Association (FSA) and the National Association of Hose and Accessories Distributors (NAHAD). As the President of the FSA he wants to encourage industry professionals to come together to write standards and establish the best designs are followed in order to give back to the engineering community.