George Smith, SBS Corp.-The Interview

Today we are very pleased to be able to offer this interview with Mr. George Smith, President of SBS Corp. SBS is one of the best known names in the global heat treat industry having offered cooling solutions to the industry for almost 50 years.

To start off George I have to confess that this interview is very personal for me-let me explain why. When I first started working with my father William in the heat treat rep business just over 40 years ago one of the very first company’s we started repping for was SBS Corp., I well remember meeting with your father Jeff and the Sales Manager at the time, Don Clark. Thanks for spending some time with us today.

Thank you for having me Gord! Some of the pictures from those early days have recently surfaced and have been great to see. It’s amazing to think SBS is coming up on our 50th anniversary.

Lets begin with the history of SBS, when was the company formed and what was the vision-in other words what if any was the long term plan for the company? What prompted the move a number of years ago from Michigan to Florida?

SBS was formed in 1974 out of what can be best described as a barn! In 1978 SBS moved to a Rochester, Michigan location and following a number of successful years we increased our production capacities, moving to a new nearby facility that doubled the manufacturing space.

We moved to Sarasota, Florida in 2015. I must admit it was a rather easy decision to make. There is a somewhat underserved but booming heat treat sector in the South East and we wanted to be closer. Having beautiful weather year round was also no small improvement!

As for the future, we plan to continue serving the heat treat industry with an expanded line of products. We see data as the future and have a number of systems coming available that monitor, warn, record, and plot any aspect of the heat treating process. For a fraction of the cost of an employee standing around with a clip board, we can automatically pull readings and chart them on a minute by minute basis. This allows us to look inside our equipment. From across the country, without raising a finger, we can inform our customer that a bearing is going bad or a motor is over current. Alerting to a potential issue before it becomes an emergency. We see this as the future and are very excited to be a part of it. 

At this point I would like to say how much I miss your Dad, he was a remarkable man and his passing last year was a real loss to the industry.

He was a remarkable man and I miss him a great deal. I was lucky to have him as a father and mentor. We spent the last 10 years working side by side and I am forever grateful for everything he taught me.

When I think of SBS I think of the original product, the almost legendary “Quench Air”-an air cooled quench oil cooler which was the first of its kind in the industry. I do realize though that it is only one of your product offerings, could you give us a detailed idea about all the products you have to offer?

SBS has always strived to fill gaps. Our products reflect that. The quench Air was designed to remove waste water from the heat treat industry. That has been SBS’s goal since day one. We also offer several warning and monitoring systems such as our Aqua-Sense Moisture Monitor which detects humidity in oil before liquid water is present to avoid a possibly explosive situation that occurs all too often in our industry.

We focus on reducing waste, improving the cleanliness of parts and extending the useful life of quench oil. On average, our SMART Filter systems can double the life of oil in a quench tank. This has also been a major interest of mine as I have a degree in Environmental Science.

SBS started off in the heat treat industry but I know your customers are not limited to just heat treatment. What % of your business is based in heat treatment and what other sectors do you get involved with?

We are about 50/50. The heat treat industry has always been our core focus but we also have a number of HVAC solutions. Recently, we have seen a very large increase in demand for air cooled heat exchangers in the data farm arena. Dielectric fluids are very similar to quench oils, so our Quench Air line of heat exchangers has found a new home at data centers and even Bitcoin mines. With this increase in business we have had a record breaking year so far. We have nearly doubled sales when compared to last year and we expect that trend to continue.

I never cease to be amazed at how global the SBS presence is. I have literally seen your products in Peru, China, India, South Africa and a host of other countries. Do you know how the number of countries that you have shipped products to?

I will have to double check my count on this but on last tally we have equipment in 48 countries world-wide. We do keep a rather large map on our front wall as I know you do as well. 

Many if not most of the furnace builders around the world have used your products over the years which must give you a real insight into changes in the industry. Have you seen any trends over the years that have caught your attention and are worth mentioning? As an example do you see a surge in batch processing vs; continuous or visa versa?

Our current trend is not so much batch vs continuous, but a trend toward smaller furnaces becoming more desirable. This may be an economic impact but this has definitely become a topic of interest for us.

Lets talk supply chain issues. I do not need to reiterate what the entire world knows, that the global supply chain is a mess right now. What I would like to ask you is how much this has effected your pricing and deliveries.

We have definitely experienced the price hikes… Luckily, our products are made in the US with American steel and domestically produced components which has allowed us to maintain our standard lead times for the most part. This has been a transformative couple of years, navigating shortages and long lead times. I am very proud of our crew for adapting to the challenges, finding new suppliers, and maintaining the excellence we expect.

Supply chain issues are just one of the challenges we all face today, what other topics concern you these days as a small business owner?

The single largest concern I have right now is price hiking. I believe in some cases it has been warranted, in others it has been taken advantage of. As a small business, these unexpected increases have been a real challenge. Quotes that we use to say were valid for 6 months now expire in under a week. That has been a major frustration and when the bottom line becomes unpredictable small business will inevitably suffer.

Earlier I asked you about what products SBS currently offers, what I didn’t ask you about was what new products are in the works. I realize you might be rather reticent to let us any secrets but can you give us some hints about what might be in the works for SBS in the future?

We have a number of exciting products in the works. What I can say is that we are striving to make break downs a thing of the past using artificial predictive maintenance.

As a footnote to this interview I would like to make an announcement that I am rather excited about; WG Montgomery Ltd., the rep firm founded by my father William in 1969 is very pleased to announce that as of June 1 we will again be representing SBS. The territory will be Canada and New York state and both Jordan and myself are looking forward to working with you in the years to come.

Gord, let me say personally that we are all very excited to be working with the entire Monty family! We look forward to a successful future with you and Jordan.

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