Pumps & Systems staff spoke with Larry Lewis, President and CEO of Vanton Pump & Equipment, about the major trends to anticipate in 2017 related to the workforce, as well as employee training.

How is the departure of longtime, knowledgeable employees due to retirement, etc., affecting your company, and what steps are you taking to fill the resulting employee skills gap?

The subject of losing valued, long-tenured, knowledgeable employees to retirement (and its impact on a company) is one that particularly hits home for us as 2017 will mark Vanton Pump’s 68th anniversary. At our core, Vanton remains much the same as we began: an independent, privately owned company that manufactures engineered pumps using a variety of chemically inert non-metallic materials, specifically thermoplastics.

Being the pioneer in the manufacture of non-metallic pumps has presented a myriad of opportunities over the years due to the advent, evolution and perfection of new plastic and elastomeric materials and compounds. As these materials became more reliable and commercially available, our range of products grew as did our customer base in the Chemical Process Industry (CPI). With a diverse and established product line we began to develop more opportunities to pursue within the CPI.

It was becoming a concern that our seasoned and expert colleagues not take their invaluable know-how and experience with them as they retired. Vanton Pump’s philosophy as it pertains to its employees has always been to promote from within. It is due to this practice that we continue to flourish today.

Young employees brought on board 20 or more years ago are now senior personnel, and it is essential that the next generation fulfills their promise to the future. At Vanton, it is not so much about a gap in skill set as it is a matter of preserving tribal knowledge; why did we start this journey, how did we get to this point, how can we continue to stretch the envelope of non-metallics and continue to pass this knowledge forward?

One of the ways Vanton has been proactively preparing for this inevitable turnover was by embracing newly available technologies. Sales, production and engineering records have become digital. Our engineering department has long ago traded their lead pencils and straight edges for computer design. Gone are the sight gauges and psi dial indicators at our test facility. These have been replaced by digital magnetic flow meters, pressure transducers, integrated VFDs and power analyzers with exacting readouts.

Technology has made us a more efficient and accurate organization. We are, however, acutely aware of the limitations of technology and we continue to encourage open communications, the exchange of ideas, data and individual experience among our employees in the effort to ensure these valuable resources are preserved. This allows us to continue to manufacture premium chemically resistant, non-metallic fluid-handling products and to provide unsurpassed personal service on a global basis to our valued customers.

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