Setting the Standard
Strahman Valves, Inc., sets the standard for products in its sector – literally. Based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and nearly a century old, this company is the global leader when it comes to designing and manufacturing wash down equipment and custom process valves. It is proud of its heritage and reputation for quality and is eager to expand its product-line and business.
In addition to the Bethlehem operation, Strahman has manufacturing facilities in Mery, France and La Fox, Illinois, near Chicago. The company provides products to a wide range of industries, including agriculture, meat processing, oil and gas, food and beverage, equipment manufacturing, hospitals and mining.
“Our primary customers are involved with the food and beverage industry, petrochemicals and chemicals and the polymer industry,” says Augie Percoco, chief executive officer of Strahman Valves.
The company also has a huge selection of products that are classified under the following categories: process valves, wash down equipment, pre-rinse equipment and automated and safety valves.
Percoco offers a run-through of the most popular products within these categories. “In the wash down business, our spray nozzles and mixing units are the most popular. In process valves, custom diverter valves plus piston type drain and sampling valves make up a large portion of our sales. In the pre-rinse business, spray valves and hoses used primarily for dishwashing are the major products sold.”
The company largely designs and makes its own products, in a point of pride for the firm. “Only our BI-TORQ division, located in La Fox, integrates valves from [other] manufacturers with actuators. They specialize in emergency shut off valves and fire safe valves. All other products are designed and manufactured in-house,” states Percoco.
Strahman Valves has a long history. The firm was founded in 1921 New York City by Theodore and Herman Strahman. The focus of the company was quite different at first.
“When the company was formed, it was primarily a distributor for an Austrian seal company. The early days of Strahman were like most new start-up businesses. However, the Strahman family managed their money wisely and quickly became a profitable company. The Strahman family decided to manufacture a line of piston drain and sampling valves in the early 1920s. Shortly after, they added a line of wash down equipment which included spray nozzles, mixing units and industrial quality hoses,” says Percoco.
The firm made a big move, from New York City to New Jersey, in 1958. Growth and expansion continued. “In 2004, the company acquired [French firm] MG Process Valves. This acquisition enabled Strahman to enter the custom valve business and fabricate valves designed specifically for customers’ applications. In 2015, BI-TORQ Valve Automation was acquired which enabled Strahman to offer additional valves designed for emergency shut-off and fire safe applications,” says Percoco.
The company‘s head office and main manufacturing operations, meanwhile, were moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 2006.
The Strahmans no longer run the company. “The Strahman family sold the business three years ago to a private equity company. Prior to the sale, the family was involved in the business at the board level,” states Percoco.
He has some definitive insights as to how the company has managed to endure and grow for nearly a century. “I believe a company survives for one hundred years by providing customers with a good product and employing a dedicated group of managers and workers that enable the company to maintain its values, allowing the company to quickly react to ever-changing market situations. I think what makes us unique from our competition is that we work hard to understand our customers’ requirements and offer not only products but solutions that enhance their production process regarding efficiency, safety and reliability. Above all, our reputation for outstanding, durable equipment has certainly helped us maintain our reputation and brand.”
Strahman’s products have, in fact, become the leading standard in several sectors, from oil and gas refining to food processing, pharmaceutical and the chemical industries. The company has no intention of sitting on its laurels, however. Having a product line that serves as an industry standard involves constant scrutiny and effort.
“We continuously look at our products and identify what changes, if any, are needed to meet the growing requirements of our customers. Additionally, we strive to find better ways to manufacture our products to minimize cost increases without compromising product quality.”
The company is ISO 9001 certified for the design, manufacture, inspection and testing of sampling valves, drain valves and wash down equipment for the paper and pulp, petrochemical, food and dairy and pharmaceutical industries, among others.
As part of its customer-oriented focus, the company will do custom orders from clients, when requested. “Custom valves are a growing part of our business. Most of our larger size valve orders are valves that are custom designed and manufactured for very specific customer requirements. We have the capability to look at new industries and applications and develop new designs and solutions that improve our customers’ production process regarding efficiency, safety and reliability,” explains Percoco.
The company currently has 145 employees, up from 140 last year at this time. “We look for employees with experience in manufacturing and machining. We have an apprentice program for employees seeking to become machinists. Additionally, we offer educational benefits to our employees that want to get college degrees in areas that enable them to perform their jobs better. Above all, we look for employees that are willing to work hard and are dedicated to the success of the company,” says Percoco.
“Our mission statement would best describe our corporate culture,” he adds. That mission statement involves a pledge to, “be a global leader in the manufacture of high-quality products for the wash down and valve markets,” and to “meet every commitment to every customer every time.” The final part of the statement makes a vow to, “provide a challenging and rewarding work environment while delivering a superior return to our shareholders.”
One notable project, featured on the company site, focuses on the Pinellas County School District in Pinellas, Florida. The district boasts 122 schools and provides meals for 100,000 students. School district officials were on the lookout for ways to reduce water and energy use, to help the environment and to save money. The Pinellas County School District decided to acquire Strahman Valve’s ‘Kwik Clean 3’ pre-rinse spray nozzles. These nozzles are commonly found in the commercial kitchens of restaurants, hospitals, schools and the like to rinse dishes before putting them in a dishwasher. The nozzles had previously won a ‘Kitchen Innovation Award’ from the National Restaurant Association.
According to company data, most pre-rinse spray nozzles use about 1.4 to 2 gallons of water a minute. The Kwik Clean 3 uses less than one gallon a minute, by contrast. The Pinellas County School District ended up installing 300 Strahman pre-rinse nozzles. This move cut annual water consumption by 23.6 million gallons, sewage generation by the same figure, energy consumption by 12 million BTUs and carbon-dioxide emissions by 4.6 million pounds. Total annual savings came to $276,000.
Another customer, identified by Strahman Valves as “a world-class PVC manufacturer” contacted the company with a query about high-performance rinsing valves for its reactor. PVC or polyvinyl chloride is a common synthetic plastic polymer. To maintain efficient production, the manufacturer in question routinely cleaned its PVC reactor with high-pressure water between batches.
The company went to work. Taking into account the shape and dimensions of the reactor and other factors, engineers custom-designed a set of high-pressure spray rinse valves for the customer. The result was the creation of special spray rinse valves rated to ANSI Class 1500. The company makes spray rinse valves that are both rotating and non-rotating, for high and low-pressure reactor cleaning.
Asked about Strahman’s biggest challenge, Percoco says the company, “is always identifying new products and new markets to continue on our growth path. Additionally, a big challenge is to find new employees that want to be involved in the manufacturing and machining business.”
The company took part in the National Restaurant Association trade show, held in May in Chicago. One month later, the BI-TORQ branch exhibited at the Valve World Americas Expo & Conference in Houston, Texas.
“In addition to trade shows, we advertise in trade magazines, manage an online store for customers, promote our products on our web site and utilize social media,” Percoco says.
As for the future, the company hopes to expand its inventory, workforce and markets. Strahman plans to introduce new “wash down products specifically designed for use with ozone for cleaning and sterilizing, a range of inline steam traps, a new line of slab gate valves and a newly patented resettable emergency block valve.”
In five years, he envisions, “Strahman continuing to grow its product line and expanding its customer base across the globe. With our new products and our existing product lines, I expect that the company’s name and worldwide reputation becomes even better known than today in the current industries we serve but also in many new industries.”