Having just celebrated their 100th anniversary in July, you could say that ROSS Controls, an international designer and manufacturer of pneumatic valves and control systems, was founded in response to a tragedy.
After a devastating fire shut down operations at Detroit Seamless Tube Company (DSTC), ROSS co-founder, Charlie Ross, adapted a set of engine tappets from a 1919 Chevrolet to create a lever operated air valve to help get DSTC back up and running in a reasonable period of time. Ross knowingly improved the valve from the start which was then noticed by other companies as their interest grew in his new piercing process that used his new valve. Although there have been several design modifications, a version of this product is still manufactured today.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people that compliment your weaknesses.
What is the best part about your job?
Working with our great team of international people.
ROSS has weathered many storms in its first century. Leading into the pandemic, they had just acquired two companies and were launching their single largest product line ever. There had just been substantial investment and the unknown bottom resulting from the pandemic created significant concern. They immediately reacted by freeing up as much cash as possible.
The pandemic and resulting aftermath is just one of many adversities ROSS has faced over their long history. President and CEO Jeff Hand takes a lot of pride in the fact that ROSS has survived the ups and downs and continues to grow.
“We continue to serve our more traditional industries including metal forming/press, glass containers, pulp and paper, metals and automotive, while expanding into new industries including packaging, leak test and process as a result of our inter-company synergies,” says Hand.
“Our newest product line, focused on oxygen concentrators for home medical applications, could not have been timed any better,” Hand continues.
ROSS began developing a custom valve for oxygen concentrators prior to the pandemic but launch and accelerated ramp-up (timing and significant boost in units) happened in the midst of COVID-19.
How are you innovating?
We find customer-specific needs and then apply our agility and a disciplined gate process to apply periodic checks on the viability and profitability. For us “pull” products are much more effective than “push” products.
What’s your next goal?
Inorganic expansion is a critical aspect of ROSS’ strategic plan, so executing the next acquisition to add to our core competencies at ROSS.
“COVID-19, in many patients, created a huge need for oxygen and our customer very quickly needed as much product as possible. We came up with an improvement, which integrated valves into the cap, that helped ease their manufacturing process,” Hand says.
The company’s knack for innovation started early on. Shortly after its founding, ROSS continued to expand its valve offering for general automation applications with an emphasis on developing technology for gas engines. During the 1950s, they were at the forefront of workplace safety with the development of clutch/brake double valves in metal forming industries. In the 1960s, ROSS introduced what is still considered to be a signature product — the L-O-X® Lockout Valve for energy isolation applications. During the following decades, ROSS pioneered safety innovations targeting applications with pneumatic, hydraulic and system solutions.
What superpower would you want and why?
Ability to fly, so I could get places much quicker, and on my time schedule.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Running a golf course in Hawaii.
The company began to expand its global footprint in 1960 by opening ROSS Europa in Germany, and over the years added seven more business units with ROSS Canada being the most recent addition in 2016. ROSS also began complementing and supplementing their product offering through acquisitions and business startups, including Dale Industrial, Detroit Coil, manufactIS, Automatic Valve, ElectroGuard® and Pneumatrol.
Still privately owned by third and fourth-generation family members of the company’s co-founder, St. Clair Cameron, ROSS has proven to be a leader in industrial technology, innovation and market adaptability. The next 100 years looks awfully bright for a company that started with leftover parts from a 1919 Chevrolet.
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