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Piping Technology & Products

  Experienced Manufacturer of Pipe Supports since 1978
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PT&P History: The First Thirty-Five Years

Index | Acknowledgements | Milestones | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Read More

Chapter 7: Applying the Lessons of the Past in a New Era

During Piping Technology & Products' third decade in business, the company continued to build upon the foundation of adhering to sound business principles, producing high quality products, and providing outstanding customer service that had made it a success during its first twenty years. Like other companies, PT&P faced its share of challenges including the ups and downs of a dynamic economy. But, PT&P's founder and president, Durga Agrawal, and his team remained focused on their objective of finding new and better ways to serve their customers. This focus and strong corporate self-discipline enabled PT&P to avoid the common mistakes made by other growing enterprises that expanded too rapidly or acquired unrelated businesses that distracted from the core business.

U.S. Bellows, 1997

The 1997 acquisition of Ketema-U.S. Bellows from Bird Manufacturing, mentioned briefly in the previous chapter, had a significant impact on the ensuing growth and success of PT&P, and is worth revisiting here. The acquisition of Ketema-U.S. Bellows came shortly after PT&P's 1995 acquisition of another expansion joint manufacturer, RM Manufactured Products. The company joined the two firms together into one wholly-owned subsidiary operating under the U.S. Bellows name.

Since its inception in the 1960s, U.S. Bellows had developed a sterling reputation and was highly regarded in the piping industry. In 1996, Baker Hughes purchased U.S. Bellows and its parent firm, Ketema Process Equipment Company. Baker Hughes then merged U.S. Bellows subsidiary into its Bird Machine Company, which it had acquired in 1989. The plan was to position Bird Machine to compete in new markets with its newly acquired Ketema centrifuges, filters, and other associated products. But Ketema's U.S. Bellows division did not fit into this business model and thus, Bird decided to close down the bellows division.

Durga Agrawal first learned that Bird was planning to shut down its Ketema-U.S. Bellows expansion joint division around the time that Rick Thompson finished setting up the RM equipment at PT&P's Houston plant. Taking advantage of his expertise, Agrawal sent a team including Thompson, R.K. Agrawal, and Ben Tatum, PT&P's longtime plant manager, to California with instructions to assess the condition and value of the Ketema equipment. R.K. Agrawal focused primarily on the electronic materials, customer lists, marketing materials, and the intellectual property, while Tatum and Thompson inspected the machines and other equipment. R.K. later likened this acquisition to being a "kind of fire sale situation" where the management wanted to dispose of the equipment quickly. "I remember going back and forth with them," said Agrawal. "This was not an auction, so it was not that the company had gone into bankruptcy—it was that they had a parent company who did not want to be in that business anymore." PT&P agreed to purchase all of the machinery and equipment, along with the U.S. Bellows name. "They had a good name, a good reputation, and I think we did benefit from this acquisition," said Durga Agrawal. "This was only an asset acquisition—it was not a purchase of the company." Although PT&P acquired the U.S. Bellows name, it did not buy any liabilities of the company. PT&P only bought the assets: machinery, equipment, inventory, and completion of the jobs in progress, after approval by those customers. The U.S. Bellows subsidiary proved to be a complementary addition to PT&P's existing product line. Most of the Ketema customers continued to purchase expansion joints from PT&P's new U.S. Bellows subsidiary, and began buying the company's engineered products, spring hangers, constant load hangers, snubbers, and other pipe support products. The addition of the new equipment enabled PT&P to increase its expansion joint manufacturing capability beyond what the RM equipment allowed, to produce much larger diameter, custom designed products.

The move into expansion joints and bellows design and manufacturing was one of the most significant moves for PT&P in the company's entire history. In addition to new product offerings and production capabilities, the acquisition was a catalyst for the physical expansion of the plant and the hiring of new personnel. All of these elements created a demand for more infrastructure in terms of office space, parking areas, and even employee lunch facilities.

New Addition to the Plant

In order to take advantage of the newly acquired equipment and manufacturing capabilities, PT&P had to take several steps to realize the maximum benefit from its new product line. With the acquisition of RM in 1995, PT&P's recently expanded shop quickly became congested. The company had planned another expansion of the facility, but now had to decide how much additional space they would build. As Durga Agrawal recalled, "After the acquisition of RM in 1995, the machines were kind of congested. We wanted to spread it out so that we could handle material in a more efficient way, and produce bellows at a competitive cost."

Preliminary planning already was underway to add approximately 50,000 square feet of additional covered space to the shop when PT&P purchased U.S. Bellows. As mentioned earlier, in 1995, the company completed a 100,000-square-foot addition to the plant. In addition to this, employees also utilized a previously existing structure on the site known as the Parker Building. The building was in good condition and had enough room for some foam production (insulated pipe supports) and several offices that had been occupied by the accounting department since it moved from Long Drive in 1998. Still, there simply was not enough covered shop space, a problem that left employees doing some of the material layout alongside the buildings and outdoors, completely exposed to the elements. Now, with all of the U.S. Bellows equipment coming in, and the consequent need for more space for raw materials to feed into those machines, Durga Agrawal faced an important decision. Although the initial plans called for a smaller structure, Agrawal decided to build an additional 100,000 square feet of plant space. The new addition was built over the existing Parker Building and gave PT&P nearly ten acres of total covered workspace at its Holmes Road site.

Aerial view of PT&P's Holmes Road plant.

As in the previous plant expansion, PT&P served as its own general contractor and did some of the fabricating for the project. They hired a firm to erect the steel framework and an electrical company to install the electrical wiring, outlets, and lighting. The new addition provided an opportunity to redesign the flow of the entire main shop. The company extended the overhead crane tracks and could now run the cranes through the entire length of the building. Randy Bailey credits Durga Agrawal with having the foresight to plan beyond the immediate need for space. This decision in turn created a smoother and more efficient flow of production for the PT&P complex. "It wasn't just about trying to set up U.S. Bellows [in the shop]," said Bailey. "It was actually about moving forward to set up the rest of the shop…to improve the efficiency of the whole plant." In addition to the new, covered shop space that would encompass bellows manufacturing, assembly, shipping, and the Small and Fast Team, PT&P also added a new lunchroom for employees and additional office space.

Mailing: P.O. Box 34506, Houston, TX 77234-4506 Location: 3701 Holmes Road, Houston, TX 77051
Our Subsidiaries: U.S. Bellows: Metallic & Fabric Expansion Joints, Bellows
Sweco Fab: ASME Vessels, Pig Launchers, Spectacle Blinds
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: Snubbers, Sway Struts & Sway Braces
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