Evolving Along with Industry

Graco Inc.
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Graco Inc. designs and produces premium pumps and spray equipment for fluid handling in the construction, manufacturing, processing and maintenance industries. Each Graco division focuses on different applications and develops specialty products that set the quality standards for lubrication, paint circulation, spray finishing, sealant, adhesives, dispensing and more. The company has built a solid reputation and customer base around the world through more than 90 years of experience.
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“We are experts in material handling,” explains Jerry Powaser, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Industrial Products Division. “That can be anything from pumps to proportioning devices, from atomizers to dispensing systems. We make a broad range of equipment with a global reach into many different markets.”

The Industrial Products division primarily focuses on industries that utilize paints and coatings for finishing products. For instance, Graco equipment is used for the finishing coating of paint on any product from a golf ball to a tabletop, an automobile, a jetliner or anything in between. The industrial products division concentrates on products that require finely detailed finishing and is a separate division from that which provides coatings on water towers or suspension bridges, since the desired finish is much different. The result is a high-quality coating, paint or stain that creates a shiny, durable finish on a substrate.

A history of growth & innovation
Graco was established as a family-owned business in 1926 by the Gray brothers. They developed and marketed a pneumatic grease gun to lubricate automobiles.

“From there, the product line expanded rapidly,” shares Powaser. “That rapid pace continues as we utilize our expertise in both technology and manufacturing,” shares Powaser.

From its earliest days, Graco invested heavily in new product development, continually expanding its product offering into new fluid handling applications and markets. The team continues to invest heavily in R&D, channel partners, and customer service.

The United States is home to Graco’s research and development operations and 80 percent of the company’s manufacturing production. The company’s fluid handling equipment reaches customers worldwide through distribution centers in Minnesota, Europe and Asia Pacific. To develop those products, Graco has four main manufacturing facilities in the United States and, through its acquisition growth, has established manufacturing facilities in China as well.

Graco is an extremely efficient manufacturing organization with a sterling track record of consistent growth. As a publicly traded company, Graco’s shareholders expect a growth-oriented business that produces solid returns.

“External growth through sales, acquisitions and the breadth of our offerings creates internal opportunities for our employees,” says Powaser. Graco is a leader in developing technology for the markets it serves and strives to create the ultimate customer experience. These are the foundations of the company that have enabled its continued growth thus far.

A great place to work
Graco also has a very high record of tenure among its 3,500 employees worldwide. In 2018, Graco was recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the top 20 Best Places to Work in Manufacturing and Production in the United States. Being named as a top workplace by an independent source goes a long way to attract new, young employees joining the workforce and experienced employees looking for a change. It shows people that there is something unique and special about Graco when compared to other manufacturers.

“We announce work anniversaries each month, and it’s not uncommon to see many employees throughout the different divisions across Graco who have worked here for 25, 30, and sometimes even 40 or more years. I think that speaks volumes about the organization and the effort we put into creating a good work environment,” Powaser states proudly. Graco focuses on providing a rewarding atmosphere to recognize employees who are willing to put forth their best effort, continue learning, and go the extra mile for the company.

Even the CEO, Patrick McHale, participates in recognizing employees. He’s written over 1,000 thank-you notes and mailed them to employee homes. He believes that doing the small things as a manager, foreman, president, or CEO, regardless of company size, is the best way to keep talent and boost morale.

In the competitive market of today, Graco is grateful to have such an outstanding workforce in all areas of the business including in the factory, engineering, sales, marketing and technical support. Though the company has a very high retention rate, it does face challenges when seeking to fill open positions. To attract new employees, Graco provides plenty of growth and leadership opportunities. The company also promotes its great work environment and core values, such as quality, continuous improvement and a customer-focused attitude.

Leading technology and A+ customer experience
As a technology leader, Graco is driven to provide the best technical solutions for customers globally. The company continues to innovate by listening to its customers and the evolving needs of the marketplace. Another distinguishing factor for the company is that it is always striving to provide the best customer service in the industry.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that as our markets continue to evolve and as the next generation of users of our equipment come into the marketplace, the customer experience is becoming more and more important every day,” says Powaser. Graco has to keep up with the evolving manufacturing industry and remain adaptable to it, both with technology and also the quality experience that allows the customer to understand the value they are receiving from Graco products. Graco stands behind its products proudly and it is fully committed to ensuring that customers are happy with Graco equipment.

The company has a promise to deliver A+ Service to every customer, every time – a philosophy that is communicated across the company. CEO Patrick McHale regularly talks about A+ Service and truly lives by it, a demonstration of commitment that helps to make it an integral part of the culture at Graco.

“There are many ways to measure and improve upon our performance,” says Powaser. “Striving for A+ Service creates a common bond amongst all employees.”

Digital evolution
As the markets Graco serves continue to evolve in this digital age, the company is paying more attention to equipment and systems that help its customers be successful in their jobs. Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology (SMART) helps detect and prevent errors. The Internet of Things (IoT) connects equipment for more efficient management.

“SMART and IoT bring a two-way transfer of data that optimizes performance. Instead of a person watching a piece of equipment run and then trying to figure it out, the equipment itself is providing data,” explains Powaser.

This new type of maintenance enables customers to proactively maximize uptime and production. It also increases their efficiencies and capacities to be as successful and profitable as possible.

The industries Graco works within are automating more processes to save costs, maximize uptime and reduce labor. Paying close attention to industry trends, Graco uses its technical expertise to create innovative automation solutions. Through more than 90 years of experience, the company has built a solid reputation and customer base around the world.

“As we move further into automation, I’m very excited about what the future holds,” says Powaser. “I look forward to continued advances in product development and the benefits these advances bring to our customers.”

As Graco moves into the 21st century, the company defines its basic mission as “service to people through profitable growth.” Both objectives are being met as Graco becomes a world leader in complete fluid handling systems and packages that move, control, deliver, dispense, and apply fluids in commercial and industrial settings.

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