PHD
Aurelio Banda

Growing a Business in the Time of COVID-19

July 2, 2020
Aurelio Banda, new CEO of PHD Inc., talks about growth in the actuator market and the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Industrial automation manufacturer PHD, Inc. named Aurelio Banda as president and CEO on April 1. The timing of his appointment meant he jumped into the business just as the COVID-19 pandemic took full hold of manufacturing in particular and the world as a whole.

Banda’s experience, including as president and CEO of Beckhoff North America and founder of founded Controls Plus, Inc., a distribution and software development company in the industrial automation sector, were important factors in both his new position at Ft. Wayne, Ind.-based PHD and in his ability to navigate the early days of the pandemic.

Banda spoke exclusively with Hydraulics & Pneumatics to discuss his views on the industry and the challenges faced in a challenging time for industrial companies.

Hydraulics & Pneumatics: This is an interesting time to be moving into a new role with a new company. What were some of the factors that make this opportunity with PHD so interesting?

Aurelio Banda: PHD has a reputation of quality and innovation with regards to the designs, systems and processes to deliver a wide range of actuators (hydraulic, pneumatic, electric), clamping and robotic grippers which can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the customers. PHD’s production of components are truly unique as compared to the other automation components manufacturers along with a highly skilled engineering team growing in robotics.

Furthermore, PHD has a unique channel strategy with our partners providing a PHD extension of our products and services locally and throughout the globe, providing a highly engaged experience for any customer in any industry.

H&P: Assess the hydraulics and pneumatics market today. It may be seen as a “traditional” industry by some, so where are the opportunities to grow and expand PHD’s offering to the market?

AB: The manufacturing landscape has many use cases for automation applications, with actuators which can be best addressed through the disciplines of hydraulic, pneumatic or electric. Hydraulic actuator systems include engineered pumps and valves, pneumatic actuator systems with highly efficient air delivery system designs and electric actuator systems that leverage electrical architecture frameworks. These automation disciplines have a place in the mechanical design integrity and performance outcomes for a variety of customers in a range of industries.

The outlook has a strong growth trajectory for the use of these disciplines in machining/metal forming, packaging, food and beverage, medical, semiconductor and logistics. PHD is well positioned to expand in these markets with our engineering subject matter experts in these disciplines, along with our ability to leverage our manufacturing facilities to be agile and responsive in addressing any application in these industries during these demanding times.

H&P: Where are the growth areas for hydraulic, pneumatic and electric actuators? Are there new markets, or are there opportunities to expand existing markets?

AB: We see the growth areas for PHD products across a range of industries as I shared for today and beyond, as manufacturing initiatives grow with automation solution designs. As we look at our product portfolio, we have the products and capabilities to support many industries, including the rise of robotics in manufacturing facilities.

The growing need for robotics, including collaborative designs, offer an opportunity for PHD to partner with our product designs to improve efficiency, expanding capabilities, reducing scrap and increase up time of production in every market. As we have expanded into industries with a robotic concentration in manufacturing applications, our pneumatic end effectors have provided high value for our customers.

H&P: The medical market certainly has been a primary focus during the COVID-19 crisis. Talk a little about how your business has been impacted by the pandemic from a product standpoint.

AB: Our ability to innovate and provide new solutions quickly has been very important to many of our customers in this market. As demand and needs increased, we were able to address issues immediately. Specifically, the need for hand sanitizer grew exponentially overnight.

One of the products we offer are volumetric pumps used to accurately fill the bottles. We were able to design, develop, produce and deliver to the customer in less than a week. This is just one example of the flexibility and capability of PHD during these demanding times of COVID-19.

H&P: PHD also is a manufacturer, and the challenges of manufacturing in this time also are heightened. What is manufacturing like today, and how has your team adapted to the increased emphasis on social distancing and personal safety?

AB: As an essential business, we quickly had to mobilize our business in caring for the COVID-19 threat in all our facilities. In striving to deliver the results across our organization and customers at PHD, we have taken various steps to keep our employees safe while maintaining our commitment to supply and support the products and services our customers have relied upon.

We continue to follow our local, state and national guidelines regarding the COVID-19 practices for our business. In our manufacturing facilities we implemented proper barriers, distancing and reduced touchpoints for our workforce safety. Our COVID-19 team continues to monitor our health and workplace practices which have been put in place, as our employee’s safety is paramount.

Certainly, these are trying times for many, and this environment has brought our entire company even closer as we learn, adapt and adjust to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic effects.

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