Five Questions for Bill Simmons, Group General Manager, Hale/Class 1/Godiva

Chris Mc Loone

CM: What is the biggest mistake fire departments make when selecting a pump for their apparatus?

BS: People have a tendency to think they have to sacrifice performance to gain space on the apparatus. Everyone’s struggling with how to do more with less. They are weighing the different options and they feel like sometimes they have to give up the performance of their apparatus. Firefighters never know what they’re going to be called on to do, and so they have to be prepared for the worst possible hazards. We want to make sure they are equipped as much as possible. So, we’ve spent a good bit of time trying to develop products that will allow them to continue to have the quality, the reliability, and the performance that they expect out of a Hale product and a smaller footprint. The QMAX-XS is a prime example of that. It gives them the versatility to shrink down from a standard pump house size of 42 inches to as small as 28 inches and gain back as many 16 inches on the pump panel size.

CM: What do you think is the most important issue right now in the fire service, and how is Hale addressing it?

BS: I think that the fire service struggles with how to continue to provide the high level of service it has conditioned the public to expect based on the current budgetary requirements. So they are always looking at how to continue to do more with, it seems, less and less all the time. We’ve spent a good bit of our effort trying to make sure they are able to maximize what they have, whether it’s having extended operating performance and overengineering the equipment to make sure it always has plenty of reserve capability in it so that they’re never left in a lurch; whether it’s making sure that it’s got the quality they can rely on so they’re not worried about breaking down at a critical point; or whether it’s a situation where they can do it in a smaller footprint and therefore get more on their apparatus. When you look at what we’ve done on the pump house design and also some of the innovations we’ve had on the electronics side of the industry-a lot of the manual valves can be replaced with electronic valves and a lot of the gauges can be done with touchscreens in a much smaller footprint than anything in the past.

CM: What do you think is the most important innovation in the fire service during the past five years?

BS: There’s been a good bit that’s come out, but I would have to say the eDraulic tools that were introduced by HURST Jaws of Life® are the most innovative things, and they’ve really opened up a whole other avenue for rescue. Having the same capability as a standard hydraulically driven rescue tool on a self-contained platform has given rescuers much more versatility in a package that is easy to deploy and quick to be able to get to where they need it. And, it can go in a footprint on a truck that is 40 percent less than what was done in the past. We were surprised. I was with the HURST business before coming over to the fire suppression side for IDEX, and we were shocked at how quickly the market took to the product. I think it’s a testament to how much the market really needed it and what we were able to get done in the finished package to make sure it performed to the level that people expected out of a product that had that kind of brand to it.

CM: Is there anything in the pipeline right now at Hale that you can talk about?

BS: As a publicly traded company, we can’t get into a whole lot of new product development that is in the pipeline. I can assure you that we have some pretty exciting things that are there. But from a process standpoint, what I can share is that we are we are finishing up our consolidation. We are adding on additional square footage in our Phase 2 construction. And, we’ve had everything consolidated in this facility since November 2012 from a production standpoint. We continue to grow within the footprint we have here, and we’re excited by that and we continue to button that up.

At the same time we are growing from a segmentation standpoint within our market space. So, we’re looking at markets we serve around the world and asking how do we do those better and do we understand the needs of those markets? Are we trying to take our products and shove them into the market or are we truly trying to understand that market and produce products that that market needs? Because, what we see is as we continue to expand across the globe is that the needs are different in different areas. We want to make sure that we are meeting our customers’ needs on a global basis.

CM: What keeps you up at night?

BS: The Hale brand is known for quality, reliability, and performance, and we have a very strong market share in our core markets. What I want to make sure we do is that we are continuing to live up to the legacy of that brand within our core markets while at the same time expanding outside of those areas. It’s always a struggle to make sure that you are balanced appropriately and that you are growing in the areas you want to grow in while at the same time continuing to serve your existing base as much as possible and doing the right job for both of those as you move forward. So that balance to me is key.

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