Centro Reinvents Itself in the Automation & Robotics Industry

Friday, June 01, 2018

jwalling.jpgThe Memphis Business Journal recently interviewed Jerry Walling, Automation & Robotics Division Sales Manager for Centro, Inc.

How a successful company is developing new competencies, markets and customers.


Who or what is currently disrupting your business or industry right now?
Our legacy business is process flow control products. Customers in this segment are paper mills, chemical plants, refineries, power generation and food manufacturing plants. The disruption stems from the fact that few if any new plants are being built in our served geography with the possible exception of food processing. The challenge for Centro was to decide how to participate in the industries that are growing in our geography which include automotive, appliance, food, general and/or discreet manufacturing. We’ve been working on this process since 2012 when we bought three companies and combined them to launch the compressed air control division. In 2017, we moved to the next level to become a solutions provider for customers in this growing market by adding new product lines and rebranding the compressed air control division the new Automation & Robotics Division.

Do you think hiring the right people is a science or an art?
It is both a science—measuring the needed skills for example. It is also an art—finding the right cultural and emotional fit between the potential employee and the company.

Biggest Challenge in your industry right now?
The biggest challenge in the Automation & Robotics segment is integrating mechanical, electrical, electronic and software products into useful customer specific solutions that help our customers to be more successful. This work requires a team of people each with different and complimentary skills that when used together, can create value for customers.

Which companies do you admire the most?
My list includes Chick-fil-A, Discount Tire, and Southwest Airlines. I find their commitment to customer service to be a breath of fresh air. They all 3 have built a culture that includes a continued focus on mission, purpose, and value. Additionally, I admire Centro Inc. Prior to joining the Centro family, I worked with them for many years via a manufacturer and channel partner relationship. It was then when I recognized that Centro also had this progressive culture that I found desirable. Generally, I admire all companies that triumph over time and have long-term, sustained success.

Which CEOs and executives do you admire the most?
Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and John C. Maxwell are at the top of my list of leaders that I admire the most. I hold Bill Gates in high regard more for his recent selfless efforts in solving world hunger than his role in the personal computer revelation. Being an avid basketball fan and having a great passion for the television show Shark Tank makes Mark Cuban a natural selection for me. John Maxwell has been on my mind or in my ear for the past 2 decades. I find his approach to leadership to be textbook. The fol-lowing Maxwell quote resonated with me many years ago, “People never care how much you know until they know how much you care.” While working with Mike Gallagher, President of Centro, and his team for many years prior to working for him, I developed a strong admiration for Mike. I appreciated the family culture that Mike had developed at Centro.

What are your expectations for the economy (or industry) in 2018?
We subscribe to ITR Economics. They are an industry-leading publication. They do an outstanding job of providing economic insight. Consequently, they’re forecasing the demand in our markets to experience a soft recession in 2019 and a rebound in 2020.

How do you stay driven to stay ahead of industry trends?
My efforts to stay ahead of industry trends include, meeting with senior level customers, attending relevant association conferences, participating in product training programs, and connect with other key executives within the industry.

Who do you like to talk shop with?
I’ll talk shop with anyone that is willing to engage. First time acquaintances are my favorite because I’m always learning something new. Some of my best shop talk has come while on vacation, specifically on a cruise!

Can you talk about the most exciting thing you are working on right now, or have recently completed?
Being in the Automation & Robotic Industry is a blast! I’m constantly working on innovative and excit-ing projects. A memorable project was an animatronic project for the movie Brave that was produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Part of the promotion of the movie was to have an animatronic display of the 3 bears that were featured in the movie. The challenge was to ensure that the mechanical movement of the bears was life-like and that the air cylinders used to operate the bears were silent. A unique noise damping bumper used on all the air cylinders successfully muted all the mechanical movement. The bear exhibition was displayed at various park locations.

This article appeared in the Memphis Business Journal on June 1, 2018 on page 21. Copyright ©2018 Memphis Business Journal, 651 Oakleaf Office Lane, Memphis, TN 38117MBJ.jpg