Today we’d like to introduce you to Dan Clay.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Dan. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
The company was founded in 1981 and current ownership took the business over in 2000. Since then we’ve expanded the business in a number of areas including domestic and international market places, and new product groups to serve different industries. Inert has gone from a company that had a single product line (gloveboxes) serving primarily North American academic and government facilities, to a business with multiple product ranges serving academic, government, and industrial markets globally – shipping over 50% of our products outside of North America.
Industrial markets we serve include additive (3D) manufacturing, OLED display manufacturing, Lithium ion battery development and production, specialty welding, chemical packaging, and pharmaceuticals. Inert has grown into a state of the art engineering-driven business central to many cutting-edge R&D applications.
Today, our gloveboxes and solvent purification systems are housed in some of the most prestigious facilities in the world including NASA, MIT, Los Alamos National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab, Harvard, Oxford, and many more.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We don’t like to view anything as an obstacle, yet there are many challenges running a small international business. One is finding the appropriate organizational support. There’s a lot of talk about the need for the USA to become exporters again, but small businesses like Inert work hard at this and get very little to no support or incentives from government or banking institutions. For instance, US banks are notorious for not lending against foreign receivables even though that receivable might be a European institution that’s been in existence as long as our nation. Our government also does very little to promote foreign trade – If you look at the German model for supporting export, the differences are immediately obvious and it shows in their economy.
Other challenges center around customer expectation on delivery times and pricing. We live in a very competitive economic environment where a lot of pressure falls on the small businesses to meet deadlines and deliver a quality product. Last but not least is finding good people, and we focus on making sure we keep our team happy, and augment the staff as best as we can.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Inert – what should we know?
Inert designs and manufactures glovebox, gas management, and solvent purification systems in our facility. The general public is probably most familiar with gloveboxes from their college chemistry department, or perhaps from sci-fi movies where people handle nuclear or extraterrestrial materials – those enclosures with windows and gloves for people to handle sensitive materials isolated from the air. Inside is an atmosphere of an inert gas (usually nitrogen or argon) that does not chemically react with most materials, and that has less than 1 part per million of O2 and H2O. We also make solvent purification and dispensing units.
The rise of 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) is rapidly becoming central to the glovebox industry, and to our business. 3D printing with metals such as titanium, aluminum, nickel alloys, etc, are best performed in an inert atmosphere so we’re seeing more 3D printing and 3D post-processing being done inside our enclosures. In fact, we’ve recently developed and launched a brand new line of gloveboxes specifically tailored to the 3D printing industry!
We are especially proud of our commitment to our employees to provide a positive environment in the work place. Of particular pride is the fact that we export over 50% of all our products, and that we source our manufacturing materials and machining services locally, which helps the local economy and supports a number of jobs in the area outside our company. Inert has resisted the current trend of cutting corners, and have focused on only supplying the industry’s best quality products. This is paying off for us, and for our customers!
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Innovation and the ability to adapt to changing technologies is extremely important in the tech world, but ultimately dedication to building the highest quality product and meeting exacting customer requirements is the key to success.