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All Flex Flexible Circuits and Heaters recently appointed Matt Keithly as their new president and CEO. In this exclusive interview, Keithly discusses his background, the direction of the company, and topics related to flexible circuits and other areas of All Flex’s business.
Patty Goldman: Matt, congratulations on your new position with All Flex. Can you tell our readers a little more about yourself?
Matt Keithly: I spent 25 years with Emerson Electric. I started in marketing and moved into sales and sales management roles with a few different business units, but primarily in the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) industry, as well as the major appliance or white goods market. My responsibilities were primarily focused in the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) channel by offering gas and electrical controls that were integrated into the customers’ products.
In late 2011, I had the opportunity with Emerson to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota, from St. Louis, Missouri, to work for a more global business as opposed to one that was predominately North American; the business name of Emerson’s was Control Techniques.
They are an automation company that specializes in variable speed drives and servo motors for industrial automation applications. Minneapolis is the American headquarters for Control Techniques while the global headquarters is in the UK.
My role was VP of Americas for Control Techniques across all functional areas, but I focused on sales and marketing, prospecting and finding new customers, and business development. The business was managed out of Minneapolis and one of our facilities in Cleveland, Ohio, to support customers in the Americas with the distribution of products and what we call “late cycle manufacturing” to configure and customize products for our customers’ applications.
Goldman: What attracted you to All Flex?
Keithly: What mainly attracted me to All Flex was wanting to pursue something different. First, I like the culture of Granite Equity Partners, All Flex’s parent company. They are Minnesota based and seek companies that fit their business model. Granite Equity Partners is unique because they are committed to the community where each business is located, and want to preserve the companies in that space. All Flex in Northfield, Minnesota, fit their business model; they want to try to maintain employment and help the businesses prosper in communities where previous owners and management started them.
This was a unique value proposition for me. It’s very exciting and I was very attracted to it. They also support the businesses for growth. Another thing that attracted me to All Flex is it’s a business that has been performing well and is in some similar spaces to where I’ve been in the past. I haven’t been in the flex circuit space, but in both my automation background at Emerson and electronic controls in HVAC, there are some similarities in electronics and controls technology and manufacturing. Overall, I was attracted to their specialties and culture. I like the fact that it’s a customer-focused organization in all parts of the business, not just the sales and marketing team.
Goldman: What other businesses are associated with Granite Equity Partners?
Keithly: They’re fairly diverse. There is Altimate Medical, which designs and manufactures a full line of adult and pediatric sit-tostand devices, which are used to serve patients with indications such as spinal cord injuries, paralysis, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. There’s also a company by the name of DeZURIK, which is a global leader in valve technologies for water and wastewater treatment, as well as other industrial applications.
There’s GeoComm, the leading provider of geographic information and communication systems to emergency 911 call centers across the US. GEOTEK is a designer, manufacturer and distributor of reinforced fiberglass pultrusion products for the electric utility and animal containment markets. Further, there is Massman Automation, a leader in the design and manufacturing of precision automation machinery. Microbiologics offers the largest and most diverse line of ready-to-use quality control microorganisms, which are sourced from the world’s leading culture collections, packaged and delivered around the world.
Finally, Vector manufactures and distributes market leading vinyl windows and patio doors throughout the upper Midwest.
Goldman: Where do you see All Flex going in the next few years?
Keithly: I’m not here to disrupt the strategy as the business is performing well. We’re in the flex industry space and starting to get exposure to more rigid-flex applications. This is a relatively new space for us and we are looking to accelerate growth. We will evaluate where to invest internally in technology and engineering capabilities, or do we seek acquisitions that make fit and bring in additional technology and capabilities to allow us to grow faster and serve customers?
Right now, I want to continue what we’re doing and perhaps look at accelerating those efforts. We’ve been on a good trajectory. The business and leadership team has been investing capital into the company to support the growth and keep up with demands to support our customers’ technology base, and we’re certainly going to continue that. We’ve made a number of large investments in 2018 with some more to go in the next three months, we have additional capital initiatives to support our customer base that will deploy in 2019.
Barry Matties: When you look at growth, do you expect growth in the flex market?
Keithly: The industry numbers indicate the market is up about 9% in 2018. I don’t know if we can count on a similar trend in 2019, it’s still early. For our business, we will continue to focus on supporting our customers and seeking new opportunities. We have a diverse North American customer base and a wide variety of applications that fit our capabilities.
To read the full version of this article which originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of PCB007 Magazine, click here.