Teleflex TODAY

That was then and this is now.

A year and a half ago, Teleflex Marine’s new president painted a picture of a company in transition with a bigger, brighter future ahead — one he would build using the same leadership skills he had used to turnaround other Teleflex divisions (See p. 12 of Boating Industry’s July 2006 issue).

Today, however, Paul Smith is no longer with the company, having left for a “lifestyle change.” His boss, Vince Northfield, president of Teleflex’s Commercial Segment, tells a slightly different story of where the marine steering and controls provider is today and where it’s going.

For one, while Northfield highlights the accomplishments Teleflex Marine has achieved over the past year — many of which were underway when we spoke with Smith a year ago — he suggests they are part of Teleflex’s natural evolution. The consolidation of Teleflex Marine’s aftermarket business in Litchfield in mid-2007, for example, was part of an ongoing initiative to make it easier for its marine customers to do business with Teleflex (See p. 8 of Boating Industry’s November 2007 issue).

The company, which has been in the marine industry for several decades, is “not at the mercy of larger marine companies or private equity or investment banks.” For that reason, it has the flexibility to change and grow with its customers, he suggests.

Secondly, Northfield says that while Smith correctly conveyed that Teleflex Marine is working on what he called “the fundamentals” — including the use of lean tools focused on delivery, quality and cost — this is an ongoing improvement process, not a goal a company completes.

While Teleflex’s marine business has experienced slight growth each of the past three years, it did not achieve the double-digit growth Smith predicted a year ago. Northfield says that comes down to one factor.

“I’ve looked at four acquisitions over the course of this year, but haven’t been able to fulfill that — normally on behalf of the company we’ve been trying to acquire,” explains Northfield. “To get to double-digit growth will take acquisition.”
Teleflex’s quest to expand its product portfolio through acquisition continues. But despite the lack of recent success in this area, Northfield says he’s happy with the momentum the company has generated.

“I don’t think the market is affecting us greatly at the moment, [but we’re being] mindful of costs,” he says. “We also serve not just North America — but international markets as well, which has helped keep us stable.”

The company has been increasing its content per boat, primarily through the development of product enhancements, Northfield says.

“With the weak dollar, there is more product moving abroad, especially boats, and our products are on those boats,” he adds.

When Boating Industry last spoke to him, Smith, who was based in Texas, said Teleflex Marine was looking for a new home. Today, the marine division is based in Sarasota, Fla. at the company’s Electronics Center of Excellence.

“All of our products are migrating through electronic products,” Northfield explains. “We went out to Lear, GM and Bombardier and brought people in. We can align with our customers in one place where we can meet all of their needs for electric products.”

The transition to electronic products has also made it easier for Teleflex to provide some of its customers with customized solutions. While Northfield says this is not a major focus for the company, it’s another way it can better serve its marine customers.

Northfield, who has been in the marine industry since 1998, doesn’t have plans to hire a new president for the marine division. He points out that, with the exception of Smith, the Teleflex Marine management team remains in place, which made the transition after his departure “easy.” In addition, while the Commercial Segment was once a large group within which the marine business was a small piece, the automotive business has recently been sold, allowing the Commercial Segment president to focus more of his attention on marine.

“I would say our vision for the future is to capitalize on our strong past,” Northfield comments. “While other companies are being absorbed, we’ve served our customers for decades. We’re always going to be there with innovative products, and we’re making it far easier to do business with us.”

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