Featured interview - Jason Sanders

Jason Sanders is product specialist and manager of the Industrial Heat Division at Leister Technologies, in Itasca, Illinois.

Jason Sanders, Leister Technologies LLC

ADDEDWednesday, May 13, 2020

  • Q
    If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what advice would you give him?
    A
    In my career, I sometimes felt that I was too concerned with finishing tasks quickly to move on to the next project.  This left me feeling frustrated when project milestones were not being met. Some could view this as a need for instant gratification. What I learned is that it is important to focus on the tasks in front of you and do them well. Most of the time, the tasks that have been assigned are part of a much larger picture which we may not always see. 
    Looking back at how I got to this point in my career, I would tell those who are getting started to have patience, both with yourself and others, as you go about your everyday routine. 
    
  • Q
    What advice would you give to a prospective customer researching you vs. your competitors?
    A
    Customer applications can be extremely diverse, and the end user should consider the specific needs of each project on a case-by-case basis. Factors such as repeatability, safe operation, and maintenance should be considered when choosing products for their application. At times, end users can feel overwhelmed when it comes to selecting the right components. In addition to system specifications, conducting preliminary tests using sample parts or material may help identify the feasibility and selection of a proper electric heater for the application.
    One consideration customers should keep in mind when searching for any product is a company's reputation within the industry. It is important to identify a company that has a solid background in the technology they are seeking out. Industry standards for products and a knowledgeable staff that they can turn to for help navigating project requirements are items that can support project success. 
    Leister Technologies has decades of industry experience and is considered a worldwide leader in hot air applications. In addition to our experience, all our products carry the CE certification and as part of our continuous improvement process, some components have earned UL certification. 
    What this means for customers is that they can benefit from the knowledge we have gained over the years and have the confidence in knowing that the reliable products are selected for their application. We take pride in product development and strive to provide cost-effective solutions for our customers. This is what makes us an ideal partner for process heat related applications.
    
  • Q
    What challenges are your customers facing now?
    A
    It is tough to ignore how COVID-19 has had an impact on our customers. Even though traditional everyday business has changed, most of our customers have been able to find ways to adapt to the situation. Some customers have taken this time to make improvements to their equipment for anticipated business once restrictions have been lifted. Others have retooled to help combat the pandemic. 
    In addition to everyday operations, visiting facilities has provided additional challenges. Many companies have followed the shelter-in-place order and only have key personnel to continue with certain activities with visits from outside personnel. With suspension of visits, it has allowed us to get creative with our customers who need support. Instead of the in-person visits, we have gone to virtual equipment demos and the use of our augmented reality app to provide information on products that can help customers make decisions on projects they are working on today.
    
  • Q
    In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the automation marketplace today and in the future?
    A
    One of the things I have watched reshape the industry over the years is the labor pool. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with some talented engineers who I keep in touch with to this day. While these individuals have a wealth of knowledge, many of them are reaching retirement age, which will leave gaps from a knowledge perspective. This will put a strain on many different aspects of an organization.
    There are many talented engineers coming into the workforce and it will be imperative to make sure that the next generation is prepared to support customer demand. It will be up to organizations to determine the best paths to get these individuals up to speed. I see CSIA as an organization that can help fill the knowledge gap and provide information to the next generation of industry professionals.
    
  • Q
    Talk about a project that was very challenging and what you did to solve the customer’s problem.
    A
    One of the things I take pride is partnering with customers to help find solutions to manufacturing issues. One of our partners was working with a customer on a R&D project in the aerospace industry, and they needed an industrial heat source for testing purposes. Part of the challenge was identifying a tool that they could integrate into their automated system that provided a repeatable test process and record the necessary data points. 
    We were able to identify the products that could be used and the best methods to apply the heat to the process. In the end, the customer was extremely satisfied with the results and has since focused on other areas in their facility that could be automated for efficiency. 
    
  • Q
    Why did Leister Technologies become a member of CSIA?
    A
    One of the things I quickly noticed when I first came to Leister was how many industries utilize heat for manufacturing processes and the conversations that I was having was with companies from the system integration industry. It didn’t matter the size of the project; they were all looking for solutions to their manufacturing problems. While we are not a complete solution provider, our product offerings can be easily integrated into automated environments that require repeatability and reliability for the process. We wanted to be involved with a trade organization that would allow us to share our knowledge with integrators to help them solve application issues for their end users. 
  • Q
    How has Leister Technologies changed in the past year?
    A
    When I first came to the company 3 years ago, I noticed quickly how many different heating applications conversations were taking place. We were having conversations with guys from the automotive, food and beverage, aerospace, and plastics industries taking place daily. One of the common themes with our customers is the need for a reliable and repeatable process, which is where the need for automated systems comes into play. 
    Over the last 24 months, our conversations have started to include more SIs. Even though we may not be a turnkey provider of larger systems, our products can be integrated into many systems designs to help provide solutions for manufacturing applications.
    
  • Q
    Do you specialize in any industry, product, or discipline?
    A
    Packaging applications have benefited from our products, and organizations spend a great deal of time identifying the products and process. From bottling to food packaging, end users rely on our expertise and products for their manufacturing process. While our products are well known throughout the packaging industry, I feel that we are well versed in many applications. You can find our products being used in applications across a variety of business segments such as automotive, aerospace, metals, plastics, and glass manufacturing.
  • Q
    Now, let’s talk about Leister. How did it begin and evolve?
    A
    Leister has a unique story. Life for the company started out back in 1949 as a manufacturer of heating devices and vacuum cleaners. After the first iteration of products got under way, our founder quickly realized that the technology could be adapted to fill a need in the plastic welding market. In 1954, Leister's first tool was developed for welding thermoplastics, which has aided in expanding the business.
    Since that time, the company has increased their product offerings and expanded into the following: roofing/flooring/plastic fabrication tools, equipment for the tarps and technical textile industries, laser plastic welding systems, and my category, the Industrial Heating segment, which includes air heaters and hot air blowers for industrial use. Leister has 130 sales and service centers in over 100 countries. 
    We got our start here in the U.S. around 2000 by establishing the first international office, which is 1 of 8 global locations. Since that time, we have operations at 3 domestic facilities with over 50 employees, and we are still growing. 
    
  • Q
    How do you describe to laypeople what you do?
    A
    I start by using a very simple concept; I sell industrial air heaters for manufacturing purposes. From there, I like to point out everyday products that people use in which hot air has been utilized to produce the product. 
    One good example is bottled beverages, which usually require a label or tamper-proof seal. One of the methods used to apply both items is with hot air to shrink the film material, which requires some technical know-how to apply. 
    Having a background in control system design has allowed me to work on projects spanning across many different industries. I have been able to take the knowledge that I have learned over the past 20 plus years and apply it to the sales and product management aspect of what I am doing today.
    
  • Q
    Why did you choose a career in automation control system integration?
    A
    My story is like many in the industry. I got involved with sales/product management by accident after going on a sales call. At the time, I was an engineer designing control systems for an OEM equipment builder. I happened to be working on an aftermarket project for an aerospace company that required an engineer to complete an onsite evaluation of its equipment. This was one of the first trips that I was going to do alone, and I was extremely nervous. I had many conversations with the aftermarket manager about different scenarios that I might encounter, and he instilled in me the confidence that I needed to complete the task. 
    Working through the onsite evaluation, I noticed that my reservations were slowly going away, and the salesmanship that I never knew I had kicked in. When I got back to the office, I had a message from the aftermarket manager that I got a rave review from the customers and ultimately, they requested more equipment; suddenly I had a new position in sales. Now here I am today sharing my experiences with CSIA.