An automation technology vendor looking for a base to expand its process automation business couldn’t do much better than Houston. That was the thinking behind the location of a new 15,000 square foot Customer Technology Center (CTC) opened recently in Houston by Phoenix Contact, a supplier of connection, control, communication and power products.
The Blomberg, Germany-based company, with U.S. headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa., has identified process automation as one of six key target industries, said Frank Stührenberg, senior vice president of global sales, during a May 1 press conference marking the CTC opening. With the new Houston facility, “here we are in the center of the process industry,” not only for the United States, but globally, Stührenberg observed. The company has learned through participation in several oil and gas projects in locations ranging from Qatar to China to the oil sands of Canada that “in one way or another, all are linked to this [Houston] area,” he noted.
Phoenix Contact GmBH & Co. KG, a privately owned company, grew by about 17 percent last year, when revenues totaled some $1.25 billion, said Stührenberg. About 65 percent of the company’s business comes from markets outside Germany, he added.
Citing a strategic philosophy of “being close” to its customers, Stührenberg said that Phoenix Contact has established 42 subsidiaries globally since 1981, including 15 during the last five years. “We want to bring people close to the customer, close to the market, because it’s just through personal communications that we get the feedback that we need to be technologically leading,” he observed.
For the process automation industry, the Houston CTC fits the “closeness” criteria. “Within a 15 mile radius, there are about 120 key users, integrators, A&E (architecture/engineering) firms, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), panel builders and others that are existing customers of Phoenix Contact,” said Scott McLendon, vice president and general manager for Phoenix Contact USA. “And that’s not to mention potential customers,” he added.
Come use it
In addition to office space for staff and regional sales personnel, the Customer Technology Center includes a 50-person training room; a demonstration room with four separate “islands” illustrating Phoenix Contact solutions in power, connection, control and communications products; and an application lab where Phoenix Contact engineers will provide customer support. An additional warehouse area will house products most frequently used by regional customers, while a value-added center for building subassemblies on site is also planned for the future.
“We want our customers to treat this facility like it’s their own,” said McLendon. “It’s here for them, not so much for office space, but for them to come in and do proof of concept, see what’s new, and to really make use of the facility.”