AirBoss of America Co-Founder, Chair and CEO, Gren Schoch recently sat down with The CEO Magazine to discuss supply chain challenges and what it takes to succeed as a modern-day manufacturer.
In the article, Schoch talks about how AirBoss became one of North America’s leading rubber compound manufacturers.
Schoch attributes AirBoss’s success—which includes a $228 million contract with the US Department of Health and Human Services to produce personal protective equipment (PPE)—to good people and a quality product.
From Humble Beginnings to Government PPE Contractor
AirBoss began rubber compound production after purchasing two state-of-the-art compounding facilities in the early 1990’s. After production ramped up, AirBoss purchased a small company that made protective overboots for the Canadian military. This began AirBoss’s expansion into military and healthcare products.
“Those overboots were the catalyst that led to a whole suite of products designed for chemical and biological warfare protection, including gloves, masks and powered air-purifying respirators,” Schoch shares. “A lot of these products [also] have applications in health care.”
Schoch admits that healthcare is a challenging industry to penetrate. Manufacturing costs often proved prohibitive to entering the highly fragmented, budget-constrained private hospital market in North America.
When COVID-19 put governments and healthcare agencies in a PPE deficit, AirBoss was able to step in.
“With the pandemic, government agencies like FEMA and HHS came in with billions of dollars to buy PPE and then distribute it to the healthcare system,” Schoch says. “So we solved our problem of having to drive the market to thousands of hospitals and, instead, it was more of a military-style procurement model where HHS and FEMA bought hundreds of millions of dollars from us. That got us into the healthcare market in a very large way.”
Recent contracts coupled with AirBoss’s ability to thrive when other businesses struggle have led to numerous growth opportunities. The company saw a 52.9% growth in sales year-over-year from 2019 to 2020 even amid major market changes and supply chain challenges.
Schoch says this is because the right people are in the right positions at AirBoss.
Expertise & Consistency Are Crucial for Success
Schoch understands that no successful company rests solely on the shoulders of one person. Today, success is built on foundational pillars like operational experience, consistency, and quality—all things AirBoss values and promotes. These values start with company leadership.
“He has changed everything and improved everything in the company. He is, by far, the most competent executive that we’ve ever had working for us,” Schoch says of AirBoss President and COO Chris Bitsakakis. “He’s been able to bring in top technical people who have worked for him before, who respect him and understand what he can bring to the table. He has also brought in top-level operational people in all of our businesses, so we have extremely competent business leaders in all of our divisions now.”
Some of these business leaders and top technical people are hard at work in AirBoss’s state-of-the-art research and development lab in Kitchener, Ontario. There, more than fifty chemists and engineers as well as five PhD scientists continue to revitalize how AirBoss works with rubber.
“They’ve done an incredible job in a short amount of me to really bring us to the top level of the industry in terms of technology and development,” Schoch offers.
What sets AirBoss apart from its competitors? “The answer to that is slightly different depending on which division of the company you’re talking about, but I’d say the common themes are that we are customer-focused and we’re the best at what we do,” says Schoch.
Simply put, AirBoss products are the best in the world. When you produce a consistently high-quality product, people notice.
“A lot of the products that we make, particularly in the defense division but also in the rubber business—the proprietary products that we have developed—they are the best in the world, which is why the customers want them,” Schoch explains.
Schoch also understands that quality rubber products start with quality rubber suppliers.
“We only pick suppliers that can deliver the quality, the consistency, and the dependability that we require…We are fair to them and have long-term relationships. Many have been supplying us for 25 years,” says Schoch. “If you’re a good customer to your supplier, you’ll have a good relationship. We can’t exist without our suppliers and they can’t exist without us.”
AirBoss Succeeds Where Others Fail
AirBoss has proven time and time again that manufacturing success is more than a financial game. That’s why the company focuses so much on the people, expertise, and insights that lend themselves to success just as much as revenue and loss statements.
Want to learn more about how AirBoss succeeds where other manufacturers fail? Read the full article “Giving Credit Where Credit’s Due” at The CEO Magazine.
Disclaimer: The views and statements expressed and contained in the article published by The CEO Magazine are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or views of AirBoss. AirBoss is not responsible and does not verify for accuracy any of the information contained in such article.