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P&Q Profile: Buffalo Wire Works’ Max Davis

By |  December 13, 2019
Headshot: Max Davis, Buffalo Wire Works

Davis

Getting his start in the aggregate equipment industry in 2009, Max Davis has seen the highs and lows of the market. As the industry continues its upward trajectory into a new year – and decade – Davis plays a key role in expanding Buffalo Wire Works’ business and is enthusiastic about the years ahead for both his company and the industry as a whole.

How did you get your start in the screening equipment industry?

It began in late 2008 and 2009. If we recall, it was a pretty tough time for the economy and we were going through a tough recession. I was just coming out of college (at St. Lawrence University), where I was an economics/math major with more of a focus on the finance side of things, trying to find a job in finance or banking. Obviously during that time period, it was almost impossible to find a good job, especially in finance.

I came back to Buffalo after college and was surprised to see a local manufacturing company was hiring more or less a sales position. I joined Buffalo Wire back in 2009 as a business development associate and eventually became a salesman for one of our outside sales territories after going through a training process.

I thought to myself: It’s a tough time, especially for us individuals coming straight out of college to find a good job, and Buffalo Wire was hiring for a sales position. So I figured the strength of the company must be pretty good and the potential growth must be there, but also the industry. If they’re hiring in a recession, especially for a sales position, I knew it was something I should look into. The more I learned and the more I understood the industry, the more I grew fond of it and wanted to do more in it.

I did leave the industry for a portion of time and rejoined Buffalo Wire back in early 2015. I left right around 2010 and joined HSBC Bank. I interviewed for a position called their management trainee program. It was a two-year program where they trained us in all departments, assigning us a variety of projects and taught us many different banking aspects. They traveled us around different cities for a couple months to do different projects within different teams.

During those two years, I spent time in Buffalo, Chicago and New York City. After the program, I got placed in a commercial banking role in New York City. So I spent a couple years in New York City doing commercial banking. During my last stint with the bank, I was doing business management for the commercial bank department, so I kind of left the customer-facing aspect of the role and helped our executives drive our growth strategies and understand where we might be missing opportunities based on our product offerings. A lot of it was revolved around offering credit. We were still trying to get out of that 2008-2009 slump and stimulate the economy by providing small-to-medium range companies more credit opportunities to grow, hire and spend. It was a very interesting time.

It got to a point where I just was not in love with New York City anymore and wanted to get myself back to Buffalo. Originally, I was going to transfer within HSBC back to Buffalo, but I re-approached Buffalo Wire and they had a need to hire me back in – and the rest has been history. It’s been a great change of pace for myself. I love getting back into the industry, and I got to really utilize a lot of my skills. I learned within the HSBC management program and working in commercial banking to help drive some different growth opportunities here at Buffalo Wire.

What are your responsibilities as vice president of business management?

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Wire Works

Photo courtesy of Buffalo Wire Works

I wear a few different hats under this title. Right now, all of HR (human resources) reports up to me, so I help manage our headcounts and full-time employees budgets. I also help manage any larger HR topics, whether it’s an issue, a concern, a policy or an update to a New York state labor law we have to do. So I help manage it with our HR director and HR manager. I also help negotiate our benefits here on a yearly basis for our employees, and I usually play a pretty key role in the hiring aspect and sit on one of the panels when we do interviews to help the team hopefully choose the best candidate.

I also sit on our executive team. We typically meet weekly. We always like to stay on the same page because a lot of our executives are out traveling. I usually help start the agenda and drive our strategic discussions forward, whether it be our year-to-date budgets, planning for the next year, any sales promos or sales growth opportunities that we need to discuss and company investments. I usually help manage and prioritize our company priorities, which typically revolve around projects for our engineers, our spending priorities and our machine priorities.

The majority of my day-to-day time is doing project management for Buffalo Wire. I have a small team of engineers that report to me, and they handle our sales requests. When a customer calls in and needs assistance in training, a new part number, or helping a customer with an issue with us providing a solution, our sales team will enter a sales request for us to look at.

A lot of times a customer will call us and they’ll be down with a screening media issue or say ‘I’m not getting the throughput I really wanted or was looking for, can you send somebody out to take a look at this and see what other opportunities or solutions are out there that we’re not looking at?’ Sometimes those come back to us and we have a great opportunity with this customer, but we need to develop something maybe unique or special for that customer. So at that point, I’ll create an ROI with my engineering team and decide if this project makes sense for not only Buffalo Wire, but also the customer.

If it gets approved through that ROI step, we’ll create a project and I help drive the project forward to make sure we’re staying within the budget, the proper resources are assigned to that project, and that we’re working within a timeline that’s satisfying our customer needs. It’s one of the more interesting parts of the job and I really enjoy that part of it because we get to see so many different issues out there and we love providing solutions.

Our owner, Joe [Abramo], always says to our customers ‘provide us your largest headache, because we’re here to help you solve those.’ It’s such a rewarding feeling when we close that project out and satisfy the customer and see the ROI come full circle on a project. I do travel occasionally, usually to the larger trade shows on a yearly basis, and some of the larger accounts or relationships we’re trying to build when we need some extra support.

What has your experience been like working with dealers and end users?

We do have kind of a mixed model. We do typically deal a lot with our end users. We also deal with the dealers.

Typically, if a dealer calls us and they’re trying to express an issue a customer is having and they’re looking to us for a solution, we prefer to get the dealer on the line with the end user. We like to talk to the end user regardless to fully understand the application and what the issues are and how we can, in the fastest time, get them a solution. So whether it’s the dealer helping set up the conference call and keeping us in the loop, we do like to speak with the end user.

We really do pride ourselves on the high-quality screens that we provide, whether it be within our materials or our processes. We know it the best, because we’re making it day in and day out, so we really like to get the end user to fully understand what they’re seeing and really be able to portray what we’re trying to solve with them regarding our products.

Sometimes, dealers who are working with a vast product range might not be as knowledgeable as us, so we like to keep the dealer fully informed with us so they can learn and hopefully take something out of it and go to the next customer. But for us, we like to work with the end user as much as possible.

Do you notice any trends related to aggregate screening equipment at the moment?

There are a few common themes. The big ones are reducing downtime ¬– obviously no operation wants to be down for whatever it is in their process. Also, limiting the maintenance on their machines, [including] possibly trying to have a plan to have scheduled changeouts of screening media or different equipment.

At the end of the day, it’s about maximizing the amount of tonnage you’re getting per hour or per week, so that might be maximizing the open area on that screening deck to get the most throughput possible. Those are the biggest things that we see, and they’re always reoccurring, and manufacturers and end users are always trying to tweak the process or equipment to hit one of those main themes.

We’ve seen an uptick in high-frequency screening machines and dewatering screening machines. We see a lot of customers going to liners. They want to line the machine with either urethane, rubber or ceramics, whether it be magnetic, bolt-in or welded on, to protect the machine and their capital investment, but also limit the amount of time they have to do maintenance on the machine. At the end of the day, they want to maximize as much tonnage as they can get produced in an hour.

Where we come into play is we’re trying to push the envelope with our screening media and our technology within our screening media to maximize the open area and really try to maximize the longevity of our screens so they can either fit within the end users scheduled changeouts, or they’re getting as much throughput as possible without changeouts.

Sometimes, they need to understand with the higher quality screening media, we might have to help them see the ROI on it – we’re going to reduce changeouts, you’re going to get more open area, you’re going to get a longer life screen and more throughput. Sometimes we need to have those discussions instead of maybe just going with a traditional wire cloth that’s cheaper, but they might not be getting the same throughput or the longevity of the screen. So we like to come in and show what we can do.

What is new at Buffalo Wire Works these days and what does the future hold for the company?

[2019] was such a cool milestone for the company in general, being around for 150 years and being one of the oldest manufacturing companies still alive and thriving in Buffalo. We absolutely are still playing off this going into 2020, [and] still celebrating our 150th anniversary of being in business. We want to do some fun stuff at ConExpo-Con/Agg to celebrate the company some more. We did a little bit at the [2019] AGG1 show, but we want to continue on this milestone the company has achieved here.

Regarding some of our products, we’re constantly trying to push the envelope on our screening media, whether it’s our PFX, our self-cleaning product line, introducing new specs within our HT profile wire or our dewatering screening. With our dewatering screening ability and our urethane product line, we’re constantly developing ways to make sure our panels can withstand that high-frequency dewatering application, and we spend a lot of time on our magnetic liners.

We just introduced our rubber magnetic liner product line, and now we’re getting into the ceramics, so it’s going to be ceramics and our magnetic product lines together. We’re just launching some of those product lines into the field, so we think we have the most powerful liner on the market with some interesting technology on how we place our magnets and also how we cover the magnets so they don’t rust and degrade over a short period of time.

We have a product line that’s in our R&D stages that we are hoping to showcase at ConExpo. We’re very excited for this product line. I can’t tell you what it is at this point, but we’re hoping to have people coming to our booth to see what we’re developing. I think our customers will really enjoy this new product line that are under the design and operation stages.

In general, Buffalo Wire sees a lot of exciting opportunity in the mining sector, utilizing our urethane rubber and PFX product lines, so it’s something we’ll definitely be pushing for the next year and years to come.

Over the past three years, we’ve been on this campaign to promote we’re more than a wire company. Obviously our name is Buffalo Wire Works, and we’ve had thoughts about possibly changing the name, but being around for 150 years, that discussion is difficult because our name, our brand and our reputation in the industry is well-known for high-quality products.

We really want to hammer home we’re so much more than a wire company now, whether it’s mining or quarry supplies with crushers, our idlers, conveyor components or our urethane or rubber products and all our accessories and liners to go with the screening media. It’s been something we see Buffalo Wire absolutely growing and expanding more into, but also we want the industry to think of us as not just a wire company anymore – we’re so much more than that. We’re going to continue that campaign definitely for 2020 and probably into 2021, as well.

What are your expectations for the aggregate and screening equipment industries in 2020?

There are a few different ways you could look at it. I’m very intrigued to see what our election year will bring to our economy overall for the future of our industry. A lot could change if the new administration gets into the office, or if the current administration stays in office, are we going to see more of the same?

When our current administration did come into office, there was a lot of talk about a $1 trillion infrastructure bill going into place, which obviously impacts our industry greatly. We were pretty excited to hear that, but we haven’t quite seen that come full circle yet. If the current administration stays in, hopefully that pushes through, but if not, we’ll have to see what the new administration might have in place.

Overall, I think we’ll be staying on the trend of 2019. I don’t think we’ll be seeing as much growth as 2018. I think, generally, we’ll see that steady growth from producers and hopefully our economy and global economy stay steady as well. We saw some possible fears a couple months ago that a global recession was possibly coming, but I think those fears have decreased over the last couple of months. Whoever gets elected will really shed light on what the next four years will look like.


Five Things

BEST ADVICE RECEIVED – Problems don’t age well
FIRST JOB – Dishwasher/food prep at a restaurant
SPORTS – Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres
HOBBIES – Golfing, skiing, fishing
TRAVEL – Florence, Italy, or my family’s fishing camp in northern Quebec


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