Volume 3 | Issue 9 | Year 2000

Penn Ventilation in Philadelphia has just turned another corner in its long history of providing top-of-the-line ventilation products and systems. Purchased by Tomkin Industries at the end of last year, Penn has since seen an infusion of capital – in the area of $2 million – which has brought about exciting changes in the way in which the company manufactures and distributes its products.
And with annual sales now at $60 million, Penn, for the first time in many years, is poised to take a bigger chunk of the growing global marketplace. “Trends in the market include more demands on delivery and speed of construction,” says Jud Alexander, vice president of sales and marketing. “Through new equipment, we’ve been able to reduce our lead times from six to seven weeks to three to four weeks.”

A manufacturer of heating and ventilation equipment and metal specialty products, Penn has long been a player in the construction industry. Changes it has set in place since the acquisition by Tomkin, says Alexander, are further driven by new, high-performance goals centered on service to the customer.

Penn’s products include power roof ventilators, in-line duct fans, ceiling fans, food-service ventilators, blowers and cabinet fans, centrifugal in-line roof and wall fans, propeller roof and wall fans, louvers and dampers, and fan accessories. The high-quality products go out to myriad markets, including restaurants, hospitals, schools, warehouses, distribution centers and office buildings.

One Boom Brings Another
Penn’s growth as a major supplier in its field coincided with the building boom that followed the end of World War II. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, as schools, hospitals, churches, shopping centers and industrial buildings sprouted up across the United States, ventilation equipment became more and more sophisticated, and Penn Ventilator came into demand in a majority of projects. As the leader of this then-tiny industry, Penn expanded into centrifugal roof and wall fans, propeller fans, inlet hoods and gravity ventilators.

From its earliest days, Penn Ventilator sought to understand its customers’ needs and translate them into products. Penn was the first company to develop and promote a low-contour centrifugal roof exhauster. The Centrex was the first total-access, in-line centrifugal fan.

Other firsts included the vertical-discharge centrifugal roof exhauster, the superquiet Zephyr centrifugal ceiling fan and factory-built, sound-attenuating roof curbs. Penn also extended its innovations beyond products to customer service. It was the first company in the industry to provide customers with free design tools – from tracing templates, acetate decals and slide guides to computer selection and CAD software. Penn Ventilator today is a leading supplier of air-moving and control equipment.

Penn’s extensive product line includes centrifugal and axial fans for roof, wall or in-line mounting; gravity ventilators; dampers; and louvers. These high-quality products are sold worldwide through a network of manufacturers’ representatives, distributors and business agents. Penn maintains close relationships with customers and remains always responsive to today’s fast-changing business environment.

Penn consistently reviews its product line with two aims: to improve existing product and to add new product. Since general-ventilation products tend to be commodity items, Penn differentiates its products through its ongoing engineering review. This review promotes consistent high quality and ever-improving efficiency and performance. And to ensure catalogued performance, the most popular products are licensed with the Certified Rating Program of the Air Moving and Control Association (AMCA).

The Top Priority
Developing new products, says Alexander, goes hand in hand with Penn’s priority: customer responsiveness. In the 1990s, Penn initiated a formal total-quality program to generate a focus on the customer at every level of the organization. By concentrating on all team members and their relationships with one another, Penn has been able to create an internal environment that fosters continued improvement. The result benefits all customers through better information, better deliveries and better product.

Help for the customer is also the bottom line for implementing new technology. For example, in the 1980s Penn offered the first computerized fan-selection software. Since that initial program, Fansizer, Penn has introduced a variety of state-of-the-art software design tools to simplify product selection, product specification and construction drawings. Internally, Penn is significantly investing in computers and software to streamline order entry and order control. Investment in manufacturing technology includes computerized manufacturing processes to improve efficiency and productivity. And in the engineering area, aerodynamic computer modeling assists designers in both streamlining design and improving product performance.

Penn’s investment also includes complete, readily available cataloguing, training, technical and sales support. In fact, Penn is the leader in computerized job quotation and order entry directly from the representative’s office into Penn’s main computer.

Penn Ventilator considers its people to be its heart and soul. Training programs, good working conditions and encouragement create an environment that nurtures the contribution of ideas and suggestions. Despite the recent change in ownership, Penn remains family-oriented, seeking to preserve the strengths of its heritage within a growing and changing business climate. These strengths include constant attention to the customer, management accessibility to employees, pride in work well done and individualized concern for all members of Penn’s extended internal and external family.

Penn’s past and present success has resulted from taking advantage of the changing demands and opportunities presented by its customers, the construction industry and emerging technology. The future holds the same challenge, says Alexander. The company’s key strategies will continue to focus on people and the commitment to total quality, constant improvement and giving the customers what they want.

By being the best supplier of general-ventilation products, Penn has built a profitable company and a satisfying place to work with strategies for success that hinge upon constantly striving for excellence. Penn’s business goal, adds Alexander, is to continue to be the world’s best supplier of general-ventilation products.