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A&M building reputation for disaster response, problem solving

Equipment supplier carves out niche by connecting clients with solutions

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Above, Arnold Young, left, and David Young have grown A&M Industrial's reputation by being part of a community that 'keeps the lights burning' in the wake of disasters like Sept. 11 and Hurricane Sandy. At right, pallets of valves and fittings in the A&M Industrial warehouse waiting to be shipped to customers.
Above, Arnold Young, left, and David Young have grown A&M Industrial's reputation by being part of a community that 'keeps the lights burning' in the wake of disasters like Sept. 11 and Hurricane Sandy. At right, pallets of valves and fittings in the A&M Industrial warehouse waiting to be shipped to customers. - (AARON HOUSTON)

Equipment supplier A&M Industrial is fueling its growth by earning a reputation for disaster-response expertise, doubling its sales force and helping clients figure out which tools they need — then helping manufacturers design and build them.

The nearly 60-year-old Rahway company employs about 120 and has annual revenue of $35 million, which the company estimates will grow 6 percent to 8 percent this year. Clients are nationwide, but primarily are in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

A&M supplies everything from valves and hoses to hard hats and machine tools, and it has built a reputation for disaster-response expertise by continuing to deliver during crises like Sandy.

President Arnold Young said his company is part of an industrial community that "keeps the lights burning" — a mission that was put to the test when Sandy hit Oct. 29.

His son, David Young, executive vice president, said New Jersey Natural Gas found "Sandy had destroyed a lot of the gas lines coming to people's homes, and they had to get out to some of the toughest terrain — on the barrier islands — and shut down the gas lines. We provided a lot of the emergency valves and equipment they needed to do it."

The company has earned praise for its Sandy response in letters from NJNG Chairman Laurence Downes and Consolidated Edison Chairman Kevin Burke.

Professor Arash Azadegan, who teaches supply chain management at Rutgers Business School, said the trend over the past 30 years has been for industrial companies to outsource their supply chains to companies like A&M. "To prepare for a supply chain disruption (like Sandy), there are ways to beef up and be prepared, and we call that building resilience" into the organization. The challenge for industrial companies is to seek suppliers with the resilience to weather disasters and to "make sure you have a supplier who is prepared to come in and help you when things go haywire."

A&M executives are taking other steps to grow the company. Last year, it added a dozen technically trained salespeople, bringing its total sales force to 25. "We keep adding feet on the street. That is the single most important way to reach the industrial client and find out how we can help them," said Arnold Young, who founded the company in 1954.

But the long-term growth strategy at A&M involves deploying its technical expertise to devise solutions for customers, and expanding beyond its core business of supply chain management, which is the warehousing and delivery of critical industrial equipment.

David Young said while New Jersey has seen huge factories shut down through the years, the state remains densely populated by industry, and A&M supplies hundreds of New Jersey factories.

"We work very closely with manufacturers to identify way to improve the (machine) tool life and make the manufacturer's operation more efficient," he said.

A&M's 20-year relationship with New York City's ConEd is a prime example, as the company supports the utility's gas and steam distribution system underneath the streets of New York. To deal with the harsh underground environment of high temperatures and pressures, plus road salt corrosion, "we have designed two dozen specialized products that are made exclusively for us for New York City," said Kevin Rosenthal, A&M executive director of business development. "We have strong ties with ConEd's research and engineering people. We're out in the streets with them; we're in the tunnels and the manholes."

A&M employees also assisted ConEd during another disaster — the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 — by working at a ConEd mobile command center in lower Manhattan.

"We supported 1,900 people around the clock to restore essential services: electricity, gas and steam," Rosenthal said. "We helped ConEd pull 33 miles of high voltage cable through the streets of lower Manhattan to get the New York Stock Exchange open."

David Young said the company's 911 response "was an incredible effort by our staff, and it really helped us to develop a reputation as a go-to company in a crisis—whether man-made or natural."

E-mail to: beth@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @bethfitzgerald8

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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