Industrial Solutions for Success

C.H. Reed
Written by Claire Suttles

In 1948, Charles Harold Reed launched C.H. Reed as an automotive parts supplier in Hanover, Pennsylvania. He quickly recognized a market need for industrial equipment ranging from compressors and pneumatic tools to paint spray products and pumps. “So, in the 1950s, he shifted from an automotive supplier to an industrial supplier,” says Marketing Manager Shane Vrankin. “We’ve been tackling the Pennsylvania market ever since then, and it continues to grow.”

With the company’s presence well established in Pennsylvania, the team has turned its attention to expansion throughout the mid-Atlantic. Today, C.H. Reed works with manufacturers and industrial businesses in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, New York state, southern Michigan, and Ohio as well as in Pennsylvania.

The company helps customers in these states identify opportunities for improvement in their compressed air, paint finishing, and fluid handling processes and equipment through advancements in equipment technologies and ongoing preventative maintenance and service. As a result, manufacturing customers can increase their efficiency, safety, reliability, and quality while decreasing environmental impact, energy expenditure, and maintenance costs.

C.H. Reed’s most recent expansion has been into Ohio. “In the last couple years, we’ve been trying to get deeper into the Ohio market,” Vrankin says. The state is home to a great deal of manufacturing, which makes it “one of the hottest markets in terms of air compressors in the country… That was a big driver for us to break into the state and try to capture some of the territory.”

In February 2017, the company acquired an air compressor business outside of Cleveland, which launched it into that market. Then, in September of 2020, it followed by opening a branch in Toledo, Ohio. “The company we acquired outside of Cleveland—it was called BruceAir Company—they had an existing customer database that we were able to form a relationship with as C.H. Reed and take over managing those accounts,” he explains. “So that was a good segue into the Ohio market. Toledo is a little different; we didn’t acquire any companies in Toledo but we went in there, we opened up a branch, and Quincy Compressor gave us their territory. So, we’re the primary Quincy Compressor distributor in the Toledo, Ohio area. That certainly helped us gain some traction there.”

C.H. Reed’s relationship with manufacturer Quincy Compressor goes back decades. “We’ve been in partnership with Quincy since the mid-1960s,” says Vrankin. “We’ve been dealing with them for quite a long time and are currently in the top four of Quincy’s largest U.S. distributors. We call ourselves a strategic partner. We’re not just a distributor for them; it truly is a co-branded, partnership approach.”

Quincy Compressor is C.H. Reed’s primary vendor for both air compressors and vacuum pumps. “They have a very extensive vacuum pump line that we’re leveraging to try to get deeper into the vacuum pump market, because it’s a little different than the compressed air market,” Vrankin notes. “Ohio is a really popular region for industrial vacuum pumps as well, which is another driver for us to have a local presence there.”

Vacuum pumps are a relatively new strategic initiative for C.H. Reed. “Industrial vacuum pumps are in high demand, and we’re striving to learn everything about the various manufacturing applications that require vacuum and dive deeper into that,” he shares. The company is dotting every i and crossing every t to ensure that it offers the best vacuum pump solution.

“We’re working on training up our service technicians,” he says. “We actually just had a handful of service technicians down in Alabama at Quincy to go through an extensive factory training vacuum pump session. Same thing with our sales teams. We’ve been hosting sales training sessions with Quincy Compressor vacuum reps in-house here in Hanover. They make the trip up to Pennsylvania, and we have a [two or three] day training session for our sales team.”

Naturally, C.H. Reed maintains strong relationships with a number of manufacturers. In addition to Quincy Compressor, Chicago Pneumatic is a major compressed air partner, as well as Pneumatech for air treatment equipment. “We have a similar approach with Graco and Carlisle Fluid Technologies,” says Vrankin. “Those are our two primary partners on the finishing side.”

That side of the business includes both paint finishing and fluid handling equipment. Finishing deals with the painting and powder coating of products, while fluid handling covers “the different kinds of industrial pumps that move all kinds of different fluids, whether that be tomato paste for food and beverage manufacturing companies or ink pumps for printing companies. We have been in the paint finishing and fluid handling industry since C.H. Reed first started, so it’s a well-established product group category for us.”

While the company’s expansion into new territory has been successful, it has taken a concerted effort to overcome the expected difficulties. “There are definitely some challenges going into a new market,” Vrankin shares, “one being brand exposure.”

In this realm, C.H. Reed’s long-term relationships are proving invaluable as the team works to spread awareness of the brand. “A lot of manufacturing companies and people in the industry might not know the C.H. Reed name, but they’ll definitely know our vendors’ and our partners’ names, such as Quincy Compressor, Chicago Pneumatic Compressors,” he says. “So, we’re trying to leverage the brand exposure with a co-branded approach to the market. That [lack of name recognition] has definitely been a challenge, but I think the partnership approach and the co-branded approach is definitely a solution to that.”

Finding a foothold among the well-established competition already present in the Ohio market is another challenge. “Ohio is a really hot market for air compressors,” Vrankin points out. “The competition is fierce.”

Despite the challenges, the company is excited to keep forging ahead into new territories and new offerings. “The vacuum pump market is huge, and we’ve only barely touched it, so I think in the coming years, vacuum is going to be a top initiative for C.H. Reed,” says Vrankin.

“Along with that are nitrogen generation and oxygen generation systems,” he tells us. “That’s another product category that falls under compressed air, but it can be one on its own at the same time. So diving into nitrogen and oxygen generation opportunities with our vendor Pneumatech is a big push for us as well.”

The company is eager to provide its customers with a better solution within this product category. “If companies have a need to introduce nitrogen or oxygen gas into their processes, the old school way of doing it is nitrogen in a bottle form or a liquid form from a third-party supplier. It’s shipped in, in bottles. These systems that we’re providing are on-site nitrogen generation systems. It basically creates the gas on demand rather than having to ship the bottles in and deal with all the dangerous transportation efforts that come with that. There’s a big opportunity for nitrogen and oxygen generators as well as vacuum pumps, so I see us continuing our efforts to become a regional market leader in those categories.”

With 76 years of experience and success under its belt, the company is well placed to expand into these markets and more. “C.H. Reed has had record numbers the last couple years,” Vrankin says. And the team is working hard to keep those numbers looking up for many more years to come.

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