The LVEDC Interview: Steve Follett of Follett Corporation

By LVEDC Staff on November 12, 2013

Editor’s Note: Follett Corporation has been an industry leader in designing and manufacturing ice storage and transportation systems, ice and beverage dispensers along with medical-grade refrigerators and freezers for the foodservice and healthcare industries for years. The company was awarded LVEDC’s 2013 Expansion Project of the Year for their bold vison to enhance their facilities in Easton. The expansion  means the company is not only able to retain their 300 employees, but will also hire an additional 50 individuals. Follett CEO Steve Follett recently spoke with LVEDC about their production, products and expansion efforts.

LVEDC: In studying your company’s history, it’s evident that innovation has been a hallmark of Follett’s success. How does Follett continue to stay a step ahead of the competition? 

Steve Follett: Follett constantly garners feedback from users of its equipment, studies competitive product offerings, and develops differentiable product and service features that add value for its customers. The company’s cross-functional teams develop quality products that meet customer-defined measures of success and are created in a cost-effective way. The company stays current on market trends that could lead to new product and service opportunities.

LVEDC: Take our readers through how Follett makes an ice storage bin?
SF: An ice storage bin is basically an insulated box to store ice. At Follett, we look at it as much more!

Fundamentally, we fabricate a stainless steel exterior, fabricate and assemble plastic interior liners that are made according to our design standards, and inject polyurethane foam between the liner and the outer shell to create insulation and structure. The interface where users get ice out of the bin has been carefully designed with patented features to help make it easy, fast, safe, and sanitary. We have also incorporated value-added features that deliver ice untouched by “who-knows-where-they’ve-been” shovels and scoops.

LVEDC: What are the some of the selling features with the 7 Series ice and water dispensers?

SF: Some of the biggest selling features of Follett’s 7 Series ice and water dispenser were identified by end users and integrated during our product development process. The most sought after features for the 7 Series were:
•           A sleek profile that would allow the dispenser to fit on top of a countertop and under overhead cabinets that typically provide only 18 inches of clearance.

•           Drainless design to make installation and maintenance easy.

•           Aesthetically pleasing, contemporary look for use in office pantries and break rooms.

LVEDC: What are the unique consideration in designing and manufacturing your products for the healthcare industry that you wouldn’t have in making some of your other commercial products?

SF: Having clean and sanitary ice is a significant concern for both the Foodservice and Healthcare industries. However, sanitation and infection control are especially important for hospitals and other patient service healthcare operations.

Follett designs its products to address these concerns and requirements. One of the ways we ensure that our products meet the more stringent needs of the Healthcare environment is through talking extensively with hospital maintenance staff, infection control staff, and refrigeration engineers. Through this process, Follett delivers products that are designed with state of the art materials, features, and accessories and are very easy to maintain and take minimal time to service and yet uphold the very high level of sanitation and infection control required in the Healthcare environment.

LVEDC: Talk briefly with our readers about the renovations, new equipment and employee training that is happening as a result of the MELF loan?

SF: Follett has grown tenfold since 1987 with virtually no increase in factory space during this timeframe. The addition of 25,000 sq. ft. to the company’s manufacturing environment was imperative to sustain current production and ensure Follett’s future growth. Most of the space will be used for warehousing purchased parts and finished goods which will help support our quick lead times and assembly operations for key product families.

Capital intensive fabrication equipment is also required to support our growth. New production employees are required to support current demand and we are pursuing new and promising market opportunities that will create additional customer demand and require additional production workers and production capital.

With the help of the MELF loan, Follett will be able to not only expand its facility, but also add new manufacturing equipment and tooling, invest in new product development, existing products,

quality control, cost savings projects, and provide training to new manufacturing employees to instill manufacturing best practices such as lean manufacturing techniques.

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