Thermal Corporation got its start in 1969 as a catalog-house and distributor of thermal supplies (insulation, heat exchangers, heaters, coolers, various temperature and heat measuring devices, and related industrial heating products).
The market being targeted was defined as “engineers and scientists in university and industrial laboratories”. From the beginning, the basic philosophy was to provide the kind of service to customers that the founder, Bob Stottle, had wished was available when he was an engineer, working in the industry.After the first catalog was prepared and sent to ad-respondents, orders began trickling in. A number of the orders received were for cartridge and band heaters. Those industrial heating products were listed in the catalog without realizing that they had application in a special market – the plastics industry. At about the time that Bob was feeling that he would have to find part-time work to supplement his income while the sales of Thermal Corporation were slowly building, a supplier of cartridge and band heaters sent one of their sales representatives to help enhance the sale of their industrial heating products to Thermal. That representative showed how the products were used on plastic molding and extruding machines and introduced Bob to the industrial heater business. Business grew rapidly from that time on, and Thermal Corporation leaned ever-more in the direction of the industrial heater business and away from ” all kinds of thermal supplies”. Within six years, Thermal became the largest distributor of band and cartridge heaters for the largest manufacturer of those products in the U.S.
Customers that use band and cartridge heaters also use temperature sensors (thermocouple and RTD probes). In 1977, the decision was made to add thermocouple probes to the Thermal line; however, a reliable producer of quality probes was not found to provide the probes to Thermal. So, the decision was made to produce the items in house. That marked the beginning of manufacturing at Thermal Corporation.
Two years later, in 1979, the production of band and strip heaters started at Thermal. This began because Thermal’s major supplier of band and cartridge heaters was the victim of an extensive labor strike and, a reliable supplier of quality industrial heating products was not found to replace them. It was planned at the same time to begin manufacturing cartridge heaters but, because of the extensive research and capital equipment required, it was 1983 before production of cartridge heaters actually began.
In 1991, ceramic knuckle bands became the fourth product line designed and produced at Thermal. This complimented our line of mica heaters and allowed us to respond to customer needs for quick delivery with Thermal manufactured products.
Thermal considered its market as being all injection molders and extruders of plastic materials. The firm was serving that market by following the practices of its competitors in quoting delivery times of four weeks or more. By 1985, it appeared that there was a market need, not only for quality products, but for fast delivery. Thermal targeted the market niche for good quality, custom-made heaters, temperature sensors and other industrial heating products with shorter delivery times than was available from any competitor. That remains as the primary niche for Thermal Corporation.
From the beginning, Thermal tried to provide only “quality” industrial heating products and services. In retrospect, we realize that for a long time we didn’t know very well how to go about that. In 1985, Bob attended a seminar conducted by Dr. W. Edwards Deming which provided a set of philosophies and tools that led many companies (and even a country) to world-class quality. It was not until 1991, however, that rapid progress toward achieving world-class quality at Thermal was made when a consultant, Anaar, was retained to guide the company in the use of “Total Quality Management” (TQM). Thermal employees were taught how to apply TQM tools and philosophies. In 1993, Thermal received the Alabama U. S. Senate Productivity and Quality Award in the Small Business category. TQM remains an integrated part of Thermal operations.
During 1994, in our quest for a meaningful next step, Bob read two books that impressed him. These books were Reengineering the Corporation, by Hammer and Champy, and Empowered Teams, by Wellins, Byham and Wilson. A core group of individuals which represented the leadership and management of the company then read and discussed the books. Later a study course was developed which was attended by all employees. The theme of our effort was to reengineer the company with empowered teams playing a major role.
In 1995, Thermal received the Alabama U.S. Senate Award of Excellence in Continuous Productivity and Quality Improvement. Thermal remains afocused on constant improvement in all of its processes through the use of TQM and JIT tools, continuously shortening delivery times through improvement of scheduling and manufacturing processes, and improving the understanding of all parts of the business by all employees.
Today we continue our efforts of constant improvements to remain the best at what we do – quality products, competitively priced, with the fastest delivery in the industry.
We call it VALUE.