I had the chance yesterday to sit down with Mike Tuohey, Piab’s Sales and Marketing Communication Manager, in his office in Hingham, Mass. Tuohey’s name is one of the most familiar to me in all of fluid power—he’s been in the industry for 33 years now and has seen a lot of history. But the change for Piab over the past year, while somewhat behind the scenes, portends some interesting things for the vacuum specialist.
Slightly more than a year ago, Piab’s ownership group acquired Kenos, an Italian company that manufactures vacuum gripping systems. The Kenos product uses different shaped and formed technical foam bases to meet the demand of various applications. The foam (available in three patterns) can be easily replaced in minutes, for when multiple jobs are involved for one gripping system. Kenos also makes sack grippers, which can pick up and move bags up to 110 lb.
A few months later, Vaculex became the company’s next target. This Swedish manufacturer of industrial vacuum tube lifters are used for lifting and moving a multitude of products, including windows, sheet metal, computers, crates, barrels, and even sacks. The lifters are useful in reducing worker injuries and are simple to install and service. That deal closed at the tail end of 2016.
Fast forward to earlier this month, and Piab’s at it again—this time buying one of its longtime customers, SAS Automation of Xenia, Ohio. SAS designs, builds and services end-of-arm tooling for robots—and positions itself as an expert in end-effector grippers, working in the plastics, palletizing, food processing and metal press industries.
This looks to be a smart play by Piab, giving it much more breath across the whole end effector market, especially when it comes to the burgeoning robotics field, which has seen tremendous growth. Tuohey said the company plans to have four distinct divisions in the near future, capitalizing on these new products.
“We want to be the one company people can go to, to handle anything,” he said. “Maybe you don’t want to use vacuum—then we have robotic grippers.”
What’s more, it doesn’t sound like the company is done with the acquisition game. It will be interesting to watch and see how this bold strategy plays out for the longtime fluid power brand.