Lessons on the Tenth Anniversary of Our Acquisition of White Systems

I can’t believe it has been ten years already!

Back in October of 2008, our company Sencorp, which included the Sencorp thermoforming product lines, as well as the CeraTek and CeraPak sealing product lines, had a total of 67 employees located in Hyannis, Massachusetts. That November, Sencorp began the integration of White Systems, relocating the company from Kenilworth, New Jersey.

In less than 90 days, the Sencorp facility in Hyannis was reconfigured to accommodate White Systems manufacturing. Fifty-seven truck-loads of machines and materials were shipped from New Jersey and then, unloaded, installed, and serviced. At the same time, 45 employees were hired and trained to manufacture and assemble White carousels. Within six months, full production resumed and White Systems, a brand that had been recognized for over 70 years as the preeminent designer, manufacturer, and service provider for horizontal and vertical carousels, reemerged as a leader in the automated storage and retrieval market.

While the integration of the two companies went smoothly overall, we did have to overcome a few challenges. Here are the four most important lessons we learned along the way:

  1. Appreciate the value of a trusted brand name. Shortly after the integration of White into Sencorp, the combined entity was renamed SencorpWhite—our way of paying homage to the legacy of each company. While the new name made sense to us, the market thought otherwise. Both Sencorp and White each had over 70 years of brand equity as recognized leaders in their respective markets, and the new name confused many customers. “What did a ‘Sencorp’ have to do with White?” and “What did ‘White’ have to do with Sencorp?” We listened, and after recognizing the true value of the original brand names, White is now as it was, in name and logo. What’s old is new again!
  2. You don’t have to manufacture everything. In the late 1990s, White entered the vertical lift module (VLM) market in the United States representing a European manufacturer under the PowerColumn brand. Believing that we needed to manufacture all of our products, utilizing Sencorp engineering, we quickly embarked designing our own VLM, the PowerColumn Three (PC3). While the PC3 is successful for unique applications, it is not a product for the general VLM market. To round out White’s product range, we partnered with an Italian VLM manufacturer, ICAM, to supply automated lift modules for the North American market. Our experience taught us that you don’t always have to manufacture everything yourself in order to be successful.
  3. Offer customers a complete solution. My thinking around the concept of “software for machinery” was the product of years of experience in industry, so when we acquired White, I expected its software to be the same as Sencorp’s, i.e., applications to run the machines. How wrong I was! White carousels need to work together in warehouses filled with disparate machines and technologies, creating a total warehouse solution. As such, we recognized that being a provider of inventory management solutions requires more than just stand-alone hardware. System providers in the warehouse automation market must have integrated solutions that include hardware, software, and service. Recognizing our inexperience in warehouse inventory management software, we have also acquired Intek Integration Technologies and Minerva Associates, leading software companies in warehouse management systems (WMS) and warehouse control systems (WCS).
  4. Be open to new, even unexpected, markets. Today, with White’s complete portfolio of hardware, software, and service, we are positioned as a leading provider of integrated storage and retrieval systems for the hospital pharmacy and emerging click-and-collect grocery markets. In addition, White custom configures hardware and software solutions for diverse markets like aerospace and automotive manufacturing and maintenance, e-commerce distribution, defense, and medical marijuana, to name a few.

Looking back, it’s incredible to see how White has expanded in size and scope over the past ten years. Now with over 240 employees, two manufacturing facilities on both coasts, European partners, three engineering and software development offices, and 23 field-ready service sites located throughout the United States, White is better positioned than ever before to be a leading provider of automated storage and retrieval solutions.