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James Worth

Every time physicists in Upton, NY, and Dallas attempt to recreate the Big Bang, Oxford Superconducting Technology will play a role.Under the guiding hand of president James Worth, the Carteret, NJ-based company recently signed a $6.5 million contract to sell superconducting cable to the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. Some 1.8 million feet of cable …

Every time physicists in Upton, NY, and Dallas attempt to recreate the Big Bang, Oxford Superconducting Technology will play a role.

Under the guiding hand of president James Worth, the Carteret, NJ-based company recently signed a $6.5 million contract to sell superconducting cable to the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. Some 1.8 million feet of cable will be used in a $400 million particle accelerator that is scheduled for completion in 1997. The facility will allow scientists to observe phenomena that may have occurred after the explosion they believe produced the universe 15 billion years ago.

To boot, OST won a $3.3 million research and development contract to compete for business for an $8.3 billion particle accelerator in Dallas called the Superconducting Super Collider.

Faced with stiff competition from such giant Japanese companies as Hitachi, Sumitomo, and Mitsubishi-and at least a dozen other international and American firms-OST’s sales grew from less than $1 million a year in the late 1960s to about $40 million in the mid-1980s.

The American company has gained an edge because it delivers a high-quality product “quickly, with a lot of attention to detail,” Worth says. Focusing on the Japanese, he adds: “Their companies have very little pressure on profits, think in the long term, and can afford to lose money for years.”

Specializing in applied superconductivity, OST has been developing and manufacturing superconductor wire for the U.S. government-with primary application in fusion and high energy physics-since 1965. “But what put superconductivity on the map,” Worth says, “was the development of the magnetic resonance imaging market in the late 70s and early 80s.”

In 1988, however, that market stagnated, squeezing out many smaller manufacturers. OST then exited the MRI business and concentrated solely on superconductors. Since 1988, sales of the core business have doubled, while the workforce has expanded just 15 percent.

Worth, 50, was recruited to OST from Perkin-Elmer in 1984. At the new company, “quality was bad, and customer relations were awful,” he recalls. Moving quickly, Worth refined Oxford‘s manufacturing process.

Though generally acknowledged to be an industry leader, Oxford-with just 125 employees-is relatively small. That means more direct feedback from the rank-and-file on all executive decisions, says Worth, who posts OST’s monthly results in the employee cafeteria. It also means a more intimate, collegial spirit.

“In that regard, it’s not ‘we’ and `them,’ ” Worth says. “It’s us.”

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