How Smart Manufacturing Changes Everything

Valin is a $200 million provider of automation, filtration products, and measurement systems that are used to help other companies make things more efficiently. Joe Nettemeyer, the second CEO in the company’s history previously worked at Emerson for 21 years under Chuck Knight, a tough-minded boss but one who elevated the St. Louis based company into a world class manufacturer. Since coming to Valin 12 years ago, Nettemeyer relates how smart manufacturing has forever changed everything about the manufacturing world he knew at Emerson, but also how it has transformed mid-size companies like Valin.

Initially Valin like many firms its size, were providers of component parts –essentially dumb parts—that were used in various manufacturing processes. Today, all dumb parts eventually become commoditized. The expansion of their product portfolio with the introduction of sensors and devices with network capabilities allowed Valin to enter the world where smart devices are integrated into larger centralized control systems that maximize product yield and increase productivity.

For example, Valin provides and services a robot to Shutterfly that stuffs envelopes with pictures. To do this manually Shutterfly had to pay people $10 an hour. All-in, the robot does the job for $4.50 an hour and does so for three shifts a day with no coffee breaks. Valin’s automated custody transfer measurement system is also used in the oil and gas fields to allow for remote collection of data on the amount of oil and gas being transferred from the well-site to a pipeline or tank. Remote monitoring reduces the number of field site visits and lowers support costs. Similar sensors are used to monitor wind turbines, which because of their remote locations used to require people to be sent out to monitor them at great costs. Today, process control technology allows owners to know when a system is likely to falter in advance of a breakdown, making repair visits to be both timely and cost-effective.

REC is a northwest U.S. company that manufactures poly-silicon which is used in the production of solar cells. The problem is that poly-silicon is a chemically highly aggressive material that attacks metals and equipment forcing periodic shut-downs of equipment for repair virtually every month. Upgrades in automated process heating systems with integrated controls provided by Valin reduced shut downs just once a year and increased yields to REC by 30 percent.

Chief Executive magazine (published since 1977) is the definitive source that CEOs turn to for insight and ideas that help increase their effectiveness and grow their business. Chief Executive Group also produces e-newsletters and online content at and manages Chief Executive Network and other executive peer groups, as well as conferences and roundtables that enable top corporate officers to discuss key subjects and share their experiences within a community of peers. Chief Executive facilitates the annual “CEO of the Year,” a prestigious honor bestowed upon an outstanding corporate leader, nominated and selected by a group of peers, and is known throughout the U.S. and elsewhere for its annual ranking of Best & Worst States for Business. Visit for more information.