Reflections on the Last 20 years at Walker Filtration Inc.- USA Division
Interview with Richard Taylor, President and General Manager
Posted on July 27th, 2021
Richard Taylor, President and General Manager of Walker Filtration Inc., has worked in the compressed air industry for over 42 years. Richard has been working for the Walker Filtration Group for over 30 years and has been instrumental in the global growth of the company.
What was your role and responsibilities when you started at Walker Filtration?
I joined the company as the General Sales Manager and also as a member of the Senior Management Team in Newcastle, England. I was responsible for global sales and marketing. Early on, the group decided we needed to increase our export sales to continue growing the company and to reduce the potential impact of any one market slowing due to recessionary issues. We started by utilizing the British Overseas Trade Board to help us expand into neighboring European countries. Then we began to search for distributors throughout the rest of the world.
As sales increased, we decided to expand further afield and began the search for a distributor in Australia. As we negotiated, the deal morphed into an acquisition. We acquired a company called Filtermation, and I was responsible for ensuring a smooth transition. For two years after the purchase of Filtermation, I was the Australian office’s acting General Manager and spent most of my time in Australia. I helped focus the company on the compressed air and gas side of the business and after the transition was complete, I returned to the United Kingdom.
How did you end up in the United States running Walker Filtration Inc.?
Walker Filtration had an exclusive distribution outlet in the US, but the contract was coming to an end. This opened an opportunity to try and gain our own customers base with a view to open an office in the United States. Approximately 21 years ago, the market saw some significant change and I was fortunate enough to win a few key accounts in the US. This resulted in sufficient new business to justify Walker Filtration opening an office in the United States.
I was responsible for locating and appointing a General Manager to look after the new territory, but I realized I had my own ambition for being entirely responsible for a division of Walker Filtration. I had been the head of sales and marketing for a while and thought a new perspective in the position would be helpful for the company. It was then that I was appointed Vice President of Walker Filtration Inc. I spent several months traveling back and forth between the US and UK before officially moving in March 2002.
What has been your greatest challenge with starting Walker Filtration Inc.?
When I came to the United States, I had a vision that our differentiation strategy would be to provide exceptional customer service and support. About a year into the plan, I learned the hard way that customers in the United States already receive high standards of customer service, and most of our competitors were doing a great job in that regard. This pushed us to develop an even stronger differentiation strategy to help us stand out in the market. We also had additional struggles because we were a UK-based company starting in the US that already had established competitors.
Ultimately, we decided to position Walker Filtration as a customizable, high-performance filtration line that included top-of-the-line customer service. Meaning, we were going to focus on what we are good at doing, and we were not going to try to be everything for everyone. We would keep our excellent customer service and high-performing filter but also offer a unique product that customers could customize.
How have you seen the team evolve at Walker Filtration Inc.?
We have grown the business from 2 to 30 people. In the process of doing that, we established an excellent senior management, middle management and a well-trained support team. Over the years, we have focused upon attracting high-quality employees. We also put resources into training the right people, and as a result, we have seen a lot of success.
How has the compressed air and gas industry changed in the last 20 years?
There has been a tremendous amount of consolidation over the last 20 years, which has caused the industry’s shape to change. Also, the focus has shifted to the product’s environmental impact and sustainability. It has been essential for us to ensure that our products meet or exceed the industry standards. Anything less is unacceptable.
How have you seen filtration technology change in the last 20 years?
The products now focus on the environment, sustainability and operational performance. We must ensure our products are not only competitive but also energy efficient. Our products are much more efficient than they were 20 years ago. Particularly, our differential pressure rate has improved significantly. In fact, it has dropped by more than 70% in the last 20 years and is among the best in the global filtration industry.
What are you most proud of reflecting on in the last 20 years at Walker Filtration Inc.?
I am really proud of growing the business to the size it is now and becoming a significant player in North America. We are now a “household name” and are well known and well respected in our industry. We have been faithful to our values from the beginning. Also, I am proud of the efforts of every individual on our team. They are genuinely contributing to Walker Filtration Inc.’s success every day.
What is your favorite thing about working for Walker Filtration?
I enjoy working with our customers and the relationships we have. It has been rewarding to be able to provide an excellent product and service to our customers. We always strive to satisfy their needs to the best of our ability.
I also really enjoy working with the Walker team. I enjoy the mentoring position I find myself in today, and I love watching the team grow professionally and individually.
How many customer relationships do you still have since WFI opened?
Since 2001, we have been able to retain nearly all our customers. We have been very fortunate to work with loyal customers that appreciate our products and the service we provide. We have many customers who were with us on day one and are still with us today, and I think that is a testament to the quality product and service we provide.
Where do you see Walker going in the future?
Since the Atlas Copco Group acquired Walker Filtration in 2018 as part of their Medical Gas Division, there are even more opportunities than we had before. Atlas Copco has stayed true to its word by enabling Walker Filtration to continue running and operating independently. However, they have provided us with tremendous support and the resources we needed to grow the business.
Like many other businesses in 2020, we had a tough time. However, in recent months we have seen the orders pick right back up again, and the company is growing from strength to strength. Our research, design and engineering team are working hard on many new and exciting products to be launched now and in the future. I think the next five years will be an exciting time for Walker Filtration.