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EMA Is Celebrating 30 Years In Business Thanks To You

Thanks to you, EMA is celebrating 30 years in business! The only reason we exist is you, our customers, and we never allow ourselves to forget that. We don’t take our longevity or success for granted and appreciate that past successes do not guarantee future results. That is why we continue to work hard every day to fulfill our motto that “No One, Anywhere is Better at Drives than We are.”

When thinking about the fact that we’ve been in business 30 years, it causes me to take a moment and reflect on how far we’ve come. Back in 1988, I moved to the Atlanta area from Texas with the sole purpose of founding a drive service company. Our original business strategy was to become the Southeastern service center for a number of drive manufacturers. The plan was to do an excellent job and build meaningful relationships with the end users with which I’d be working. The strategy worked well, and enabled EMA to grow.

Some of our EMA family at our 20-year celebration

In the beginning, as a small under-capitalized company there were several challenges. One challenge in particular was simply to find qualified employees with which to grow. We struggled with this and other trials that are part and parcel of starting a small business, but we were determined to become a long-term success. To sustain success, you need to grow. Growth can be a problem, albeit a better one than the alternative. Since the service business is essentially selling hours, we often worked long hours for days on end to satisfy the growing number of customers, while fiercely determined to maintain an excellent reputation.

However, working hard does not guarantee long-term success. Knowing this, we had to evolve our systems and methods to accommodate handling larger numbers of customers, while maintaining the personal relationships that allowed us to thrive. That wasn’t easy, and we traveled down several blind alleys as we attempted to find our footing. Thankfully, in the end, we were able to overcome our challenges and learn from our mistakes. The loyalty of our customers is what saw us through the ups and downs and got us to where we are today.

A typical EMA workbench in the 1990s when component-level repair was a large part of our business; because of changing markets, this is no longer the case

A few years in, our customer base changed from primarily end users, to industrial resellers. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious strategy, it’s just where a larger volume of our business began coming from. This allowed rapid growth because these resellers were calling on large numbers of end users, far beyond what we could do. Along with the shift from end users to resellers, our service delivery model changed from field service to mostly shop work. We repaired industrial circuit boards, complete drives, and a number of other industrial electronic components. We still did field service but didn’t consider it a growth area.

Not long afterward, the digital revolution began to affect our shop repair business. We saw changes in the industry as electronic boards and small drives became less expensive. This made it difficult for customers to justify spending their budget on repairs, as they could easily buy new parts and replace the old ones. In answer to this, we purposely re-organized our sales efforts back to end users, with a stronger concentration on field service and systems. This ultimately proved to be a very good move, albeit a scary one at the time.

Ever since our founding, EMA has been deeply involved with drives used in the commercial HVAC business. At one time, HVAC field service was our primary source of income. We still to this day do HVAC service, but again, as the price of the drives began to drop, justifying the use of a professional service outfit like ours became more difficult.

Low voltage motor drives, in both HVAC and Industrial applications continued to become simpler and more reliable, which helped to drive down their costs. It became clear to us that they were becoming commodities. In response, we began concentrating on medium voltage drives and high horsepower low voltage units.

David Brigden of EMA NY circa 2002. David started as a teenager at the shipping desk and is now our National Sales Manager.

We quickly discovered that the learning curve was steep. Not only are medium voltage drives inherently more dangerous, there’s considerably fewer of them than what had become the almost ubiquitous low voltage, low horsepower drives. We invested a considerable amount of money into training, test equipment, and parts. Our hiring practices became more stringent, since we were now concentrating on very expensive and often critical equipment.

We began buying medium voltage drives from cancelled projects, and used drives from other sources. We invested heavily in parts stock and began to sell completely refurbished drives backed by our own warranty.

That has proven very successful, and in fact, we probably have the largest stocks of refurbished medium voltage VFDs in the world. We are among the very few third parties worldwide offering field service, commissioning, and repairs on medium voltage drives. We do this from both our Norcross, Georgia location and Cortland, New York facilities.

On any given day, EMA technicians can be found all over the United States, and often in foreign countries servicing medium voltage VFDs. We repair power cells and other medium voltage VFD components from all over the world.

Our first medium voltage drive was purchased for a load stand for our learning and testing. We now have several MV load stands. Click the link on the top of the page to take a tour

So, what does the next 30 years look like for EMA? No one can say with certainty, but the medium voltage drives business will continue to expand for the foreseeable future. The Industrial  Internet of Things (IIOT) is likely to be a factor. In partnership with another company, EMA was instrumental in developing medium voltage VFD monitoring and predictive maintenance equipment that can communicate faults, status, and anticipated failures. This equipment can communicate via a variety of methods, even from remote locations, allowing sophisticated real time and historical data analysis. This will reduce downtime, allow targeted predictive maintenance, and save money. If VFD technology follows that of the computer industry, and we anticipate that it will, there may come a time when the software is worth more than the actual drive. We already see this in smaller process drives, and the gap will likely close with larger VFDs. We foresee considerable growth there as the IIOT expands and we intend to grow with this trend.

Abdou Barrow circa 1993. Abdou began at EMA as a college student working shipping and is now EMA’s general manager.

Medium Voltage VFDs are esoteric enough that most facilities will not employ full time expertise to service and maintain them. They will continue to outsource and that bodes well for EMA. Our history has been to do well during economic downturns because industrial facilities tend to use outsourcing more.

Regardless, the number one strategy we have going forward is to provide excellent service, regardless of what technological changes take place. That is the secret to our past success and will continue for the future. We truly believe that No One, Anywhere, is Better at Drives than We are.

Thank you for helping us become a success during our first 30 years! We are looking forward to continued success during the next 30 as well!

Eddie Mayfield, President of EMA Inc.


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