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An Interview With Sean McLanahan, CEO, McLanahan Corporation

Sean McLanahan
FocusOn – Global Insights. Features reports on the Industry’s developing technology as well as interviews with the top executives of manufacturers and end users of equipment for the industries served by FocusOn publications.

In this edition, we interview Sean McLanahan, CEO, McLanahan Corporation.

Sean McLanahan

Sean McLanahan represents McLanahan Corporation’s sixth generation of family ownership and management. He is the company’s CEO and is accountable for developing and implementing strategic visions, managing the overall resources of the company, building and maintaining a great culture, building and leading senior executives, and ensuring the overall financial success of the company.

Sean joined McLanahan Corporation in 1994 after earning a degree in industrial management with a minor in economics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is active in many organizations and associations in the industries served by McLanahan, as well as his community.

McLanahan Corporation

Founded in 1835, McLanahan Corporation has a rich history. For almost 200 years, the company has served their customers with a passion for innovation. From a small, foundry operation in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania to becoming an ISO 9001:2008 global manufacturer of custom engineered process solutions, McLanahan Corporation has remained dedicated to their values and to providing long-term careers for their employees and opportunities for future generations.

The interview

McLanahan Vintage
We asked Sean McLanahan…

There are a number of companies in the industries that you compete in, but few can boost a 183-year history. How is it that McLanahan has endured all these years, through depressions, recessions and two world wars and even the American Civil War?

“Constant evolution. My ancestors purchased majority ownership of an existing foundry operation in 1835 (which we still operate today), but we have constantly evolved as a company. In the late 1800s, Samuel Calvin McLanahan invented and patented the Log Washer and Single Roll Crusher to help crush and wash clay from rock.
McLanahan Vintage
Those two pieces of equipment are still standard in the mining industry today. They also built the first Rotary Coal Breakers and many other equipment firsts. Our legacy has seen us continually diversifying the product offerings, geographic locations and markets served. The endurance is due to the low and slow approach — doing things
conservatively coupled with a passion of never being satisfied.”

In the early years of your life, did you know you would work at McLanahan or did you have a plan to do something when you grew up?

“I was going to be a professional golfer. I was never pressured to join the family business and it was never presumed that I would join, but after college, I started to think about life, long term, and being a golfer just didn’t seem that appealing. I was offered the chance to interview for a new sales position opening at McLanahan and I decided that sounded like a life-long career. I accepted the job and joined the sales team full time in March 1994.”

What (and when) was your first job at McLanahan?

“During high school and college breaks, I worked in the foundry helping to make and clean castings. It taught me a lot about hard work and what it takes to build our equipment. My first full-time job was in the sales department, which taught me about our customers and our products.”

In these many years at the company that bears your name, what have been your personal highlights?

“Being able to work in many different areas of the organization, including the foundry, sales, marketing, finances, acquisitions, legal, HR, insurances and more. I’ve had a wide exposure to business operations, have worked with fantastic people, and I have enjoyed it all.”

What have been (or is) the biggest challenge for you at McLanahan?

McLanahan Employees
“Employee communications. Being spread across the globe, managing time zones can be a real chore. We use video conference heavily, but sometimes that means we have to meet at odd hours. Also, ensuring that each of our global employees know what is going on and why is critically important to our success, so we focus on many forms of communication, including face-to-face meetings, several types of written newsletters, podcasts, an intranet website and more.”

What is the most successful piece of equipment that has been introduced since you became involved in the senior management of the company?

McLanahan Filter Press
“The Filter Press. Since we had sold cyclones, dewatering screens, thickeners and more, adding the Filter Press seemed like a natural progression in the tailings management area. The mining industries are moving away from ponds to mechanical separation of the effluent after the thickener is gaining popularity. We developed our first 2mx2m Filter Press in 2012 and have sold countless of them to various industries from coal to aggregate.”

Since McLanahan Corporation purchased the assets of Eagle Iron Works in 2012 does EIW run independently as a competitor?

Eagle Iron Works Logo
“Yes, we have maintained the EIW brand independently due to its tremendous strength and we have maintained a separate path to market through their own dealer network.”

Does McLanahan and EIW work together on R&D?

“Yes and no. We maintain the product improvement and R&D functions on a corporate level, but we view the core customers of McLanahan and EIW differently. For example, we have extensive new product offerings coming from McLanahan and EIW in the next six to 18 months, and they are purposely different because we are trying to appeal to each core customer.”

With such a small population base in Hollidaysburg to draw from, is it difficult find enough of the right people to work at McLanahan.

“Sometimes, but since Hollidaysburg is a phenomenal place to raise a family, we tend to get people who want to come back to the area after having gained five or 10 years of experience elsewhere so that they can raise their families here. They bring with them the talents and skills they learned from other companies in the world. Additionally, with technology today, we have employees who are able to join one of our other locations and easily add value to the entire organization.”

We have been told that there are several “long-timers” at the company. Why do people stay at McLanahan?

“We think it is due to our core values: Safety, Family and Integrity. We place great value on people and we treat each person here as a family member. It’s no secret that the success of any company starts with people, and it has always been our legacy to treat everyone with respect while helping to nurture their careers.”

In addition to North America, the McLanahan website shows representation in Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and even Russia. Does McLanahan manufacture products in any of those markets or are they all importers from your US plant?

“We manufacture products all over the world, but we still ship some products from North America to our global locations.”

Of the markets outside of North America, what are your largest markets?

“The Asia Pacific markets have been extremely strong for us over the last decade. We have also recently started to see some progress in the South America and CIS markets.”

Many of our readers have no idea that McLanahan is very active with products used the agricultural industry. Do the agricultural products represent a significant part of the McLanahan business?

McLanahan Industry
“McLanahan is involved in a wide variety of industries and applications. The agricultural division is certainly significant for the products and services we supply, specifically within the dairy industry. We have been involved in that space for more than 20 years and have invented new products and processes along the way that have revolutionized the dairy industry.”

When we ask manufacturers and service providers what is the number one request from customers, we hear a variety of answers. What do customers most commonly ask of you?

“A solution. When customers contact us, they are trying to improve their operations or figure out how to process a new reserve. McLanahan is blessed with some of the brightest, most recognized process engineers in the world. We help solve our customers’ problems whether we sell them new equipment or not.”

What is the strangest application you have ever seen a McLanahan machine used for?

“A Roll Crusher was sold to process bones collected from Chicago restaurants. The bones were crushed and processed into gelatine, which was then sold in grocery stores.”

Looking forward, what do you see as emerging trends in mining and aggregate industries that will have the greatest impact on McLanahan products of the future.

McLanahan Automation
“Automation will certainly continue to gain more traction in preventative maintenance and equipment monitoring, but we see a bigger demand on our dealer network and us for on-site diagnostics and field service. Many mining operations have cut down on their on-site maintenance staff, so they rely on manufacturers (and their dealer network) for help troubleshooting and conducting routine maintenance. Therefore, designing equipment for ease of maintenance and serviceability is even more critical today.”

When the workday ends for you, what makes it a good day?

“When I hear stories that our employees responded to a customer’s need by going above and beyond to meet their expectations.”

If you could give one piece of advice to the younger you, what would it be?

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