Richwood: Conveying Effective Solutions
When a company refers to its product as an investment, it generally means one of two things: either that product carries a formidable price tag (a condo in Barbados, for example) or the company offering it feels strongly about its long-term effectiveness and reliability.
It is that latter example that sums up the Richwood business philosophy, and it’s one that has served the company well in its 40-plus years providing conveyor-focused, bulk material handling solutions to a range of industries.
Today, customers who have made the investment in a Richwood solution—including some of the biggest names in coal, gold, copper, iron ore, zinc, etc.—appreciate the valued contribution each product makes to their operation’s success. The net result of those efforts? Richwood products have established themselves as the standard by which these types of conveyor accessories are measured.
Change in Direction
Founded in 1976 in Huntington, West Virginia, Richwood’s initial roots were in sales and product distribution. After about four years in business, however, the company lost its major product line, prompting a re-thinking of the direction it should take, according to Judd Roseberry, company co-founder and Richwood’s current CEO.
“At the time, it was just my brother-in-law, Rich Stoll; his father, Don; and me,” says Roseberry. “Faced with forever being at the mercy of industry changes and the actions of others, we opted to become a manufacturer and control our own destiny. We learned that, in coal mining operations here in Huntington and elsewhere, there was a need for an effective way to resolve the issue of ‘carryback,’ a problem that has plagued bulk material handling applications almost since the advent of conveyor systems themselves.”
“With valued input from Don, who had a familiarity with clay mining, we introduced the first Richwood product, the 1C Belt Cleaner System, which, though upgraded, is still our most popular conveyor accessory today,” continues Roseberry.
The use of the air cylinder provided a constant, uniform pressure through the range of the shock as it extended and positioned a solid cleaner blade, which spanned the entire width of the belt. This resulted in effective removal of extraneous material without the risk of damage to either the belt or any belt splices.
“Dramatically minimizing carryback, particularly in coal handling operations, is a huge plus,” says Roseberry. “Doing so can not only improve production and efficiency, it can also reduce wear on the conveyor belt and associated components and, most importantly, improve onsite safety. We felt confident we had a solution the industry needed.”
Though Roseberry and his colleagues found the belt-cleaner market a challenging one to crack, they were extremely confident in both their product’s performance and its capacity for long-term reliability. To prove it, they literally put their money where their mouths were, offering what is, even by today’s standards, an impressive warranty.
“We went around to our coal clients and other potential clients, showed them our product, and offered prospective customers a full 90-day moneyback guarantee to fully protect their investment. Essentially, we would get a purchase order and they would have 90 days to see our solution work and make their evaluation. I can probably count on one hand the number of belt cleaners we’ve ever bought back; it was a very well-received product,” says Roseberry. “From that point forward, it continued to gain popularity and, today, it is one of the industry’s most in-demand belt cleaning solutions in a wide range of applications.”
Building upon the popularity of the belt cleaning systems, growth at Richwood was solid and steady through the ’80s and ’90s with new products, including impact saddles, impact idlers, material containment systems, belt tracking idlers, and more, being added. At times, a new product was introduced almost yearly. According to Roseberry, the quality of the company’s product line was equaled only by the excellence and loyalty of the Richwood staff.
“From the outset, we have been blessed to have some of the most talented and committed personnel working here,” he says. “When we formed Richwood, we wanted to have a company that did not follow the ‘revolving door / hire and lay off’ policies that are common to so many other local industries, and it’s worked. I recently met with our management staff and was amazed to find that our ‘newest’ manager had 14 years with the company. Many of our people have 30 years or more, which tells me that one of the key tenets of our mission statement, To ensure a work environment that promotes teamwork, loyalty, honesty and professionalism, focused on outstanding service to our customer, is being embraced by our team.”
All About the Solution
One of those long-term team members, Kevin Malloy, now Richwood’s chief operating officer, said that when he was considering joining the company as a sales rep back in 1984, two things won him over: the warranty mentioned earlier, and the company’s approach to working with their clients.
“I had no background in sales at that time,” says Malloy. “But Judd and Rich helped me realize it’s not about getting a sale; it’s about offering the customer a valid solution to a problem in exchange for a fair price. That’s a great foundational cornerstone in anyone’s book. The process of determining that solution is very comprehensive. When called in for a quote on a belt cleaning system, for example, we first evaluate the operating conditions of the conveyor, then make specific recommendations to address the problem at its source, and compile field engineering and operating data to allow us to custom-design a system to fit. Then, we blueprint the equipment, manufacture it for that custom fit, assist with installation to ensure it works as intended, and finally back it with a strong performance warranty.”
That in-depth process, adds Malloy, ensures Richwood has done all it can to help the customer see the bigger picture.
“Doing so allows our client to be very confident that if they invest with us, they will receive real value for their investment,” says Malloy. “I took that philosophy to the field and, from the first time I saw the entire approach work, I never looked back.”
Looking at matters from a problem-solving perspective has been something of a driving force at Richwood. Malloy says focusing on the solution rather than the sale has yielded a highly-successful conveyor accessory product line, including Richwood’s latest addition, the ON-Track® Return Belt Tracking Idler.
“The ON-Track® unit differs greatly from other devices available today, in that it takes a pro-active approach to belt tracking,” says Malloy. “Many devices currently in use operate on pivots or swivels, or use side-mounted rollers to try to trap the belt between the rollers. Because these devices address misalignment of the conveyor belt, in order for the device to activate, the conveyor has to first misalign. In essence, those products are chasing the problem. We approach it differently by working to prevent the problem from occurring at all.”
ON-Track® works with the natural tension of the conveyor belt to evenly distribute stresses, thereby ensuring on-center belt tracking without the need for edge-guide rollers. The unit features a true arc radius profile to guide the belt without overstressing the belt carcass or tracking rollers.
“When placed properly on a conveyor system, ON-Track will prevent belt misalignment, rather than reacting to the problem after it occurs, and that’s a much better position to be in,” adds Malloy.
To maintain its competitive edge and provide the highest level of quality to its clients, Richwood has been a solid proponent of lean manufacturing techniques, is ISO 9001-2015 certified, and is recognized as a SHARP worksite (Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program). In addition, the company has been active within the conveyor manufacturing community, having contributed to the establishment of CEMA 575 and 576 standards for the Conveyor Equipment Manufacturers Association.
“We currently have products at work in 14 countries on almost every continent and are continually looking for ways to grow as a company,” says Roseberry. “We are tapping new geographic areas and new market segments, continuing to deliver the message that an investment in a Richwood product is an investment in a long-term solution to a challenging problem. We love what we do, are proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and are constantly striving to re-invent ourselves in a more positive way. We’re excited for what lies ahead.”