Planes, Trains and Automobiles….

Oh…..and a bus. It takes one of each to get to Newport, South Wales from Munich. (I’m pretty sure there’s a direct flight from Munich to Cardiff, but all things considered, this was the most logical solution.) Anyhow, by 5:30 I’m sitting at SPP Process Technology Systems, headquarters with Kevin Crofton,executive VP and managing director of the UK division; David Butler, VP of Marketing; and Carolyn Short, marketing communications engineer, talking about SPP’s acquisition of Aviza Technologies and subsequent merger with its existing subsidiary, Surface Technology Systems (STS) blended their complementary core competencies of etch, chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and physical vapor deposition (PVD) into one new entity – heretofore known as SPTS.SPTS_crofton

Crofton speaks enthusiastically about the past year in transition that has gone more smoothly than one could have thought possible; especially in a climate of such worldwide economic instability. “A wild ride” is how he describes it. And one he’s clearly thrilled to take part in.

On Oct 16 2009, the merger was signed and publically announced three days later. Crofton ticks off the to-do list of the 10 months that have since passed: They’ve merged the physical sites (STS moved to Aviza’s facility), moved equipment, finished the build on the last piece of equipment out of the old STS location, decided which products to extend and which to freeze while simultaneously satisfying a continually growing customer base, filling new tool orders with a vengeance. During this period, revenue has skyrocketed quarter over quarter. “It’s TRULY exciting,” says Crofton. “We’ve grown the business by 200%, and we’re 3x larger than we were a year a go.”

SPTS_cardiffbayI’m eager to learn more about this, but it’s already evening, so the next day will be spent touring the facility, taking photos and hearing more detail about SPTS’s technologies and market focus. But first things first: Carolyn drives me to my hotel nearby to freshen up. (The company has put me up at the extremely posh Celtic Manor, home of this year’s Ryder Cup. I feel like the queen herself.) Then, at Carolyn’s suggestion, it’s off to the Mermaid Quay at Cardiff Bay. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the waterfront and I want seafood.

SPTS_cardiffbay2

We find a great little Italian place on the boardwalk, and feast on calamari fritti, garlic bread, and pasta. Mine is loaded with shellfish. Carolyn waves to some co-workers who are also out on the town for the evening. I sense a camaraderie among the company employees that comes from working and socializing regularly. Carolyn tells me that many had worked at either Aviza and/or STS over the years before the merger, so it didn’t feel odd to be working together under one name now.

After dinner we stroll around the boardwalk and Carolyn explains some of the history, points out significant buildings like the Opera House (right) and Parliament. We stroll by an outdoor café where the waitsaff sing opera and karaoke, and have a last drink in a local pub before calling it an early night. The next day’s going to be a busy one. Best to get some rest.SPTS_opera

I find it’s important to have a theme in mind when visiting companies. It makes for a much better story. This one wasn’t hard to come up with: “a year in transition.” when the outcome is as spectacular as this one was for SPTS, it’s a pleasure to be the one who gets to tell that story. As always with these visits I do, there’s much more to come…. F.v.T.