PHD Inc. in Fort Wayne, Indiana recently celebrated their 60th anniversary.  To paraphrase Anchorman Ron Burgundy, it’s kind of a big deal!  Putting this in perspective, only 12% of the U.S. companies in the Fortune 500 circa 1955 are still in existence.1   There are distinct reasons why companies remain successful through multiple generations.  Many of the Fortune 500 companies from the 50’s survived, but only by being acquired, merging or greatly reducing their impact.  PHD has done the complete opposite of survive—they have thrived!  Here’s how.

Technology: the double-edged sword

What starts out as “the bees’ knees” can quickly become a “woolly mammoth!”  Technology advances have been present since the beginning of time, so progress itself cannot be the reason why companies fail.  It is the response to the evolution of technology that determines success or failure.  Companies like Campbell’s Soup, General Motors, Whirlpool and IBM are still in the Fortune 500, but National Sugar Refining, American Motors, Studebaker, Collins Radio and Zenith are not.  Both groups had access to the same emerging technology, but the first group remained true to their core values while adapting to the ever-changing technology.

Starting with the Tom Thumb cylinder in the 50s, PHD has faithfully engineered and delivered top-quality motion and actuation products.  Creating and supporting industry-leading tools has been their unrelenting focus.  Paired with stellar customer service and technical support, PHD’s actuators, clamps, cylinders, and grippers have proven their value to manufacturers for decades.  Their design team is forward-thinking to keep pace with new automation advances.  The customer service team efficiently provides quotes and CAD drawings to customer requests.  Management ensures that the company stays true to the core value: “Provide the customers what they need, when they need it.”  PHD has a business model that works, and has worked well for generations, ultimately benefiting their customers the most.  The word “Success” is built into the word “Succession.”  Without the robust transfer of values in leadership, successive leaders will not be able to maintain success long-term.

“Yes” and “Know”

Even the companies that have strong core values and excellent products, still face the challenge of remaining competitive in a global, fast-moving market.  An unsatisfied customer can find what they need in another part of the world and then distribute their sub-par experience to thousands or even millions of people.  Here’s where the “Yes” and “Know” approaches work so well.

How can we say “Yes” to our customers?  PHD has proven that they can deliver on their promises by ensuring that their promises can be achieved on time with delivery of a superior product.  First, their can-do spirit is embodied by their Unlimited—Unique Solutions Group.  If a customer comes to them with a previously-unknown actuation need, PHD invests the time and research to see how they can solve it.  Thousands of unique applications have been solved through the Unlimited group, found at  Their determination to discover how to creatively solve customers’ points of pain has earned them the reputation of being a problem solver.  Solving or preventing issues in manufacturing translates to saving thousands of dollars in costs while earning thousands of dollars in boosted throughput.  The focus at PHD is always on providing the best solution, knowing that long-term effectiveness trumps short-term price every day of the year.

Not only does PHD “know” their customers by working solely through their trusted distributor network, they also know their products inside and out…literally.  Every unit produced undergoes meticulous quality inspection.  Because of these high standards, PHD warranties their products a full year from the shipment date,\.  In the unlikely event that an actuator fails in the first 12 months, PHD immediately replaces the item and then examines it extensively to determine the cause of the issue.  If there is a design upgrade to be made, it is put into effect immediately.  If the customer had unknowingly put too much stress on the unit than it was designed for, PHD communicates critical data to help the customer refine their processes and save future downtime.  The key priority is to protect the customers’ investment, productivity and brand reputation, rather than PHD’s bottom line.

Designer “Genes”

Superior design has been in PHD’s blood for generations.  In 1955, the Pneumatic Hydraulic Development Co. began with the development of the Tom Thumb cylinder in a Fort Wayne garage.  Fully aware that manufacturing conditions are tough on automated equipment, PHD has always built into their products patented features that block and wipe potential contamination.  Their tools are designed for the real world with strong margins to overcome environmental challenges.

Because of the quality of the components and the designed features, PHD actuators are tested to deliver literally millions of cycles of productivity.  They outlast similar products 3-10 times on average.  Always striving to provide cost-effective solutions, PHD introduced the Optimax line, details here:  This streamlined selection of actuators offers drop-in replacements for widely-used, well-known brands that attract customers seeking the lowest investment in actuation.  Built on the foundation of PHD’s innovative, robust standard line, the Optimax actuators offer a list price just below well-known brands, with an average 3 times the life and a 12-month warranty—an unrivaled dual benefit.

When your hair is on fire, who’s gonna put it out?!

Picture this: you are a machine builder with a project deadline fast approaching.  All you need is one gripper to complete the automation cell and deliver the finished product.  The well-known company you chose for your gripper quoted you 6 weeks when you ordered it.  6 weeks arrives, but the gripper does not.  After a number of calls and emails, the delivery time ticks up to 15 weeks…maybe.  15 weeks?!  The project needs to be to the customer in 6!!  What do you do?  Enter PHD, stage right!

This central Ohio OEM contacted their local PHD distributor, who had an account manager in the very next day.  PHD Engineering was consulted for the best gripper for the job, and it was delivered within 5 business days.  That is how PHD has earned the reputation of being a timely solutions provider, time and again.  With delivery dates for widely-used actuators moving out to 6 weeks and beyond, often with poor or non-existent communication, the need for a responsive, quality line of actuators is critical.  In today’s highly-competitive automation market, there is no margin for failure to deliver.  That is already built into a project estimate.  Machine builders in particular must have automation partners they can rely on to get the job done.  PHD has proven to be worthy of that level of trust.

Downtime—in manufacturing, this is akin to a cuss word!  No one wants their name attached to it; companies work tirelessly to avoid it.  But when a machine goes down, every minute of non-production is costing money, both in increased maintenance costs and lost production.   A 6-week delivery time can work for keeping spare parts, but what about then the machines aren’t running?  6 weeks, or longer, is not acceptable.  Machines are often patched together or parts are borrowed from other lines to keep the main production efforts running.  These short-term fixes can only work for a little while, while productivity and throughput suffer.

If you are a manufacturer who has been stuck in this position, you have a much better option.  Contact PHD to engage the multiple levels of local support to help get your machines back up and running.  Not only will production be restored, but, because the PHD solution will last for millions of cycles, the long-term cost savings and boosted throughput directly improves your bottom line.  Don’t settle for sub-par delivery and limited productivity; contact your local PHD distributor.  A PHD Lunch & Learn is the perfect way to discover how PHD’s tools can improve your processes while your team takes their lunch break.  Your production is unaffected even while you find out how PHD can help!

But what if we need something modified?

   Perhaps you might be thinking, “That may work for items in PHD’s inventory, right off the shelf, but I doubt they can do that for items that have to be modified.”  A central Ohio machine builder had chosen a competitor’s gripper that was not robust enough for their lifting cell.  They contacted PHD in the very last week of their project.  They gratefully paid the Sudden Service fee to expedite the delivery of the modified PHD gripper by the end of the week.  The end customer was thrilled with the cell.  PHD again proved their ability to deliver a high-quality, modified actuator by the OEM’s deadline.  Because every modification is unique, PHD thoroughly evaluates every Sudden Service request to ensure that the delivery timeline can be met…then they do.

Fast Quotes, for real!

   When a customer contacts PHD for information on their actuators, a highly-responsive network of customer support is engaged.  PHD customer service provides a quote and CAD drawing within an average of 24 hours.  The local distributor is notified that a customer may require support in the field, and contact information is provided to ensure timely follow-up.  Engineering and technical support works every day to provide detailed, accurate specifications to customers within 24 hours of being contacted.  If further research is needed to provide correct technical data, the customer is notified of the time needed and why.  PHD has a reputation company-wide of providing timely, thorough communication so that our valued customers are always informed.

Hungry to Learn

With a strong focus on building and maintaining quality, long-term relationships with their customers, it is not surprising that the average tenure of PHD team members is 17 years.  This is one of the key measures as to how people are valued.  If people love to work at PHD, then customers will love working with PHD.

Customers directly benefit from the wealth of experience, innovation and knowledge at PHD.  One of the top priorities is to ensure that this information is effectively passed throughout the organization, as well as making it easily accessible for customers who have deployed, or are looking into deploying, PHD automation tools.  A hunger to learn is present at every level, so customers who pursue the same desire to be thoroughly educated in automation can connect with PHD to receive personal, in-depth training.  It is not uncommon for customers close to Fort Wayne to travel there to discuss applications and explore which actuators will best solve their innovation or point of pain.  Despite the decades of accumulated experience, customers regularly express appreciation for the open-minded, creative collaboration they receive from every engineer, technician and account manager at PHD.

The Best Distributor Support in the World

   Strong claim, isn’t it?  The MDN Network has proven this to be true for decades.  PHD is proud to work alongside local, responsive automation providers who strongly invest in innovation, training, customer service and problem solving.  PHD provides the industry-leading actuators; MDN distributors provide the local resources to implement them effectively.  Each distributor has a clearly-defined area they solely support. This fosters a spirit of creative collaboration and ingenious teamwork that puts the customer’s needs first, resulting in strong, multi-generational distributor support.  Long-term, win-win relationships are built and sustained every day through the MDN Network.

Distributors ensure that all their account managers are fully trained on PHD lines by completing two full weeks of in-depth, hands-on training.  The priority is always to provide the best solutions for our customers by embracing a model of continuous improvement.  Through regular, up-to-date training, our teams remain on the cutting edge of automation innovation.  Contact your local PHD distributor and experience the difference for yourself!

The Voelker Advantage

If your business is located in the greater Cincinnati, Columbus or Dayton areas, you have the opportunity to experience what we call The Voelker Advantage!  A strong PHD partner since our founding in 1971, Voelker Controls has diligently worked to provide an automation solutions experience that treats our customers as family.  We value long-term, win-win relationships and work to provide this through personable customer service, responsive account managers and creative applications engineers—who all share the goal to optimize your productivity while lowering your operating costs.

PHD Lunch & Learns are regularly provided at your site that share actuation solutions we have implemented during your team’s lunch hour to maximize your production efforts.  We retain full-time motion engineers with decades of experience who can review your application or project at no cost.  Their expertise has saved our customers time and expense in regards to their motion needs and projects.  If the proposed PHD solution is an upgrade of existing motion tools, Voelker can provide a Profit Reinforcement report, free of charge, to highlight the long-term savings and increased production our solution can generate.

So contact us today at (937) 433-8128 to schedule a visit with one of our Cincinnati, Columbus or Dayton-area account managers.  You’ll be glad you did!








3000 Commerce Center Dr.
Franklin, OH 45005

TELEPHONE:  937-433-8128
FAX: 937-433-6076 


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