Celebrations All Round for Analysis Veterans
Industry Insight Nov 21, 2019
As stalwarts in the biological and chemical analysis fields, offering solutions in microscopy, spectroscopy and mass spectrometry amongst its armory, JEOL celebrates its 70th anniversary. But that’s not all they are celebrating, with the appointment of 35-year veteran of JEOL USA, Robert (Bob) Pohorenec as President of the company this year.
Bob, a graduate of Northeastern University, began his career at JEOL in 1984 as a Field Service Engineer in Texas. He has held senior management positions in customer service, sales, operations and product development during his time at JEOL USA, with his previous roles at the company including General Manager, Head of Sales and Service, and Vice President.
We spoke to Bob Pohorenec about what has motivated him to build an enduring career with Jeol and his hopes for the company’s future in his new role.
Karen Steward (KS): As a long serving member of JEOL who has climbed through the ranks, how did you come to join JEOL in the first place and why have you chosen to remain part of the team for so long?
Bob Pohorenec (BP): I joined JEOL in 1984, working in customer service based in our office in Dallas, Texas, but I worked throughout the southwest. Because of the tough economy in Texas at the time, I thought I would probably work at JEOL for a year or two and see what opportunities would come after an economic recovery. I’m now 35 years in and haven’t looked back!
One of the key factors that influenced my decision to work for and remain with JEOL was the diversity of the customer base – from medicine, semiconductor, materials science, chemical and petrochemical, forensics/law enforcement, defense, aerospace, automotive, food, cosmetics, and sporting goods, it’s a long list. The variety of our customers’ applications continues to fuel my interest.
There have been some very important contributions to society made by users of JEOL equipment that have influenced my perspective on the impact that the products we develop and manufacture can have on society. Just one example – the Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to Joseph Goldstein and Michael Brown (University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas) in 1985 for their studies that led to the development of statin drugs. It made a strong impression on me. Whilst neither of them were electron microscopists, their work used electron microscopy a great deal and there were many JEOL electron microscopes installed in the facility supporting their work.
KS: What excites you most about your new role?
BP: At the ground level my main objective is to earn more JEOL users. I use the word “earn” because it’s very hard to “sell” to scientists and engineers. They will only choose us once we have successfully proven that we understand them and their needs, that we have the right people, products and services for them, and that we are worthy of their trust. Succeeding at that is exciting and rewarding.
Additionally, JEOL has many product lines and, although there is a great deal of cross-over between the products as far as their underlying technology and methods of manufacture, the markets they are sold into can be quite diverse. There is a great deal of variety in terms of customer profile, after-sale support requirements, quantity and characteristics of the competition, market size and margins. Building and supporting teams to be successful in these varied markets is tremendously rewarding.
KS: I understand JEOL is celebrating its 70th Anniversary, what do you feel has been the secret to JEOL’s success and longevity?
BP: Historically, JEOL’s expansion and growth has been organic. The company has been led by executives that were developed and promoted from within the organization or that were senior executives from large shareholders, for example Mitsubishi Bank or Nikon, and were appointed as board members and senior executives within JEOL. This has resulted in a very knowledgeable executive team that takes a long view and has deep understanding of the company’s core values and strengths.
We have earned a very loyal customer base due to our high-quality products, user collaboration and customer support. We don’t merely support our equipment – we support the equipment owner, their users and their lab. We listen and collaborate with equipment users and aim to fit our technologies to their workflow. We don’t try to force a one-size fits all workflow on users, it is very much driven by them and their requirements.
KS: From a science and technology standpoint, what for you have been the most innovative developments during your time at JEOL? What is the one that interests you the most currently?
BP: There are really too many to count, but without question the computer revolution and the internet have had an extraordinary impact on the capability and productivity of scientific instrumentation. Within our own product portfolio, the advent of low cost and highly reliable field emission sources and aberration correctors have made it possible for transmission electron microscopes to obtain atomic level resolution. Scanning electron microscopes have become virtual “nanolabs” in which several types of analyses can be performed simultaneously using very intuitive software that makes the most complex capabilities accessible to any level of user. High-resolution, high-sensitivity time-of-flight mass spectrometers and their variants replaced the large and expensive magnetic sector mass spectrometers which led to a tremendous expansion in the mass spectrometer market. Ambient ionization sources, such as our DART, shielded NMR magnets, and NMR cryo probes have all been critically important advances. Most recently, we are very pleased with the success of our ROYAL HFX NMR probe, which has been a real game changer for the analysis of fluorinated compounds. It is the first liquid NMR probe with the capability to switch between single tune and dual tune modes on the high frequency coil without compromising performance. The probe can be used with routine two-channel spectrometers or with a three-channel system for expanded capabilities.
KS: Where do you see JEOL in five, 10 and 20 years?
BP: In five years, I expect our current annual sales of 1-1.2 billion dollars to have doubled – a goal our entire organization is working hard to obtain.
We will be introducing more services to our customers, such as sample analysis and also on-site or remote use of JEOL equipment installed at JEOL operated “Technology Centers”. We can expect more collaborations such as our recent work with RIKEN and Kyoto University and the combined use of cryo EM and NMR to discover novel drug structures. The collaboration center, established jointly by RIKEN and JEOL, opened in November 2014 with the aim of creating unique technologies in the field of analytical and diagnostic instruments.
In terms of cementing our position in the industry, I expect that JEOL will be involved in more partnership and OEM arrangements similar to the already publicly disclosed arrangements that we have with Siemens Medical Solutions for clinical chemistry systems and with IMS Nanofabrication with their multi-beam mask writer.
Looking 10 and 20 years down the road, we will continuously strengthen our core metrology and analytical instrumentation product lines that we are well-known for, but also expect significant expansion in our medical equipment and industrial equipment segments.
Bob Pohorenec was speaking to Dr Karen Steward, Science Writer for Technology Networks.