Tote Notes - Summer 2017 - Vol 29, Number 3
STATE OF THE NATION
By Craig Phares
With the first half of fiscal year 2017 behind us and the June month recently closed, I am pleased to report that business conditions continue to improve and the group's performance along with it. The below operating profit data below proves this point.
Year-to-Date Performance Highlights
- Petron: 4% above plan. June logged an all-time record high for a month of earnings.
- West Penetone: 6% above plan.
- Penetone: April, May, and June showed a profit, but YTD still at a loss and well behind plan.
- West Ventures: 7% above plan
Green shoots of growth seen in the spring have come to bear fruit. After an extremely weak first quarter, operating profits at all companies have turned positive in the past 4 months. Indications are for further modest growth across the group.
To put things in perspective, GDP growth for the first quarter was a weak 1.2% versus 2.3% for the previous period. Forecasts are for a surge in growth of 2.7% YoY for the June ending Q2. The West Group of companies is exceeding this growth rate. I remain cautiously optimistic.
But to quote one of my favorite wordsmith's, Yogi Berra, "It ain't over till it's over".
As we head into the end of summer, business is expected to have its seasonal slowdown. Therefore, it will be a sprint to the fiscal year end finish line after the Labor Day weekend.
To all employees, have a restful end of summer. Come back rejuvenated. And prepared to finish the year on a high note. 1 At corporate, we remain focused on investing in the growth of the business, optimizing human capital, and keeping a keen eye on costs.
Ransomware. Watch out! It’s real, and it’s here!
By Tim Pagac
Ransomware: A type of malicious software virus that takes over a computer system and then blocks access for the authorized user. This attack will often lock the keyboard or computer data in a way that the attacker (or cybercriminal) will request a ransom in order to unlock it.
Back in the more innocent 1930’s it’s likely most people didn’t worry too much about their child being kidnaped. But when famed pilot Charles Lindberg’s infant son was kidnapped, and ransom was demanded and paid, it made headlines around the world. The world was now worried.
Now fast forward to the 21st century and kidnapping risk still exists but now it includes a much different form of risk in that computers and data are now being held hostage not just people. Just this past June, workers at a world-renowned pharmaceutical giant, which makes many of our everyday worldwide prescription drugs, were told to get off of their computers and go home, because of a sprawling global ransomware cyberattack, it was a stark reminder that it can happen to even the biggest companies.
Could it happen here at Petron or Penetone or West Penetone? Absolutely! As a matter of fact, just recently an e-mail was received at Petron threatening to disrupt our business with a ransomware attack. Quick thinking, immediate action, and pro-active company IT security measures already in place were quick to identify the threat as a hoax. To be honest, when I started writing this article, I really did not have a full understanding of what Ransomware was myself or why I should care about it as an employee of Petron.
The risk is real and on the rise!!
Ransomware has been estimated to cost businesses over $1 billion in 2016 alone. Ransomware attacks have increased 600% globally since 2015. Individuals, businesses, government agencies, academic institutions, and even law enforcement agencies have all been victims. Some of the more recent larger global ransomware attacks have been named CryptoLocker and CryptoWall procuring an estimated US $3 million and $18 million for the attackers; respectively, before being taken down by the authorities.
How do attackers infect or spread computers with Ransomware?
The attackers use various techniques that usually involve tricking someone into clicking on links and/or attachments within e-mails. These attack emails are sent out to various e-mail addresses, and all it takes is for one person to click on a link or an attachment and “poof” you are infected. Attacks can also be in the form of just a threat to hold your computer data hostage if you do not pay up. This kind of scam gives a deadline for payment or your data will be encrypted and locked if payment is not received.
How do you prevent or defend from being infected by Ransomware?
- Protecting against ransomware can be difficult but ensuring you have updated antivirus software is still one of the best methods. This will not completely eliminate your risk as attackers actively alter their programs to defeat the antivirus software.
- Implement improved internal employee training on how to recognize and communicate to your IT security personnel potential harmful attack e-mails or hyperlinks. Training employees to become more cautious and skeptical of their emails is a must for all businesses today.
- Backing up data on a regular basis using a device or process that is not online. The data must be stored off-line in a safe and secure environment. A more frequent backup process will allow for your business to come back online faster and accurately if you are victimized.
Just use common sense and skepticism when reading and clicking on any unknown e-mails. If you are not sure, don’t touch it and let your IT administrator know right away.
By Greg Cebuliak
One of the main aspects of industrial decontamination is the removal of toxic or dangerous gases from a unit or vessel. One such gas is hydrogen sulfide or H2S. This molecule is a naturally occurring gas encountered in a variety of industrial environments and applications. It can be found in geological formations and in the production and refining of petroleum where the bulk of our decontamination efforts occur. H2S gas itself is colorless, heavier-than-air in its pure state and extremely toxic. Therefore many employers will purchase what is called an H2S scavenger to reduce the risk of H2S gas exposure to employees, contractors, etc. when the acid gas has contaminated a particular unit or volume of fluid.
Several different chemical methodologies can be utilized to reduce hydrogen sulfide gas exposure of which will not be further discussed here. However, field conditions will dictate the appropriate chemistry to use and the proper formula design to employ in reducing exposure to this deadly gas. Other conditions to consider in formulating and employing an H2S scavenger include the time available to remediate the hydrogen sulfide contamination, potential solubility of by-products created by the reaction of the scavenger with the acid gas, the physical state of the media contaminated, and whether or not the scavenger is to be employed in an aqueous or hydrocarbon media or environment.
One such hydrocarbon environment, for example, is that found in a hydrotreater catalyst unit. A hydrotreater is a petroleum refinery vessel containing a catalyst that converts various molecular weight hydrocarbon mixtures or feeds stocks into light hydrocarbons. It also converts organic sulfur and nitrogen into H2S and NH3. The catalyst itself must be kept dry in order for efficient conversion to take place. Therefore, an oil-soluble scavenger diluted into a hydrocarbon solvent would be employed to decontaminate the unit.
Quite often, disposal of the remaining fluid at sites such as disposal wells requires that particular chemical scavengers be avoided at all costs to mitigate the risk of the disposal formation being damaged due to solids plugging. This plugging can occur as a result of several factors including polymerization and scaling and can be attributed to the use of aldehyde and aldehyde-amine condensate products. Without going into further discussion, this should hopefully paint a picture on the aspects and complexities covering the requirements in decontamination.
As we all know the perennity of a company such as ours relies heavily on the development of new products. Over time, customer needs, competition, and simple attrition will erode our product offering and ultimately sales.
Military surge continues
By Jim Brooks
The surge in sales for the military and aerospace markets has continued through Q2. Year-to-date sales continue to be well ahead of plan and last year to date. We just received our third contract from DLA Aviation for a paint remover. Additional quotes to DLA for this product are pending with contract award decisions expected soon. Our balanced strategy of direct sales to existing and new customers, contractors and government buying agencies is proving to be successful. We are also experiencing positive gains with exporting to foreign militaries.
We did attend the US Air Force Corrosion Conference as vendors in early June. The conference used to be an annual event but has been inactive during the last few years. The event was well attended by Air Force personnel and contractors directly involved with products used for aircraft maintenance. We met with existing customers and discussed samples with interested prospects.
Sales expectations and forecasting remain very strong for the remainder of 2017.
Survey measures customer satisfaction
By Elisa Pieroni
Petron conducted our Bi-annual Customer Satisfaction Survey in early 2017. Petron asks questions in the survey that address three areas of concern: Product, Pricing, and Petron as a Company.
Product questions were directed to quality and meeting their needs. Petron had a significant increase from an average of 86% over the last 12 years to 94% in 2017.
Pricing questions were about value in relation to what they pay. Petron averaged 83% over the last 12 years and were rated at 70% for 2017.
Petron as a Company had questions that revolved around how responsive we are as a company, experiences with Customer Support and Technical Field Service and support, and of course Petron overall. Over the last 12 years we have averaged 88% and for 2017 we were at 85%.
In the survey for 2017 we asked how long the Respondent has been purchasing from Petron. The survey was reviewed to see if we could learn or see any trends that may be happening. The biggest trend that stood out was how Customers that have been with Petron for >2 years rated Pricing up at 80% (overall survey 70%) and Customers with Petron for 5-10 years rated Pricing down at 58%. Unable to contact the Respondents (due to anonymity) leads me to make some conclusions. I believe that Customers who have been purchasing from Petron for less than 2 years are probably very in tune with the pricing of our Competitors. If we look at the Customers purchasing in the 5-10 year span we put ourselves into the area of the 2008-2011 time frame of financial turmoil. Overall our raw materials did not decrease thus our pricing did not go down. Petron is not a company that is going to raise and lower prices every month or even year. We have many providers that will give us monthly increases and then occasionally throw in a decrease. At Petron we will watch the ebb and flow when the time is needed we will raise or lower prices.
Goals from our 2017 Customer Satisfaction Survey:
- Continue to offer Training to our Distributors, End Users, and Personnel.
- Review bin tank configurations and do our best to fulfill them. It is imperative that Distributors or End Users communicate with us if there are particular setups that we need to fulfill.
- Continue to Strive in giving our End Users, Distributors, and Suppliers the Highest Quality and Best Service that we can.
In addition to the Customer Satisfaction Survey Petron keeps track of several key measurables, a couple of which are:
- On Time Shipments averaging 99%
- Customer Complaints averaging 0.5%
- First Time Through for Products averaging 98%.
- 5 years - Anthony Kerhin – Petron
- 5 years - Jean Gregoire – W/P
- 5 years - Wassef Abed Al Hay – W/P
- 20 years - Paul Hayden - W/P
The company extends a warm welcome to the following new employees:
- Samuel Alexis (Production –W/P)
- Stephanie Burrows (Shipping-W/P)
- Timothy Pagac – (Accounting –Petron)
Congratulations to Mike Farrell (Petron) & his wife, Kayla on the birth of their son, Jordan Bradley Farrell, on June 28, 2017