By Donna Kreutz
Twenty-five years. That’s the age of Differential Pressure Plus, Inc. in Branford, CT and the age of its new President, Matt Schell. “The company was established in 1991, the year of my birth,” he said. Founded by Joe Gordon, the business has a staff of 10 that designs and manufactures differential pressure products that are trusted by thousands of manufacturers around the world—primarily in the US, Canada, Australia and more recently in China, England and Malaysia.
Schell started working for Gordon as an unpaid intern the summer after his freshman year in college and moved quickly from hand-assembling product to sales, then engineering. “I continued through my engineering schooling and started working on ideas for them.” He was a student at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Da Vinci Program, earning a degree that combines engineering, art and business. “When I graduated, we started this whole process of revamping the entire business. It was pretty old school. We remodeled facilities, added new equipment and training, introduced new products.”
His fresh perspective was an asset. “We revamped the website, which had not changed in 10 years. We produced YouTube videos about our products, which increased our visibility. Within a couple of months we had requests from all over the world.” One was from a Chinese company that is a major distributor for the Apollo brand manufactured in the US. So Schell made several trips to Beijing. “Over the course of five months, we figured out pricing and the correct gauges for them to use.” He took “a lot of phone calls at one or two a.m. and was emailing someone with a very strong language barrier.” Fortunately the Chinese had a good translator on hand.
Rapid prototyping and customization
“Our strength is our small size and brilliant team. Joe has a heavy background in engineering. He’s a great engineer and still works side by side with me. We are a super-creative team. There are not a lot of hoops to jump through and that’s how we like it. We’re small and quick to act. We come up with ideas. We rapid prototype things here on a daily basis. We plan to launch 15 products this year but might consider 100 options, then nail down what we want to push the hardest.”
Schell grew up in Branford, a small town near New Haven. He knew nothing about Differential Pressure Plus. “I was very lucky to stumble into a job that had a really bright future with a lot of room for growth. More than that, it was at a point where everyone at this company was open to a lot of things I’ve wanted to do,” he said. Recognizing a bright and talented kindred spirit, Gordon decided to train Schell as his successor. “He started training me on running the company with all the little, fine details. I know how to assemble every single one of the gauges and I know just as much as you possibly can about the products.” Schell was named President in 2015.
“Differential pressure is a very small, very specialized category. Joe started the company because he wanted to develop an alternative to metal differential gauges. He’s the one who came up with the idea of injection-molded gauges, put it into action and made it a huge success. He developed the first glass-filled nylon products that could be produced on a mass scale. This drove down cost and allowed more filter manufacturers to implement monitoring capabilities.”
At the time, monitoring differential pressure was a costly service for the filtration industry because the products were manufactured out of machined metal. Schell said the challenge was to know when a filter needed maintenance. “If the filter is changed too early, cartridges are wasted and money lost. If changed too late, pumps can be damaged and other components can fail. By using indicators like our DPP gauges, users know exactly when the most efficient time will be to clean the system.”
Value-added product used worldwide
Those differential pressure gauges are purely mechanical—you have to go to the device and read it. Today there are broader applications. “With electronics, we can integrate that technology into a control panel or Internet-based system so you can monitor systems remotely. For example, if a facility has 200 filters, it’s hard to walk around every day and see which one needs to be cleaned. With electronic monitoring, you can tell specifically which one needs to be cleaned first in the control room. This helps a lot and saves a lot of time.
“We also designed backflow test kits for the water industry about 15 years ago. Our patented backflow test kit has become the industry standard. The kits are hand-built and individually tested here in Branford.” Differential pressure products are very popular, Schell said. “We are a value-added product. We help other manufacturers with their product line. We private-label for a lot of manufacturers.” As a result, the name Differential Pressure Plus is not well known, even as it celebrates its silver anniversary. “The truth is, a lot of people don’t know our company. On the other side of that, we’re perfectly happy with how things are going and that our product is being sold by so many others around the world.”
Today more people are discovering the company through its expanded social-media presence. “Our specialty is customization and rapid prototyping for unique applications of differential pressure. We also maintain the ability to handle large-quantity orders and even stock gauges for time-sensitive applications. Now we are working to expand into liquid-level markers for cryogenics. We can use the gauges to measure liquid levels in big cryogenic tanks that are filled with oxygen or nitrogen and show how much liquid is left in the tank. We also see a rise in biomedical applications and increased usage of filter-status monitoring to improve efficiency.
“In the future we’ll see less and less oil and gas and more ‘green’ energy. That’s good for us because we’re all about filtration and purification. We have really high standards for that. We’ll continue to innovate and introduce new products. The most rewarding thing is developing a new idea we believe will change the industry.”