Gray Solutions, a Gray company that provides automation, operations and information services to help food & beverage customers implement smart manufacturing, has reached a merger agreement with Stone Technologies.
The discussion surrounding the merger started about eight months ago—quick timing for an idea to come full circle in manufacturing.
“Since its inception three years ago, Gray Solutions has experienced exponential growth starting with two team members and increasing to 70 team members today,” says Walker Mattox, CEO of Gray Solutions. “This merger provides the perfect opportunity to bring Stone’s experience in the industry alongside our rapidly growing business to offer a more complete and robust digital offering to customers.”
Stone’s customer base and reputation within the industry were both big selling points for Gray Solutions.
“We recognized over the last three years once we got more into the digital space, how important it is for our customers today and in the future. So we have been working on growing our digital offering more robustly in the last year or so,” says Mattox.
But Mattox says that the most important aspect of Stone was its culture and how well it would fit with Gray Solutions.
“Once we met the people, it was the leadership team and how they cared both for their customers and their people that stuck with us and sold us on Stone,” says Mattox. He says they had good strong leaders, good people in the business and they believe, as does Gray Solutions, that you have to do what’s right for your customers every time.
Since its founding in 1996, Stone Technologies grew to 84 full-time team members in 20 states. The company delivers manufacturing execution, information, process control, packaging and material handling systems, and provides complete industrial automation and information services from conceptual design through commissioning. The company is an Authorized Rockwell Solution Partner for Control, Process and Information, a Wonderware Endorsed Systems Integrator and a Premier Partner with OSISoft, which was part of the draw for Gray.
Added solutions and services
Mattox says that what he’s excited by most about the new company’s offerings is Stone’s experience over the last 25 years in delivering excellent digital solutions for their customers, which will bump Gray Solutions’ business offerings up a notch. “They have a really strong digital transformation group that delivers manufacturing execution systems, data information systems. They also have a lot of credentials in the industry that our customers are looking for.”
He adds that bringing them on board elevates Gray’s ability to execute work by not only the increased number of employees, but also puts a stake in the ground making Gray a leader in offering these solutions due to the experience that Stone brings to the table.
Because 98% of Gray Solutions’ work is in the food & beverage space, and Stone is about 80% food & beverage, with some pharma and chemical mixed in, it’s a right fit. “The acquisition is about better serving the food & beverage market,” Mattox says.
“As we continue to innovate and lead in the food & beverage industry, we recognize the growing need for digital services. Through this merger, Gray is answering the call of our customer needs,” points out Tyler Cundiff, president, Food & Beverage Market, Gray, Inc.
“As we looked at Stone, we realized there is such overlap with what Gray offers and what Stone offers in the market, that we are actually going to merge,” says Mattox.
That merge will take place within the next year. Stone’s leadership will join the leadership team at Gray Solutions. Eric Schaefer, former president of Stone and now president of Gray Solutions, and Don Ulrich, former CEO of Stone Technologies and now CRO of Gray Solutions, will join Mattox at the helm.
“We’ll be guiding the Gray Solutions ship together with the three of us,” says Mattox.
“Stone is thrilled to become part of a growing organization that will allow us not only to advance the digital solution we can offer customers, but also offer further growth opportunities for our team members,” says Schaefer. “The merger is truly a win-win from every angle and secures our future as a premier integrator for our team members and customers.”
Mattox says that what he’s most excited about being able to offer now with the combined solutions, is the expansion of the company’s NEFs (national equipment and facility solutions) offerings and digital transformation offerings overall. With the size and scale of the combined business, it allows Gray to also put a greater focus on other areas such as cybersecurity for food & beverage manufacturers.
“We’ve actually already hired a senior security engineer that will focus solely on both the security of the solutions we design and also helping our customer have secure facilities,” says Mattox. He adds that it makes perfect sense that they include that offering to their customers.
In addition to the headquarters in Lexington, Ky., and a hub in Anaheim, Calif., Gray Solutions will now have a hub in St. Louis, Mo. with continuing operations across 26 states.
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