Pneumatic Conveying Inc. (Pneu-Con), a designer and manufacturer of dry bulk material pneumatic conveying solutions, named Cal State Fullerton MBA grad Matthew Hemenez ’09 as its new CEO this July.
Hemenez has more than a quarter century of experience in high-tech manufacturing leadership in Southern California and globally. It is a career that began in the U.S. Marine Corps, where Hemenez was a captain.
“I was introduced to leadership in high tech as a telecommunications officer in the Marine Corps. There, I discovered a previously unknown interest and aptitude in collaborating with engineers and technicians to design and implement systems, and a similar affinity for the operational challenges of troubleshooting those systems when things didn’t go as expected,” says Hemenez. “This carried over into my civilian career in the manufacturing environment. Since that transition, I have been fortunate to have built a career in high-tech manufacturing, applying cumulative experience within the organizations that I have led.”
After leaving the Marine Corps in 1996, Hemenez pursued a higher education at the University of Oklahoma and then at Cal State Fullerton. His career took him to PairGain Technologies Inc., Raytheon, SureFire LLC and corporate leadership at Silynx Communications Inc.
“The leadership opportunity in high-technology manufacturing has fundamentally not changed over the years. It starts by applying available technologies to a product vision, converting that vision to paper, then bringing together experts of completely different domains, who have competing priorities, to work in unison toward the singular objective of producing a tangible product,” he says. “Being able to orchestrate these interests into the best possible product amidst the complexities of high technology trade-offs is a challenging yet deeply fulfilling leadership experience.”
A New Day for Pneu-Con
Pneu-Con was founded in 1969 to sell other companies’ products. The start-up began manufacturing its own equipment in 1979, yet remained family-run until acquisition by a private equity firm in 2017.
The company designs means for moving dry bulk materials – which can include virtually any substance in particulate form, from flour or sugar to concrete or limestone – through pneumatic systems moving these materials through air.
This includes pushing materials from behind (positive pressure) or pulling them through with a vacuum (negative pressure), resulting in efficiency and ergonomic benefits, such as preventing factory workers from hauling hundreds of pounds of materials manually.
“Our mission is to provide manufacturers of all sizes and types with solutions that contribute positive economic, ergonomic, or operational benefits to their businesses. The systems can be very small or large enough to involve railroad cars. But to the end-user it is relative. A single pneumatic conveying system for a small coffee roaster is as critical an investment as a complex system is to a multi-site conglomerate. Our mission is to collaborate with our customers to meet their objectives and maintain that relationship indefinitely,” says Hemenez.
A long-standing company with significant potential, Hemenez believes the company is positioned for growth, with a highly talented and dedicated team, strong manufacturing capabilities, and long-standing industry relationships.
“In years to come I see Pneu-Con as a much larger company, with even more highly talented team members, a broader solutions portfolio, and certainly a well-known and highly respected manufacturer within our industry,” says Hemenez.
21st Century Leadership in Manufacturing
Perhaps no field has seen as dramatic a transformation due to technology as manufacturing, creating challenges but also new opportunities for efficiency and innovation. Yet the situation is ever-changing and evolves based on local and global market trends.
“The rapid expansion of technologies and processes that are available today provides manufacturers with substantial opportunity to innovate. Overseas manufacturers, which are more sophisticated than ever, create even more alternatives. The crucial element is developing an environment of innovation within the company to capitalize on so many options,” says Hemenez. “From material advancements to geography to automation to virtual controls, there has been no better time in history to be a manufacturer. Unfortunately, the price for these capabilities is a macro economy that continues to evolve as well. Two years ago, daunting new tariffs were the greatest challenge. Today, there are crippling supply chain shortages rising out of the COVID recovery. The strongest leaders in high-tech today dedicate time to following trends to anticipate factors that are very hard to anticipate while simultaneously leading in the now, knowing alternative responses and deploying them when the ‘un-anticipatable’ reveals its ugly head.”
According to Hemenez, vigilance is the operative word of today’s manufacturing.
“Getting complacent in today’s high-tech environment will quickly lead to an unrecoverable loss of market share. The great companies never get complacent. This is a standard that I set for my entire organization. Although it can be stressful, it is something that I have truly learned to appreciate, and ultimately enjoy, about leadership in high-technology manufacturing,” he says.
The MBA Impact
Hemenez was working first as director of product management and then vice president of sales and marketing for Fountain Valley-based defense contractor SureFire LLC while he earned his MBA in finance at Cal State Fullerton in the late 2000s.
“Looking back over the 13 years since I earned my CSUF MBA, I see it equipped me with a tool, a perspective, a formula, a process, a story, a book, a term, a technique that I could apply to innumerable disparate business – and some non-business – situations,” says Hemenez.
“Sometimes, I subconsciously applied an MBA experience to a problem, and I didn’t even realize it. Sometimes it was overt, where I might refer to a case study to break open a new approach to an operation. I guess I would sum it up accordingly: The one way an MBA helped me in my career was by opening my mind to a breadth and depth of practical and intellectual alternatives that otherwise would have been unknown to me.”
As MBA degrees are typically earned while working full-time, Hemenez recognizes attainment of the degree as a test of the student’s resolve, yet worthwhile for optimal personal and professional development.
“An MBA is a means for someone to grow across many branches, career growth and personal growth obviously being at the top of that list,” he says.
For More on MBA Programs
Cal State Fullerton’s College of Business and Economics offers two types of MBA programs: The Fully Employed MBA (FEMBA) designed for the working professional and featuring a cohort-based three-year program with eight-week courses, and the more traditional Flex MBA featuring courses one night each week covering 11 concentrations.
For more information on these degree programs and to discover which option is best for you, visit Graduate Business Programs online.