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August 6, 2019 Manufacturing insights

Riverdale CEO leads company into new era of manufacturing

Photo | File Riverdale Mills CEO James Knott Jr.

Riverdale Mills CEO James Knott Jr. was given a leadership award from the National Association of Manufacturers this spring.
Why do you think NAM gave you this award?

Riverdale Mills is honored to have received a Visionary Leadership Award from the National Association of Manufacturers, which is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector in all 50 states.
To say we are in excellent company would be an understatement. Riverdale has a long history of leading and innovating. We are intensely focused on innovation, maintain a laser focus on sustainability and environmental best practices, have a deep-rooted dedication to our employees, and an unwavering commitment to deliver superior products to our customers around the world. For 40 years we have continuously examined what it takes to grow our company and workforce for the future.
The award honors those who are shaping the future of global manufacturing. How are you doing that?

A focus on sustainability has always been a core principle of Riverdale. Harnessing energy from the Blackstone River, installing environmentally responsible and energy saving heating and cooling systems, coating our wire mesh with phthalate-free PVC coating, installing state-of-the-art, smart technology on our manufacturing lines, introducing anti-climb, anti-cut high security fencing mesh long before 9/11, introducing plant-based PVC coating for use in the poultry industry, to list a few has allowed us to stay ahead of trends in the industries in which we work and deliver innovative, customer centric solutions.
Riverdale Mills has grown from a local wire mesh manufacturer to a global leader in the marine, security, construction and agriculture industries. Strategic, forward thinking ideas and the development of our talented employee base are the key to our success.

You've said tariffs have impacted Riverdale Mill’s profit. Is that still the case or has Riverdale found a way around that? 

I have worked in the wire industry since 1980 and have established strong partners along the way. I know the sell and buy sides and watch the markets closely. Deb Krikorian, our CFO, and I saw this trade war coming months in advance. We worked aggressively and implemented key workplace initiatives to get ahead and stay ahead of the tariff curve. More importantly, we stayed ahead of our competitors. Thankfully the North American tariffs have been lifted, hiring has resumed, and we are actively looking to hire on the plant floor and in our sales department.
Riverdale Mills has successfully weathered many economic storms over the past four decades. This has been a challenging time, but I am proud of the way our company persevered.
Has that affected where you source your steel?

Riverdale Mills is committed to delivering premium products to our customers, which means always buying the finest quality steel at the most competitive price. We have in-depth knowledge of the steel industry and excellent relationships with our steel providers. There is no shortcut to excellence.
Has Aquamesh changed much since the 1980s, when it was first introduced?

No. Aquamesh is and has been the industry standard for the marine industry since its introduction in 1980. It is made with the finest quality steel, on state-of-the-art machinery by the incredibly talented men and women at Riverdale Mills. It is said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Aquamesh is often imitated but never duplicated.
What is the future of global manufacturing?

Manufacturing is a problem looking for a solution. 
It is equally as important to remember how we got to where we are today in manufacturing as it is to carefully plan for the future. I have seen many hot trends come and go over the past 40 years, and have a very good sense of what is worth considering. The evolution of manufacturing has modernized the marine and agriculture industries and has brought in much needed foreign exchange. With an increased demand for products made in America, we will see companies mirror what Riverdale Mills has done for decades: make sizeable investments in machinery, technology and energy-efficient systems; recruit, support and continually train your workforce; deliver superior products and stay focused on finding the best customer solution. Manufacturing 4.0 will further optimize processes and equipment by connecting siloed data, embedding intelligence and empowering workers. 

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau.

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August 6, 2019

Congratulations on your award from NAM and comments on manufacturing.

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