Process Technology President, Jody Richards, featured in News-Herald Story

Process Technology President, Jody Richards, featured in News-Herald Story

Article Content from The News-Herald
Jody Richards of Process Technology in Willoughby named an Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year finalist

"My dad started the company and as a child, we used to go to trade shows in the surface finishing industry," said Richards, who is now president of the Willoughby-based business.

Ernst & Young LLP announced that Richards was named an Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 East Central Award finalist. In its 34th year, the Entrepreneur of the Year program honors entrepreneurial business leaders whose ambitions deliver innovation, growth and prosperity as they build and sustain successful businesses that transform the world.

Richards was selected as one of 26 finalists from nearly 100 nominations by a panel of independent judges. When she broke the news to her family in a group text, her brother wrote back, "That's a big deal. They have their own Wikipedia page," Richards said with a laugh. The nominees are evaluated based on six criteria, including overcoming adversity, financial performance, societal impact and commitment to building a values-based company, innovation and talent management. Award winners will be announced through a virtual event Oct. 7. "I think a lot of it comes down to how your story stacks up against others," Richards said. "There's some luck in terms of what people think is interesting, but I think Process Technology has a great story. We came from kind of being this sleepy, midwestern company serving automotive and aerospace, and now the majority of our business is global."

Being on the forefront of technology is crucial to be able to, in terms of innovation, turn things around quickly because customers are like, "I needed it yesterday," Richards said.

"They're not talking about some product shipped," she said. "They're talking about, 'Hey, I need you to design something and create it. I want to put this on the next generation of tools that's going to make the latest iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy.'"

Richards has been familiar with the products in the company her entire life. She grew up in the area, but her dwellings have also included France, Spain, Japan, California and Virginia. In the end, Richards moved back to the area, she said. When her dad asked her to help with some technology issues within the company, her role in the business grew to new heights - taking over. "I was living in Virginia at the time and in Virginia, they get like maybe snow once, at least where I was living, in a year and it lasts for 10 minutes," Richards said with a laugh. "So, I was like I need a whole new wardrobe."

When she came back at the end of 2006, Process Technology had a computer system that lacked a manufacturing module, Richards said. She implemented a new software system to run the business.

"We're a manufacturing company, so I don't know how that worked for so long," she said with a laugh. Everyone in the world is an indirect customer of Process Technology, Richards said. The company makes equipment that is used to manufacture semiconductor chips, which are in smart phones, vehicles, laptops and flat panel TVs.
"When you make a semiconductor chip, it's kind of crazy because semiconductor chips are so tiny, but the equipment to make it is like 50 meters long," Richards said with a laugh. "As it's going through all these chambers and having different processes done on it, our equipment is in that big machine."

In the 1960s, when semiconductor chips were starting to be made, equipment from the surface finishing industry was used, Richards said. The heaters that were originally started with Process Technology were for surface finishing — coating on airplane and car engine parts to faucets with satin nickel finish.

"In the 1960s, this was a 10 megabyte hard drive," Richards said, pointing to a large, circular device shaped like a vinyl record. "Now, you get terabytes on something so tiny." As the geometry shrunk over time, the quality rose. Process Technology has grown into that over the years and it's also the majority of the business, Richards said. When she joined, the surface finishing piece was still 75% of the business, but she saw an opportunity for growth with semiconductors.

Now, most of Process Technology's sales are international and the majority of business involves semiconductors, Richards said. As a child, she never thought she would end up working at Process Technology, but it's one of the best things to have happened to her, she said. "I always knew I would end up in business," she said. "I had my own jewelry business or translation business, and I was always interested in starting a business and running a business." Richards loves to travel and she speaks four languages fluently. She was able to take those parts of her personality to a business setting, she said, figuring out how they would work together. "It's grow or die, so I started thinking about how can I grow the business, and I started visiting customers all over the world and attending trade shows," Richards said. "Not just trade shows in our industry, but other trade shows trying to find the pain points."

Richards is full of energy, both in the business and at home, said Sid Srivastava, husband. She finds time to think about strategy and the future, and she is also a true, risk-taking entrepreneur, he said.

"I'm in awe when she makes some of the decisions she makes," he said. "All the people who work for her tell me that her presence is very energizing."

Process Technology is an important business because people are always buying new electronic and cellular devices, Srivastava said. Processing power keeps growing and people may not realize the large ecosystem behind it, which enables it, he said.

Business at Process Technology has doubled over the last eight years, Richards said. Before shutdowns occurred due to the novel coronavirus, Process Technology staff were already prepared, she said. Plans were in place and everything was rolled out.

"I took something I love and a problem, and kind of put them together," she said. "I see us continuing to grow and to grow in a global manner."

Credit - Credit - Marah MorrisonNews-Herald

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