As the old saying goes, good fortune is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Jack Hile and his son, Ross, experienced good fortune in April 1977 when they founded Parameter Generation & Control in Black Mountain, North Carolina. Thanks to the company’s innovative humidity and temperature conditioning systems and excellent customer service, Parameter is celebrating its milestone 40th anniversary this year.
Jack Hile’s background and experience helped him see the need to provide equipment for scientists and engineers whose research, testing, or quality control required very specific environmental simulation and control, and his position in the industry uniquely qualified him to fill that need.
Hile began his career as a mechanical engineer. In the mid-1960s, he joined American Instrument Company (AMINCO), selling several lines of their laboratory equipment, including the product Parameter now produces. AMINCO, established in 1919, had developed a line of precise humidity and temperature conditioning systems in the 1930s for the American market after the onset of World War II. Prior to the war, much of that equipment had been imported from Germany, so another source was needed.
In 1970, while Hile was still with AMINCO, Baxter Laboratories purchased the company. Baxter primarily focused on producing and selling the company’s medical-related products; its industrial technology mostly sat dormant. Out of a job, Hile established an independent industrial sales business called Hile and Associates, and through his continued involvement with clients, he realized there remained a viable market for the humidity and temperature conditioning systems AMINCO had developed.
Hile and his son, Ross, capitalized on this opportunity by purchasing the manufacturing rights, spare parts and drawings for the AMINCO product from Baxter. With that, Parameter Generation & Control was born in Black Mountain.
The first pieces of equipment Parameter produced were three, 9-cubic-feet chambers for Bell Labs, GE and DuPont. Since then, the company has expanded greatly on its original concept and developed an array of products and services for customers. Advances in control technology, saturation and refrigeration now allow for smaller and more efficient systems with tighter control capabilities in products that range in size from 4 cubic feet to 60,000 cubic feet.
Parameter also maintains a full-service installation and preventive maintenance group and a validation department to better serve clients.
Today Parameter’s products are sold in more than 50 countries around the world in industries that include pharmaceuticals, semi-conductors, electronics, packaging, textiles, tobacco and preservation. The company offers products and services that include:
- A full line of precise temperature and humidity chambers and rooms, environmental chambers, conditioning systems and stability chambers, innovated and manufactured by Parameter.
- State-of-the-art, off-premise contract stability storage rooms and chambers through a strategic alliance with Precision Stability Storage.
- Complete laboratory, equipment and facility validation services.
Jack Hile’s son, Clay, who became the company president in 1988, is proud of Parameter’s 40 years of innovation and excellent service as well as the company’s ability to compete successfully against larger corporations. He says Parameter’s core vision of focusing on what it does best has helped the company succeed.
“We have always focused on building the best, most reliable humidity temperature conditioners and chambers on the market,” Hile said. “This makes it easier for us to compete with better known companies.”
Advances in technology have certainly changed the company and the industry in many ways, from communication to product enhancement.
“Technology has driven the industries we deal with to expect our units to have enhanced communications with their building monitoring systems, easier equipment management and to build more energy-efficient systems,” he said.
“For years we used generic control pads, but often they would be upgraded by the manufacturer and no longer work on our older conditioners,” Hile said. “To better support our customers and support older systems, we developed our own Smart Pad in the 1990s.”
Parameter provides unique temperature- and humidity-control solutions for a number of memorable projects. In the early 1980s, the company began working with the Library of Congress to protect priceless copies of rare Gutenberg and Mainz Bibles. It also provides a conditioned vault for other items not on display.
Another notable client Parameter has worked with is Aerojet, a manufacturer of solid rocket fuel.
“We built several self-contained rooms for housing rocket fuel in the mid 1980s,” Hile said. “These rooms were located in the California desert and separated by large dirt dividers in case one of the rooms exploded.”
Throughout its 40 years, Parameter has remained a family-owned and family-operated business.
“I think we trust each other to act for the best interests of the company,” Hile said.
That family atmosphere seeps into the company culture, too. According to Hile, several of the company’s employees have been there for more than 30 years.
The company made its first home in historic downtown Black Mountain in two storefronts so small that all sheet-metal fabrication and welding had to be conducted offsite. By 1979, Parameter had outgrown its first home and moved to its current location on the west side of town.
Hile says Black Mountain remains an ideal home base for the company.
“In the early 1960s, my father took a job at a local college,” he said. “It is a beautiful place to live, and since we deal with companies worldwide, there was not a huge benefit to relocating to a larger metropolitan area.”
The success and growth of the company has led to several expansions over the years, first in 1984, then again in the late 1990s. A new building dedicated for testing was added to the company around 2013.
Other changes have taken place through the years. The validation department was established in 2007 to better help pharma clients meet worldwide regulatory requirements. A new touch screen controller is being developed to replace the company’s Smart Pad technology. Parameter has expanded into much of Europe, and established Parameter EU, a subsidiary corporation, in Warsaw, Poland, to serve Eastern Europe.
Parameter’s first 40 years have borne witness to the power of innovation and customer care. And in Hile’s estimation, it’s just the beginning.
“For many years, the company has been run by my brother, Ross, and me, plus two other brothers, Barry and Randy Wilson,” Hile said. “We are all four getting old and have been transitioning to a younger group of employees over the last three years. This new group has helped implement new procedures to help the company grow and remain competitive.”
Their vision for the future remains the same, though. According to Hile, “We’ll keep developing better systems that are more cost-efficient, more energy-efficient, smaller. We’ll expand our markets both geographically and through new applications. And we’ll continue to provide a quality workplace for our employees.”