Dairyland Electrical: A History of Innovation
In 1983, Henry Tachick was faced with a dilemma: A power utility contact asked him for help solving an electric system isolation problem it faced, where no such product or solution existed. Henry was well equipped to address such a challenge, with an electrical engineering background, and having worked for power equipment providers such as General Electric. After evaluating the technical requirements regarding this opportunity, Henry formed Dairyland Electrical Industries to develop and market a new solid-state device called the Neutral Isolator that elegantly solved the problem.
Funds didn’t exist for Dairyland to perform AC fault testing on Henry’s Neutral Isolator. But based on the utility’s strong relationship with him, it offered to install the device on its power system and intentionally caused a fault to provide the needed current for evaluation. Such an unusual bond between supplier and client would seem to be an anomaly, but the company has enjoyed numerous close connections and incredible support from its customer base. Why is this?
During the last 34 years, Dairyland’s growth has been fueled by this type of customer-focused innovation – solving problems related to isolation issues, such as in cathodic protection systems, and over-voltage protection from lightning and AC fault current, in a variety of industries. Dairyland has pioneered many modern protection approaches, applying solid-state technology to create isolation and grounding products that are extensively used worldwide.
But customers and industry contacts have an unusually strong affinity for this small company from the dairy state of Wisconsin (they get many questions about their company name) that goes beyond consistent product performance. There is a following due to unusually strong personal connections that get established between staff and the outside world. No caller is turned away without receiving assistance of some kind – either technical solutions for their specific application problem, or a steer toward another industry source who is more knowledgeable on a particular matter, or perhaps obtaining brief training on the caller’s topic of interest.
The company has intentionally developed a unique customer-focused approach that values serving people and meeting their needs above selling products. This means that customer support staff will help anyone who needs commercial or application assistance, whether or not they will be purchasing products. Dairyland also prides itself on being a resource to the industry. It provides extensive technical training at conferences and for individual companies to help them understand electrical phenomena, safety and system improvement.
Throughout his career, this focus on helping others has always been a big part of Henry’s approach to life and work. So it’s not surprising that the company he founded reflects his personality. Mike Tachick, Henry’s son, serves as Dairyland’s president today, and has helped to form and cultivate these values that they established many years ago.
Mike recently provided an overview of the company’s most significant product innovations over the years and some intriguing insights into the customer-centric culture they continue to cultivate.
Significant product milestones
1990 – Isolator/Surge Protector (ISP)
“This was our first entry into the corrosion prevention market,” Mike recalls. “In the electrical transmission industry, liquid chemical polarization cells were used to ground certain types of power cables. But they weren’t very reliable, and when they failed, did so as an open circuit. In addition to potentially exposing workers to shock hazards, they also contained potassium hydroxide, a highly caustic fluid,” he explains. “We researched the needed characteristics for this demanding application, and developed a suitable product.”
Dairyland’s solid-state ISP was a major improvement in safety, reliability, and performance, and was readily accepted by the electrical transmission companies.
1994 – Polarization Cell Replacement (PCR)
As Dairyland’s technical staff learned about corrosion protection in the pipeline industry, they noticed that it had needs that were very similar to the electrical transmission industry. In fact, many pipelines had more extensive use of liquid chemical polarization cells for corrosion protection.
“The ISP was much too large and expensive for this application. So we redesigned and down-scaled an approach with a size, rating, and price point that would make it an attractive alternative to the liquid cells that were widely used at the time,” Mike remembers. “In fact, we were quite bold: We named the new product the Polarization Cell Replacement or PCR. We wanted to make it very obvious what it was designed to supersede. This is the product that really helped us make Dairyland a familiar and accepted name.”
1998 – Over-Voltage Protection (OVP)
Dairyland’s reputation as a company that was skilled at creating solutions for cathodic protection, lightning, and fault protection was starting to grow. As a result, the Army Corp of Engineers approached the company about its need to isolate pipelines used for aircraft fueling systems on military bases.
“They were using low-cost lightning arresters for this application, which clearly wasn’t adequate,” Mike recalls. “Arresters are not impressive with regard to lifetime issues in handling large current spikes from lightning strikes, don’t have any AC fault capability, and devices at that time weren’t certified to the needed codes for use in hazardous locations. The solid-state OVP devices we developed are fully certified and very robust. They’re now used at hundreds of military and civilian airports worldwide.”
2005 – Solid State Decoupler (SSD)
The SSD was an evolution of the PCR technology Dairyland developed for the cathodic protection industry. It uses proven, solid-state construction, combined with innovative production and packaging techniques, to offer exceptional performance at an attractive price. “We saw that we could redesign and open the market to additional applications if the device was more compact, with a lower cost,” Mike recalls.
To emphasize its dual role as a corrosion protection and over-voltage protection device, Dairyland even invented a new term to describe it – the “decoupler.” The industry adopted the term, and the Dairyland SSD, proven over many years, is now the most commonly used decoupler in the world.
Other products, Ongoing development
Numerous additional products were developed over the years, addressing unmet needs, such as safety grounding mats, isolation switches, other protection devices, and mounting accessories, among others. Close customer connections have directed Dairyland toward valuable product contributions.
“Research into new equipment for the energy industry has been a continual focus of our company,” Mike explains, “because we receive input from all directions – domestic and foreign – from sources such as distributors, contractors, consultants, end users and research associations.” He adds, “New products and markets open to us often, due to the wide application of our technology. And where satisfied users point us in the right direction, we enjoy support for each new development.”
The Knowledge Base – a key customer-support tool
Dairyland’s support for clients comes in various ways. Much of it is personal contact, providing commercial and technical guidance via phone, email, and industry training sessions. One notable component of Dairyland’s commitment to customer support is its sprawling Knowledge Base. This section of the company’s website contains a categorized collection of white papers, application guides, videos and interactive tools that visitors can access on a self-service basis.
“It’s hugely valuable to customers, especially those from other parts of the world, where the time difference becomes a factor. It’s a big part of how they get answers to their questions,” Mike explains. He adds that the company is committed to expanding the Knowledge Base to make even more valuable.
Becoming a service-driven company
As Dairyland has grown and evolved as a company, it has worked hard to become a trusted resource to the industries it serves. “We spend many hours per week on calls, emails and online training sessions, answering people’s technical and commercial questions and helping them properly apply our products, as well as solve related technical challenges,” Mike explains.“We are very free with our time on technical matters. We’ve discovered that if we solve these issues, and provide exceptional commercial support, sales takes care of itself.”
“We are here to serve, and we talk and train internally on having a service mentality and what that means, whether our ‘customer’ is another employee or the buyer of our products” he adds. “It takes a lot of effort to stay on track and encourage each other toward an attitude of service, because we all can drift if we’re not careful. Even if we fail sometimes at serving others, we keep going back to this goal, in order for us to show that all people have value.
“We believe that our words and actions matter, and others will be able to tell if we truly care or not,” he continues. “As a manufacturer of products that provide safety for personnel, public and the environment, our service to others comes via designing and manufacturing high quality devices, interfacing with all relevant parties, training others about the product use and all related safety matters – more than they even expected – and doing so with real care.
“We are always trying to get better,” Mike concludes. “Dairyland pursued certification via ISO 9001 some years ago as a challenge and a path to improvement. Wow, did we get humbled in the process! But are much improved, with more consistent, measurable performance, and with analysis and structure to guide present and future operations.
“The better we operate, the better we can serve others.”