Precision Laboratories: An Obsessive Compulsion

Precision Laboratories Founder Jim Wohlner, left, and his son, Richard.
Precision Laboratories Founder Jim Wohlner, left, and his son, Richard.

Back in 1962, Precision Laboratories was founded as a private label distributor of maintenance chemicals. From this humble beginning, the company has grown into a key player in the agriculture and turf & ornamentals markets, offering such items as adjuvants, seed enhancements and foliar nutrition.

How has the company managed to accomplish this in its 50-year history? According to Richard Wohlner, president, there’s no secret to Precision Laboratories’ success. “The key is we’re obsessed,” says Wohlner. “For 50 years, we’ve been obsessed with all aspects of our business. We’re obsessed with making sure the customer gets their needs met. We’re obsessed with positioning products that solve problems. We’re obsessed with service levels that ‘wow’ our customers. We’re obsessed with creating an excellent employment experience for our people. That’s what has kept us in business these past 50 years.”

In many ways, he adds, this obsessive nature was inherited from his father, Jim, the company founder. For more than 30 years, Wohlner learned how to pay attention to all the little details of Precision Laboratories’ business. “Eventually, with this training, I thought I would be ready to step up and take the company to the next level,” says Wohlner. “So in January 1995, I bought the business from my dad.”

An Early Crisis

At that time, he says, a majority of Precision Laboratories’ business was producing additives for the then-up-and-coming herbicide glyphosate, which the manufacturer Monsanto Co. marketed under the tradename Roundup. “But in October 1995, Mon­santo announced its intention to make Roundup Ultra and Pro with its own additives,” says Wohlner. “So we lost approximately 60% of our business within the next 12 months.”

Faced with this loss, Wohlner quickly began looking for new products and business areas for Precision Laboratories to shift its resources. Within a few years, the company had a half-dozens new products to its brand family. This included Transport, a water conditioner, Border, a liquid activator adjuvant containing drift control, surfactant and ammonium sulfate, and Cascade, a soil surfactant for intensely managed turf.

With these and many other products in its portfolio, Precision Labora­tories was not only able to survive through the 1990s, but thrive, says Wohlner. “So once the 2000s arrived, we became obsessed with finding new opportunities and problems to solve for our customers,” he says.

For example, in 2007, Precision Laboratories went back to help the product that provided the majority of its business in the early 1990s, Roundup, with Simplyx. “We formulated an adjuvant that allows unhappy mixtures to work well together, such as glyphosate and clethodim,” says Wohlner. “One of these is a very water-loving chemistry while the other is a very oil-loving chemistry. But by using Simplyx, customers can gets these products to work together and it allows them to maximize control of volunteer corn in Roundup-resistant soybean fields.”

More recently, Precision Laboratories has focused its product attention on the problem of spray drift. In 2012, the company introduced Border AQ, a surfactant and drift retardant concentrate. “We are advancing our polymer technology to control drift and maintain the spray droplet on the plant,” says Wohlner. Another new drift control agent is Avianis DC, which is targeted at the aerial application marketplace.

In addition to these brands, Precision Laboratories has also dived into the high-tech market. In 2011, the company debuted Mix Tank for iPhone and Android. This app allows users to track tank mixes and prevent mixing problems from occurring.

Company Moves

Besides obsessing over new product launches, Precision Laboratories has also spent the past few years upgrading its overall business as well. For example, in 2010, the company opened a new facility in Chicago, IL, to manufacture its Wuxal foliar fertilizer. And in honor of its 50-year anniversary, Precision Laboratories unveiled a new corporate logo at a gala celebration this past summer.

“Our old logo had a very retro look to it, but it didn’t really reflect where we are today as a company,” says Wohlner. “The new logo shows a p-shaped leaf pointing upwards. This helps symbolize our company’s commitment to our products and people, but pointing towards the sky reflects our commitment to growth.”

Further down the line, Wohlner says Precision Laboratories remains obsessed with solving current industry problems with new products. Already in the pipeline is a seed-applied nutrition for corn, soybeans, cotton and cereals and products to help with water management.

But despite these changes, Wohlner says one thing will remain constant at Precision Laboratories — an obsession to stay true to its founder’s vision. “In terms of a legacy for the company, I thank my father, Jim, for creating a business that’s lasted for 50 years,” he says. “At the 50th anniversary celebration, I told him ‘your imprint is strong, to take care of customers and anybody connected with our company. As long as I’m here, that will never change.’”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Precision Laboratories: An Obsessive Compulsion

  1. I have had the privilege of working with the people at Precision for many years, and can say without reservation that Mr. Wohlner absolutely sincere in everything he says. From top to bottom this is an organization of blue chip people – super smart and down to earth. They really do care.

Adjuvants Stories
AdjuvantsAdjuvants 2014: Who Needs Good Crop Prices?
March 3, 2014
Apparently not the adjuvants market as new herbicide technologies and other influences have manufacturers ramping up production in anticipation of another splendid season for adjuvant adoption. Read More
AdjuvantsNew Adjuvants Report Forecasts A Growing Market
November 1, 2013
The global agriculture adjuvant market valued at around $2 million in 2012 is expected to to reach nearly $3 million by 2018. Read More
AdjuvantsAdjuvants: Activating Yields
March 1, 2013
Manufacturers are ramping up production of specialty adjuvants as the tank mix takes center stage in the weed resistance fight. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100The Andersons Starts Venture Capital Subsidiary
January 26, 2015
The Andersons has established Maumee Ventures, a venture capital subsidiary designed to foster promising innovations that strategically align with the company’s core businesses. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer Warehouse
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Move To Colorado Complete
January 20, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co. announces the opening of its new Agribusiness Division location in the Denver, CO, Metro Area. The new facility will host key personnel as the company shifts the base of its Agribusiness operations from California to Colorado. Read More
CropLife 100United Suppliers, McGregor Co., Five Others To Form Aligned Ag Distributors
January 20, 2015
These companies will continue to operate as independently owned and operated businesses, however, their crop protection divisions will now be formally aligned under the umbrella of Aligned Ag Distributors. Read More
CropLife 100Bozeman Named SEEDWAY Chief Operating Officer
January 16, 2015
He succeeds Donald Wertman, who will retire at the end of August 2015 after 40 years with the GROWMARK subsidiary. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis’ Craig Bair Honored For Safety Contributions To Ag Aviation
January 14, 2015
The William O. Marsh Safety Award recognizes significant achievements in safety, safety education or an outstanding operational safety program. Read More
Latest News
Seed/BiotechDow Details Enlist Trait Stacking Standards
January 30, 2015
Dow says it will allow the Enlist trait to be stacked with advanced glyphosate traits only, and will not allow stacking with the first generation of the Roundup Ready trait. Read More
ManagementCropLife Retail Week: IFCA’s Jean Payne on Illinois wat…
January 30, 2015
Editor Eric Sfiligoj shares insight from the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association conference including a chat with IFCA President Jean Read More
ManagementOABA Conference Set To Highlight Trends, Technology And…
January 29, 2015
The third annual Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) Industry Conference is set to take place February 4-5. Read More
FertilizerThe Fertilizer Institute President Jahn Testifies Befor…
January 28, 2015
The committee hearing, "Freight Rail Transportation: Enhancing Safety, Efficiency, and Commerce," looked at challenges facing our nation's freight rail network created by higher demand, rules and regulations and infrastructure needs. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue University Acquires Technology For Herbicide Mol…
January 28, 2015
Protea's LAESI DP-1000 Instrument System will be used in Purdue's College of Agriculture, the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, for the molecular imaging of herbicide active ingredients and other related compounds to optimize herbicide applications and improve weed management.  Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Hires New Crop Peformance Marketing Manager
January 27, 2015
As Marketing Manager for the Crop Performance division, Usman Khalid will work out of H.J. Baker’s global headquarters in Westport, CT, and will drive new initiatives for the division. Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Starts Venture Capital Subsidiary
January 26, 2015
The Andersons has established Maumee Ventures, a venture capital subsidiary designed to foster promising innovations that strategically align with the company’s core businesses. Read More
Exclusive state-of-the art Stueve Construction designed “Vista View” Elevated Control Room.
Eric Sfiligoj2015 Agricultural Market Read: Mixed
January 26, 2015
The agricultural market could look radically different this year, profit-wise, depending upon which segment you do business in. Read More
Edward Chell Biosafe
Crop InputsBioSafe Systems Names Ed Chell California Territory Man…
January 26, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the recent addition of Ed Chell as California Territory Manager for the agrichemical division, supporting the crop protection, water treatment and food safety business segments. Read More
InsecticidesBayer CropScience Introduces Sivanto Insecticide
January 26, 2015
Sivanto precisely targets key damaging pests at multiple insect life stages to prevent damage to plants and help minimize the spread of diseases from insect carriers. Read More
ManagementRetail Collaboration, Communicating Agriculture’s Good …
January 23, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the recent creation of Aligned Ag Distributors, and the US Farmers and Ranchers Read More
FertilizerOSU Expert: Toledo Water Crisis A Turning Point For Ohi…
January 23, 2015
The August 2014 water crisis in Toledo, OH, impacted Ohioans’ views of Lake Erie algae problems by increasing the attribution of blame of algae growth on agriculture. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Launching TIGER XP
January 22, 2015
Tiger-Sul introduces this next generation sulphur-bentonite product with a proprietary activator – ensuring farmers have a well-balanced nutrient replacement program. Read More
Crop InputsH.J. Baker Expands China Sales Force
January 21, 2015
Global Agricultural firm H.J. Baker announced that sales veteran Shi Dongshen has joined their Shanghai office in China. This newest hire follows the recent opening of their Lianyungang Sulphur Bentonite Plant. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Partners With Northern Partners Coop On Fertilizer …
January 21, 2015
In addition, the two companies will form a joint venture to build and operate a grain barge loading facility that will handle corn, soybeans and wheat for export through the CHS terminal at Myrtle Grove, LA. Read More
Matt Hopkins5 Bold Predictions For Ag Retail In 2015
January 21, 2015
This past year was filled with ups and downs for the nation’s top ag retailers, but what will 2015 have in store? Read More
SoftwareDeere Launches App Center
January 20, 2015
The John Deere App Center provides users the ability to search and find apps most useful to their business or operations. Read More
Crop InputsNew Syngenta Herbicide Approved In Soybeans, Sunflowers
January 20, 2015
Syngenta will sell BroadAxe XC herbicide in 2015 for use on soybeans, sunflowers and dry peas Read More