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 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires South Dakota Retailer
April 2, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Co.’s Agribusiness Division, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed Read More
CropLife 100The McGregor Co. Closes Smith-Kem Acquisition
April 2, 2015
The McGregor Co. — ranked No. 16 on the CropLife 100 list of largest U.S. ag retailers — has completed Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Latest News
Industry NewsCHS Insurance Names New Director Of Sales
April 17, 2015
Bryan Lewis has been named director of sales for CHS Insurance, the nation’s largest agribusiness insurance broker and full-service insurance Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesGenetic Literacy Project: There’s No Such Thing A…
April 17, 2015
Read the latest “analysis” on GMOs from Consumer Reports and you’ll “learn” that glyphosate, the chemical developed by Monsanto (its Read More
HerbicidesNew Resistance To 2,4-D Discovered In Australia
April 17, 2015
In a world-first case of herbicide resistance, researchers have confirmed that sowthistle weed in the south east of South Australia Read More
ManagementNews From RTP Company Visits and Growers Buying Older S…
April 16, 2015
Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss recent trips to the Research Triangle Park area and market seed sales trends. Read More
soybean field
StewardshipNew ASABE Standard Establishes Framework For Sustainabl…
April 16, 2015
The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) has initiated a project to develop a new standard to establish Read More
MicronutrientsSouthern States: An Inside Look At Our Tissue Sampling …
April 15, 2015
Remember learning about the food pyramid in school? The nutritional diagram recommends the proper amount of nutrients you need on Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds New U.S. Fungicides Marketing Manager
April 15, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently hired Deneen Sebastian as its Marketing Manager for U.S. Row Crops, Fungicides. Most recently, Sebastian Read More
FungicidesVerdesian Launches Phosphite-Based Cereal Fungicide
April 14, 2015
A new, phosphite-based fungicide designed for improved suppression of deoxynivalenol (DON) in wheat and barley infected by Fusarium head blight Read More
Mature Waterhemp in Corn
HerbicidesSURVEY: Close To 90% Of Growers Battle Weed Resistance
April 14, 2015
Herbicide resistance management continues to be a priority for corn and soybean growers, and they’re working together more effectively to Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
StewardshipFMC Corp. Joins Sustainable Agriculture Alliance
April 14, 2015
FMC Corp. has joined Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, a multi-stakeholder initiative working to define, measure and Read More
Industry NewsArysta Adds Two To Goëmar Sales Team
April 14, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced two new additions to the Goëmar sales team: Steve Kelly, Technical Service Manager – Read More
Valley Variable Rate Irrigation
Precision AgVariable Rate Irrigation Gains Followers
April 14, 2015
Irrigation systems have had the ability to apply different amounts of water throughout a field for decades, using timers that Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Gr…
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Soybean field
Industry NewsThree Ag Co-ops Poised For Possible Merger
April 13, 2015
Following months of study and preparations, the Board of Directors for United Farmers Coop (UFC), Farmers Elevator Cooperative (FEC) and Read More
Eric SfiligojAgriculture Braces For More Belt-Tightening
April 13, 2015
Spring is in full bloom across the U.S. and ag retailers and their grower-customers are busily getting into high gear. Read More
ManagementPollinator Health and Washington, DC
April 9, 2015
CropLife America’s Kellie Bray speaks with CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj regarding bee health and proposed Beltway regulations. Read More
InsecticidesValent Takes On MGK Insecticide Portfolio
April 9, 2015
As of April 1, Valent U.S.A. Corp. became the exclusive provider of the MGK crop protection line of insect control Read More