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 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT, Verdesian Ink Distribution Agreement
December 9, 2014
The agreement grants BRANDT the exclusive right to sell and market Verdesian’s patented Steric chemistry in the Turf and Ornamental and eastern U.S. ag markets under the BRANDT Reaction product line name. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Colors Of Custom Application
December 5, 2014
Although many color spray rigs are in the yards of the nation’s top ag retailers, the majority of them still come in only a few shades. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Invests In Meridian Agriculture Distribution
December 4, 2014
Meridian will provide retailers with supplier-branded products and numerous opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: Entering A New Seed Era
December 4, 2014
The seed category has been re-vitalized during the past few years, and more good news (and varieties) are headed the industry’s way in 2015. Read More
CropLife 100CropLife 100: The Depressed State Of Fertilizer
December 3, 2014
Following downright giddy growth earlier this decade, fertilizer sales have fallen back down to earth the past two years. Read More

Latest News

Seed/BiotechKaren Arthur Joins AgriThority As Seed Treatment Produc…
December 19, 2014
Prior to joining AgriThority, Arthur directed research and development programs, overseeing laboratory and field research, to build the Valent U.S.A. seed treatment portfolio. Read More
EquipmentJohn Deere To Sell Crop Insurance Business
December 19, 2014
Deere & Co. has reached a definitive agreement to sell its crop insurance business, subject to regulatory approval, to Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. of Iowa. Read More
Crop InputsNufarm Fills Regulatory VP Position
December 18, 2014
Nufarm announced today that Rob Schwehr has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Innovation & Regulatory Affairs for Nufarm Americas. Read More
Seed/BiotechReport: China Approves Viptera Corn, U.S. Officials Awa…
December 17, 2014
Chinese authorities have informed some agriculture industry officials the government has approved U.S. imports of a type of genetically modified corn developed by Syngenta. Read More
FertilizerMonty’s Plant Food Brings In New Sales Rep
December 16, 2014
Monty's Plant Food Company has hired Warren Kearns as its newest Sales Representative for the South Carolina area. Read More
EquipmentHagie Wins 2014 CropLife IRON Product Of The Year Award
December 15, 2014
The self-propelled sprayer maker has a hit on its hands with the new STS Series model. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Sees China Approving Contentious GMO Corn Soon
December 15, 2014
Syngenta will make an announcement when it receives official documentation from China that Agrisure Viptera corn, known as MIR 162, has been cleared for import. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Life Sciences Names Vice President Of Communi…
December 15, 2014
Amy Bugg will oversee the execution of all promotional strategies for the corporate brand and the complete product portfolio. Read More
StewardshipFarmers, Retailers Attend 4R Certification 4U Workshop
December 15, 2014
More than 160 farmers and ag retailer attended the “4R Certification 4U” workshop December 12 to learn more about the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, water quality research in the area and cost-sharing opportunities. Read More
Matt Hopkins10 Best New Agriculture Apps For 2015
December 15, 2014
These new agriculture apps are certain to help ag professionals do their jobs more efficiently in 2015 and beyond. Read More
ManagementARA Learnings, Retail Buying Intentions: Welcome To Cro…
December 12, 2014
This informal video program puts news and events effecting retailers into context, and features Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Herbicide-Tolerant Technology Closer To Commer…
December 12, 2014
The final EIS moves Monsanto one step closer to the introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, paving the way to provide access to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Issues Final Environmental Impact Statement On Her…
December 12, 2014
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is issuing a final environmental impact statement on varieties of cotton and soybeans that have been genetically engineered for resistance to several herbicides, including the one known as dicamba. Read More
CropLife 100CHS: Driving Momentum To Help Farmer-Owners Grow
December 11, 2014
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, must capture new opportunities to Read More
LegislationARA Applauds CFATS Passage Prior To Holiday Adjournment
December 11, 2014
The streamlined bill provides a four-year authorization of the CFATS program and guidance to DHS on key issues of chemical facility security Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience’s ILeVO Approved By EPA
December 11, 2014
EPA has approved ILeVO, the only seed treatment that protects the root system against infections caused by the Sudden Death Syndrome fungus and has activity against dangerous nematodes. Read More
Biologicals in Emerging Markets Map.
Crop InputsBiocontrols Could Quadruple By 2025; Will Regulators Pl…
December 11, 2014
The European experience with GMOs offers caution — and a promise — for biologicals. Read More
Crop InputsBASF Donates $75,000 To Feeding America
December 10, 2014
The donation will support Feeding America’s National Produce Program, an initiative that helps with planning, transportation and logistics to ensure fresh produce deliveries to the 200 member food banks around the country. Read More