Sunday, March 5, 2017
The Pittcon Heritage Award
Sarah Reisert, Chemical Heritage Foundation
04:45 PM Presentation
In 1936 attorney Carl Schultz and two brothers-in-law established the Laboratory Equipment Corporation (LECO) when they pioneered the development of instrumentation to rapidly quantify carbon in iron and steel. LECO had become a globally recognized leader in the field of materials analysis by the time Robert J. Warren joined the company in 1968.
With the opening of the company’s first international export office in Germany in 1967, Robert quickly recognized that continued expansion into Europe and Asia would be key to the future growth of the company. He soon established LECO Sales and Service representatives on nearly every continent, and in 1971 LECO was honored as a recipient of the President Nixon Export “E” award, which recognized the company’s commitment to the Export Expansion program.
After being named President and General Manager of the company in 1976, product offerings were quickly expanded with the addition of a comprehensive line of sample preparation and microstructure analysis equipment. LECO had already established itself as a leading manufacturer of analytical instruments for the determination of CHNOS in metals and inorganic materials; yet Robert saw the potential for advancing that same technology into organic markets for coal, oil, agricultural, and food products. Integrating innovative technology into new analytical instrument developments became a focus for the company as they moved from standard analog technology to digital sophistication. His vision would lead to developments well beyond the company’s established products, as new LECO instruments provided customer-rich features that would meet or exceed the instrumentation goals established by the company’s founders—ease-of-use, rapid analysis, and high-quality results.
In the early 80’s, a multi-million dollar research and development facility was constructed to expand the company’s quest for knowledge in the analytical instrument business. Laboratories around the world already trusted and depended on LECO for fast, reliable, and proven analysis of all types of materials; the company then began looking into multi-element analytical techniques like glow discharge atomic emission spectroscopy, inductively-coupled plasma, and time-of-flight mass spectrometry that would both complement the existing product lines and expand its technology portfolio.
LECO entered the Separation Science market in 1997 with the introduction of a 500 spectra-per-second time-of-flight mass spectrometer and, soon after, comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography. Strong investments in higher resolution and more accurate mass spectrometry followed, and the construction of the new Elizabeth Warren Technical Centre in 2011 fortified Robert’s commitment to the enhancement of Separation Science products for the company. Continued improvement of its traditional elemental science products were complemented by efforts to increase strength in the areas of software, data acquisition, signal processing, and complex data science, which flourished under his direction.
After 48 years of strong leadership, Robert retired from his position as President in 2016. In his new role as President Emeritus, he advises Co-Presidents Carl Warren and Chris Warren as they guide the company through its third generation of family ownership. Bob and his wife Elizabeth split their time between homes in Michigan and Florida.