Meet Steve Hoffmann, R&D Manager at YZ Systems

Steve Hoffmann, R&D and Product Manager, manages key product portfolios for YZ Systems. He’s involved in every stage from research & product development to supporting new product rollout and ensuring customer needs are met. Most recently, he’s led the charge to support customer needs in reducing methane emissions and enhancing communication through the launch of the ZEO odorization system and YZ Connect Platform. 


Tell us about your background – have you always worked in this industry?

My focus in college was mechanical engineering and after I graduated, I went right into the pump industry. I’ve held a few different positions working with pump technology. I spent six years with GRUNDOFS and then spent several years with a consumer electronics start-up, Flyover Innovations, as the Vice President of Engineering. I supported mechanical design & packaging, production, shipping, software development, and customer support.

In 2017, I joined the family of brands in a project manager role with YZ’s sister company, Milton Roy. I supported product lines such as the Proteus during this time.


What brought you to YZ Systems?

As I learned more about the YZ brand and product portfolio, I was interested in the unique market needs. For my own career development goals, I was interested in further expanding product lines, and YZ was an interesting example since the portfolio was stocked with very trustworthy products that had been the standard for many years. It seemed like a great opportunity to take a product that had been so successful and push it to evolve and meet new customer needs.


How are you involved in product development and growing YZ product offerings?

My core responsibility is new product development. I’m constantly working to better understand the customer’s needs. What job do they need to be done? How can we help them do it better, faster, safer? I have the privilege of working with a passionate team and get to interface directly with customers to build product roadmaps that fit their specific needs. Recently, there has been a large focus on needs outside of the US as we gain more interest in our odorization systems in Europe and other regions. We are committed to meeting the unique challenges and regulatory requirements of the global market.

In terms of product line management, I also support customer communication strategies to help organizations learn more about our product lines through the website and literature. 

Anytime I have the opportunity to go on-site or present to our customers I learn new things and get key insights. 


You mentioned your focus on growing legacy product lines and new customer demands. What challenges have you heard from customers and how are you working to implement new features to meet those needs?

Reducing methane emissions is a commonly recurring theme. This has been especially true for the EU where there are more environmental regulations, but we’re certainly seeing this trend beginning in the US too.

As we look at the way that energy is gathered, transported, and even odorized – there are ways to help this process become greener.

Our legacy pneumatic odorizers are the industry standard ­– however, every time we stroke the pump, it has to release methane from the natural gas being used to power it. As we learned more about our customers’ green energy strategy, we realized the need for an electric pump option to reduce emissions during the odorization process. This led to our latest product launch – the Zero Emissions Odorizer (ZEO).

Additionally, we’re learning a lot about biomethane applications in Europe, which are typically low flow applications, and how we can help our customers be successful in delivering safe gas to the grid while reducing downtime.


The ZEO has made a big splash so far, especially since YZ Systems is one of the first companies in North America to support this need. Can you share more about this product and the benefits to customers?

The ZEO has been launched as a sister line to our legacy, pneumatic NJEX odorizer products. It brings the same reliable and safe odorizing technology to an electric, AC-powered system with the new Intrinsically Safe N-400 controller. ZEO incorporates new features that customers can benefit from such as redundancy control, better insight into the system performance, and a larger display.

Of course, this system will require an electric source of energy, so we will be maintaining our legacy lines – especially since those are the best fit for customers that need battery or solar power. To ensure all systems benefit from the interface and feature enhancements, the new N-400controller will be available for the legacy pneumatic line in the future.

ZEO eliminates the expansion tank and other components from the legacy design that resulted in the majority of our customer support calls. Increased uptime means customers can focus on other aspects of their process besides the odorizer.


Are the communication and performance monitoring enhancements built right into the system? What type of software will be supporting this?

Our new controller has 2 Modbus RTU ports just like our legacy controllers. We’ve expanded the Modbus map so customers can get the insight they need. Customers can connect either Modbus port to the YZ Connect platform via the controllers (N300 with legacy systems; N400 with the ZEO) for real-time performance monitoring and alerts.

This is another recent advancement we made in our commitment to bringing new technology to our new and legacy products for our customers who are shifting to digital reporting and tracking. We heard a need for an integrated, real-time approach to monitoring odorization programs, so we recently launched YZ Connect. The hardware/software solution is a secure, web/app-based tool that allows for remote monitoring of activity for a customer's entire odorization program in a single dashboard.

Odorization programs are a mission-critical application for our customers. The safety of family & friends relies on making sure gas leaks can be readily detected.


These are some impressive advancements that you’ve worked on with the team. What has been your favorite part of working at YZ systems and with this team so far?

I like that everyone on the team thinks and acts like an owner. We all know we are responsible to deliver great results, and at the end of the day, we always put the customer first.

 

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