William (Bill) Kopesky joined Particle Technology Labs as a Chemist I in 2000, ultimately becoming part owner of PTL. Today, he serves PTL and our clients as an Executive Vice President and Director of Analytical Services. His genuine enthusiasm for science and crystal-clear passion for problem-solving have contributed to the success of both PTL and our clients. In a recent interview, Bill shared insights gained from overseeing a premier particle characterization contract lab.
Q: PTL is now 31 years old. You came on board in the nascent years. Tell us a little bit about those days.
In the early days, we had a total of eight employees with about five of them being scientific. Because we were such a small company back then, we wore many hats. I started as a Chemist but I actually had a dual role involving science and IT. Richard Karuhn Sr. hired me because I had a science degree and some experience in the computer/IT world.
Early on, we primarily served environmental and pharmaceutical clients. Over the years, pharmaceutical has stayed very strong. As we gained a solid reputation in the niche area of particle characterization, our client base grew significantly in the pharma industry due to our quality assurance system and we also obtained a foothold in other industries. Today, we serve every major industry sector throughout the world and have 50 team members—including a dedicated inhouse IT department so I thankfully let them handle things these days as we have grown to require much more sophisticated IT support than I ever could provide.
Q: Can you give us an example of a new industry or area you are serving?
There has been an increase in the nano-particle size or sub-micron particle analysis. A lot is due to an increase in the popularity of an analytical technique called Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA is the acronym). There is also a growing awareness in the general public about nano materials and their positive benefits to products as well as possible impact on the environment. Also, we have recently seen an increase in testing for the battery and fuel cell industries. These industries have been interested in characterizing separator membranes and anode materials.
Q: What does an EVP and Director of Analytical Services do?
The Executive Vice President role is really being the leader for the scientific leg of the organization and my business partners. They rely on me to know if Particle Technology Labs has enough equipment in the right areas, enough staff, suggest new technologies for business growth, and the right procedures in place. It is my responsibility to ensure that existing and new technologies serve our clients and are also profitable. Lastly it is also my responsibility for making sure we are on the right technical path—aligned with PTL’s general philosophy and corporate values from the science perspective.
As the Director of Analytical Services, my role is to oversee all the technology, the accuracy, and data quality the laboratory is producing along with our separate and independent Quality Assurance department. In addition, I have the responsibility to ensure our chemists are knowledgeable and are providing great customer service. I also ensure we are meeting our client’s deadlines with the help of my dedicated lab management team.
Q: From the vantage point of the laboratory, what do you think gives PTL an edge?
Several factors come to mind in the context of our lab’s facility and people. One is that we have always prided ourselves in not only being knowledgeable in the particle characterization field, as well as delivering accurate and timely results, but also being willing to talk with clients and help provide great customer service. We are very proactive in involving the client when issues arise. We pride ourselves in being exceptionally detailed and talking through any questions and issues the client may have both prior to starting a project during the initial inquiry all the way through post project assistance.
Q: How do you determine whether to pursue a new technology vs. deepening or expanding existing services?
We have been staying apprised of client needs and scientific advancements throughout our thirty plus years and then making decisions based on that knowledge. For our service lab business model, we certainly look at the kinds of requests we are getting from clients.
I know there is a sweet spot between being an early adopter of new technology vs. augmenting our current core business. Part of my responsibilities include weighing whether we add something new on the technology side or place a duplicate system that will help us increase timeliness of our deliverables. But I like to try to add something new which is an extension of our core scientific focus…particle characterization a new technology, or new manufacturer. I also look for something that will increase throughput or duplicate an existing instrument which will increase capacity and limit downtime thus preventing client impact. So, that is how I try to approach growing the business and serving our clients: add something new, add something that increases capacity and then the third area is support equipment which aids in efficiency or infrastructural improvements to the laboratory.
Honestly, it is often the duplicated system or non-glamourous support equipment that makes everybody’s life more efficient.
Q: You have worked with PTL clients in a few different roles. What advice do you have for those pursuing particle characterization services?
Educate yourself. Accessing the guidance documents available through ISO, USP, ASTM and different guidance bodies would be a great place to start. These general standards lay the groundwork and basis for your inquiries–they provide guidance about good practices and technique theory. For instance, how to know if an instrument is calibrated or how a technique works. Having this foundational knowledge assists with providing constructive dialogue, troubleshooting and problem solving.
Secondly, know the goal of the testing you are requesting. Both our sales staff and chemists enjoy knowing the “why” of the testing we perform….our specialty is the “how” by determining which of our available in-house techniques can support the goal of the client’s project.
Lastly, when looking at a lab, consider the data quality of their testing environment. Cheaper is almost never better when it comes to analytical testing. How often do they verify their equipment? What types of procedures are in place? What types of training do the staff have? What type of quality assurance system and department do they follow? If a company is following those type of procedures, you are instilling confidence in the customer, but unfortunately these things also come at an operational expense.
Q: Last question, what are you most proud of as you reflect on your 23 years at Particle Technology Labs?
Knowing somehow someway I have contributed to the success and growth of the business. It is obviously never just one person that makes the company successful, it takes everybody. But being part of the core group that has created a successful business over the years is very rewarding.
I can see that we have made a direct impact on the improvement of the health and safety of many people. I see in the news those companies we have worked for and products we have worked on, knowing we have contributed to the success or improvement of those products.
Learn more about Particle Technology Lab’s team.
To gain another long-time PTL leader’s perspective, read our interview with Lisa Jandacek, EVP and Director of Operations.