Terrence R. Curtin, 49, leads a global, $12.2 billion highly technical company – one that engineers and manufactures sensors and connectors for oil rigs, automobiles, jet fighters, industrial equipment, incubators in baby nurseries, and high-speed railways. TE Connectivity’s technology is being used to bring reliable electric power to Kenya. And some of the Berwyn-based company’s 75,000 employees have deployed more than 100 cable systems with enough under-the-sea communication cable to circle the Earth 15 times at the Equator.
Yet, when Curtin, who lives in Lancaster, visited the nearby Twizzlers factory, he found that the licorice manufacturer, a subsidiary of Hershey Co., had some technical knowledge that TE Connectivity Ltd. could use.
“It’s extrusion,” he said, referring to the way the twisted cables of licorice emerge from the machinery. “We use some of that same technology to make cable from an extrusion prospective.”
What Curtin’s crew drew from the Twizzlers tour was insight into how Twizzlers cooled some of its materials, making sure the strands kept their shape. “How we helped them was how we use cameras in manufacturing from a quality perspective,” so they could find problems on the line earlier in the process, said Curtin, who started as CEO in March 2017, succeeding former CEO Thomas Lynch, the company’s chairman..
Do you have a sweet tooth? What color Twizzlers?
Red, absolutely. I like sugar. Twizzlers, Starbursts, Swedish Fish. I always find them, whether it’s in the house, or I’m rummaging around the stuff my wife is going to make for my children to take to school. If I’m traveling internationally, I typically put some in my luggage to make sure if I get some cravings, I’ll be able to get my sugar kick.
You hear so much about automation and robots taking over human functions. How do you see the interplay between human and machine?
From the employee side, we have to help our employees bring their skill sets up. As we introduce this, we’re actually training our employees on the use of some of the collaborative robots. It’s one of the things we’re focused on. We have robots that help our employees.
You have a global company, officially headquartered in Switzerland, but with major corporate offices here. President Trump has talked a lot about bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. Your thoughts?
We are global. When we think about it, it’s going to be how our customers react. Whether it’s the aerospace industry, the auto industry, the industrial machine industry: When you talk about bringing jobs back to the United States, we’re going to follow our customers. That’s just being a business-to-business business. We have not seen any of our customers do any major moves to say they are shifting everything back. We would just follow them. If companies move back, we would look at it too, because they’ll expect it from us. But I don’t think there’s anything concrete yet.
TE Connectivity, formerly Tyco Electronics, was spun off in 2007 from Tyco International Inc., the Princeton-based holding company. Tyco made headlines in 2002 when its chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski was charged with grand larceny and securities for siphoning nearly $100 million out of Tyco’s corporate coffers. What was it like to work for a Tyco subsidiary then?
It wasn’t a good time for our business, for two reasons. When I started in 2001 was right when the telecom bubble burst and we probably had about 40 percent of our business in telecom. We were closing significant [numbers] of factories, laying people off.
So a tough economic environment, very painful.
My second year was the scandal year. That was when we were heads down with the telecom situation. Then the scandal came out. Tyco was a holding company. Kozlowski was not somebody you saw. [Here], we’re working through a telecom debacle. Whatever he’s doing, who knows, but it’s not good. We weren’t focused on the rest of Tyco, just Tyco Electronics. So, maybe we were embarrassed because of the scandal, but we really had our own employees to take care of. I think the emotional response was survival, but also pride for the people who work hard and the good things we do and still do.
Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.
TERRENCE R. CURTIN:
Home: Lancaster, grew up in Reading.
Family: Wife, Robin; sons, Jacob, 17, Max, 15, Benjamin, 11.
Resume: Graduated from Albright College in accounting, worked at Arthur Anderson, joined company in 2001, became CEO in March, succeeding Tom Lynch.
To relax: Flies a Cessna 400 four-seater,
TE CONNECTIVITY LTD:
Where: Schaffhausen, Switzerland; Berwyn.
What: Global high-tech engineering and manufacturing company that makes connectors and sensors. Specialty is equipment that can be used in hazardous environments -- under the sea, in construction, and in the dishwasher.
2016 dollars: $2 billion in net income on $12.2 billion in revenues.
Employees: 75,000, 262 locally.