After a career working throughout the high-pressure and hydrogen industries, Scott Sopko’s first months on the job have been eventful! We caught up with Scott to learn what brought him to Haskel and what he’s seeing in the high-pressure market today.
Where did your career in high-pressure equipment start?
I’ve had the opportunity to work in all aspects of the high-pressure and industrial gas markets, from distribution and production into sales. For 12 years I sold equipment and industrial gases, primarily working with nitrogen and other liquid gases. I also worked in the on-site generation market, managing and selling gas generation plants.
With the rise in the hydrogen fuel cell technology, I was intrigued by the innovation in the market and the demands it would place on my customers and vendors. I made the shift to selling high-pressure hydrogen systems in 2012, becoming the top liquid hydrogen sales rep in the region I oversaw.
Though the markets were growing, the company I worked for was making changes. It turned out to be a great opportunity for me to transition to the Haskel team. Bob Kelly, Haskel’s former Global Hydrogen Business Development Manager, had been a longtime connection of mine. He told me about the opportunity of joining the team and it turned out to be a perfect fit for my previous experience in high-pressure hydrogen.
What does your role look like right now, given the impact of COVID-19?
One of the best things about being in the high-pressure market and working on the sales side of the business is meeting people and seeing where the products are being used. It’s exciting to see the pride on the customers’ faces when they explain their work. We spend our time helping customers make the most of the equipment they have and supporting them in ways that meet their specifications and requirements. Every high-pressure application is so different, they are fun challenges to solve.
With the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, we have to support our customers and distributors in new ways. Even though we aren’t face to face, we’re building and fostering relationships virtually. Haskel’s distributors have been great; we continue to work closely with them to make sure they have what they need to support customers. I would much rather be connecting in person, but our team puts safety above all else – no matter the situation – so even if the coordination and support of sales and services has to be at a distance we will find a way to do that.
Is COVID-19 disrupting supply chains in the high-pressure market?
It’s an interesting situation to have some companies deemed essential and some not. It’s more of an economic impact, slowing the pace of deals and partnerships. The business world requires a lot of patience right now. For Haskel, we’re committed to quick and responsive service. Even if we don’t have the answer on-hand, we’re going to find it and work to support customers however we can.
A lot of hospitals are operating a high number of ventilators right now, and most cylinders for those O2 systems are refilled via gas boosting. We recognize the urgency behind making sure these systems keep running. Being available and responsive when needed is key for supply chains right now.
What are you expecting to see in the high-pressure markets?
The COVID-19 shutdowns have slowed things down, but I still see some opportunities for the future of the hydrogen market, especially in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCEV). We can see how quickly we can create environmental changes with fewer drivers on the roads. There still has to be a willingness to take on the challenge of implementing hydrogen infrastructure, but the environmental push is growing.
It’s going to be a long process to get hydrogen FCEVs out of their infancy. California is implementing fuel cell stations within regular gas stations, which will really help to normalize FCEVs in the minds of consumers. The biggest challenges will be the expansion of fuel cell handling centers and the alignment of hydrogen station manufacturers and automakers like Toyota. This is the first step toward consumer adoption, then it will be a matter of highlighting the benefits of FCEVs:
- Quiet operation, reduced noise
- Less maintenance
- Powerful operation
The transition will take some time, but the future of hydrogen is bright and it’s going to be exciting to watch.