Robert M. Thomas
Hobart D. Betts
Thomas & Betts Corporation can trace its roots back to the 1898, when practical, incandescent, electric lighting was first introduced to New York City and two young engineers from Princeton University, Robert M. Thomas and Hobart D. Betts, formed an agency for selling conduit to electrical distributors.
Thomas & Betts prospered as the use of electricity spread and, in 1911, the company acquired the Standard Electric Fittings Company and began to develop, manufacture and market products under the Thomas & Betts brand name. In 1917, sales, engineering and manufacturing were brought together under one roof in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Ten years later, in 1928, the company took the first step toward building a presence outside the United States by entering the Canadian market. Today, Thomas & Betts is a leading manufacturer of electrical components in Canada.
Focus on the End User and the "T&B Plan" Redefine Industry Marketing
By the Roaring Twenties, sales at Thomas & Betts exceeded $1 million and the company had offices on both coasts and in the Midwest. By this time, Thomas & Betts had adopted a two-pronged marketing approach - educating end users (electricians and electrical contractors) on the distinct qualities of its products to create "pull through" at distributors while helping distributors keep their shelves amply stocked with T&B products to meet the growing demand. In 1937, Thomas & Betts revolutionized the industry by publishing the "T&B Plan" which declared that the distributor was T&B's partner and outlined how the two entities could achieve mutually beneficial growth. Today, the principles of the T&B Plan are incorporated into the company's leading Signature Service® system, the most widely imitated preferred-customer program in the industry.
Industry Leadership In Engineering and Design
Working through the newly created National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Thomas & Betts helped lead the drive to standardize the electrical industry in the 1920s. At the same time, Thomas & Betts committed its engineering effort to "lowering the installed cost" for the electrician. "T&B Engineered" soon became synonymous with innovation and quality throughout the industry.
One of the first critical innovations was cast solderless lugs introduced in the early 1930s. Eliminating the need to solder connections not only saved time but also was a major boon to safety on high-visibility projects such as the expansion of the New York subway system. Backed by a national advertising campaign, T&B's solderless lugs began a new chapter in the growth of the company. Thomas & Betts adopted the slogan: "Wherever Electricity Goes, So Do We."
T&B Declared Critical To War Effort
The company's Sta-Kon® solderless lugs transformed the way planes, ships, and tanks were wired, and the company's Elizabeth, N.J., plant was declared one of the 12 most critical plants in the East by the War Department during World War II. Following World War II, construction boomed and T&B offered electricians other innovative product "firsts." The Color-Keyed® color-coded system of connectors, compression tools and tool dies ensured that proper installation procedures would be used with each connector.
In 1953, Thomas & Betts introduced the first high-performance liquid-tight, flexible conduit connectors. The following year, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus, was launched using T&B connectors. Soon, T&B products were the standard in electrical specifications for submarines.
In 1958, Thomas & Betts secured a place in engineering history when it developed the Ty-Rap® cable tie to facilitate assembling wire harnesses in airplanes. In the first month, sales were $350. Today, Thomas & Betts sells hundreds of millions of dollars of cable ties in 14 colors, 15 designs, 10 materials and multiple lengths. T&B cable ties can be found on thousands of products ranging from motorcycles to spacecraft.
Expanding Into New Markets In 1960s and 1970s
By 1960, utilities were investing heavily to meet the demand for electricity and Thomas & Betts developed a line of specialty fittings and high-voltage connectors to meet their unique needs. The company quickly won substantial contracts from leading utilities such as Consolidated Edison in New York and New England Power and Light. T&B expanded its utility product offering in the 1990s with the purchase of Blackburn® and Elastimold® connectors and MeyerTM and LehighTM steel structures used for transmission towers.
In the 1960s, Thomas & Betts looked abroad for growth and entered the European market with Sta-Kon® connectors and Ty-Rap® cable ties. The company also expanded into Mexico and other international markets.
During the early 1970s, Thomas & Betts began designing products specifically for the growing telecommunications market. T&B soon introduced its patented Kold-N-Klose® system, a unique method that didn't require the use of heat or flame to repair spliced cable in the field.
Internal product development continued to drive growth even as the company pursued selective acquisitions. Until T&B introduced its proprietary Versa-Trak® under-carpet wiring system in 1980, gaining access to wiring after a commercial building was built was expensive and messy. The Blackjack® bushing, an ingenious one-piece design, was introduced in 1994.
American Electric Acquisition Moves T&B to Memphis
Thomas & Betts acquired American Electric in 1992 and soon moved its headquarters to Memphis, Tennessee. The new company offered one of the industry's broadest product offerings to construction, industrial MRO, OEM, utility and communications customers. To provide precedent-setting customer service, the company introduced T&B Access , the first use of web-based tools allowing distributors to track and order online.
In 1996, Thomas & Betts opened a state-of-the-art distribution center in Byhalia, Mississippi. Larger than 18 football fields, Byhalia is the central hub for a sophisticated global logistics system that allows Thomas & Betts to offer "one order, one shipment, one invoice' service" for its shelf goods products - a unique capability among electrical manufacturers.
In 2000, Thomas & Betts divested its electronics business and began a concentrated effort to enhance its operations, market focus and product engineering in its primary electrical business. In 2002, the company established centers of operational excellence for electrical manufacturing, focusing on offering the highest quality products at the lowest cost.
Today, the company continues to build on its legacy of innovation and leadership.