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At the conclusion of GAWDA’s 2021 Annual Convention, the Association presented its most prestigious Award of Excellence to Ken Thompson, a 60-year veteran in the packaged gases industry. gasworld US caught up with Ken to ask him to reflect on the most meaningful disruptive changes he recalls, and what challenges he sees on the horizon.

Bundling all that has occurred in the past – transformation of the businesses from dingy warehouses to shiny, efficient show rooms; mode changes from cylinder deliveries to handling cryogenic products in portable to micro and mini bulk; outright equity in atmospheric separation; andcarbon dioxide production – have been natural progressions. 

Organization structure change beginning with the Airgas consolidations that reduced the independent distributor population from a couple thousand to roughly 425 and a swing today where employee ownership is a viable alternative to an outright sale to a consolidator. Generational changes have brought forth an amazing level of young talent; energetic, skilled in use of technologies’ best tools, and with visions of the future that are limitless.

With all of this in the rear-view mirror, the next pressing challenge lies directly ahead.

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