Beginnings (1950 – 1965)
Pulmac was established in 1950 as a holding company for patents held by Elijah Cowan, father of Wavell Cowan and grandfather of Joff and Pamela Cowan. A professional engineer with a degree from the University of Toronto, Elijah had founded E&B Cowan, a highly successful consulting engineering firm in the pulp and paper industry based in Montreal, Canada in the 1940’s. (Montreal Engineering acquired E&B Cowan in 1985 and in turn was acquired in the 1990’s by SNC-Lavalin, a global consulting engineering firm).
Transition to Instrument Company (1965 – 1993)
In 1965, Elijah transferred Pulmac to his son, Wavell Cowan. Wavell had obtained a degree in mechanical engineering from McGill University, Montreal, Canada; a Ph. D. in chemical engineering from the Institute of Paper Chemistry, Appleton, WI; worked as a technical director for three years at Clyde Paper in Scotland and apprenticed at E&B Cowan before deciding to establish his own company which he first named Pulmac Research and later Pulmac Ventures. Wavell transformed Pulmac into a maker of precision instruments that improve paper quality and mill productivity. Many of the instruments currently sold by Pulmac were developed under his leadership. Wavell retired in the late 1990’s and currently serves as Scientific Advisor to the Company. (In 2015, TAPPI, the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry, awarded Wavell the Thomas F. Sheerin Sr. Service Award for outstanding service to the industry).
Global Reach (1993 – 2013)
Joff Cowan, son of Wavell, was appointed president of Pulmac in 1993. Joff had joined the Company 10 years earlier to apprentice with his father. During those years, he participated in the development of the 24 Tests Z-Span™ Tester, the MasterScreen™, the Automated Sheet Former™ and perfected methodologies to bring these products to market. He drove Pulmac’s global reach strategy by appointing agents and distributors in all parts of the world where paper is made and supporting their efforts in these markets. He established equipment servicing capabilities throughout North America and developed products and procedures to assist mill personnel to analyze and manage the data derived from Pulmac instruments. (Brent Cowan, brother of Joff, joined Pulmac when Wavell retired and established manufacturing capabilities in Montreal allowing Joff to focus on sales and service. The brothers held divergent views about the business in several areas and Brent eventually left Pulmac to form his own company).
Growth Through Fiber Engineering (2013 – Present)
In 2013, Joff invited his brother-in-law, Robert (Bob) White to develop and lead a growth strategy for Pulmac. Bob, a professional engineer and senior executive experienced in business development, operations and regulatory affairs at the national and international level, had recently retired from a 42-year telecommunications career. He was appointed first as Managing Director of Pulmac and then as Chief Executive Officer following a company reorganization in 2015. To prepare Pulmac for growth, he established a governance system, strengthened its operational infrastructure, built-up its marketing capabilities, bolstered its reputation within the industry and set in place a focus on growth by developing equipment and processes that improve mill productivity through the engineering of fiber properties. (To assist him in implementing the above, Bob invited Pamela Cowan, his wife and Joff’s sister, to join Pulmac first as a consultant in 2013 and as a full-time employee in 2015. Today, Pamela is Pulmac’s Chief Marketing and Financial Officer. She is also Chair of the TAPPI PIMA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Past Chair of the TAPPI PIMA Divison and Chair Emeritus of the Women in Industry Divison. She received the TAPPI Glen T. Renegar Award at the Papercon 2017 conference to recognize her valuable contribution to TAPPI’s PIMA Management Divison).