Quality, service, innovation: how Southern States provides more than just products 

For over 100 years, Southern States has been a provider of essential products and services to electric utilities in the US and Canada to support the nations’ electric power infrastructure. This includes high voltage switching products, which transfer bulk power and switch loads to balance the system and protect assets from damaging over currents.

“Southern States has been in business since 1916,” begins Jeremy Stewart, Director of Supply Chain. “At the time of its inception, while the North of the US was industrialized, the South still required development and infrastructure. The business relocated to Hampton, Georgia, in the 1940s and has remained at the same location ever since. Southern States has undergone several expansions throughout the years, adapting to its growth. We manufacture high voltage disconnect switches and protection devices for the power utility industry. We sell to private and public electrical utilities around the country and around the world, with sister companies in Italy and France that provide products to Asia, Europe, South America, and the rest of the world. We primarily service the US and Canada out of our Hampton location. With the growing demand for clean energy, business is thriving. Over the past few years, we have developed numerous products and introduced several new divisions. We are poised for significant growth, driven by the rising demand for renewables and electricity.

“When our current CEO, Raj Anand, took over in 1996, Southern States was only operating its disconnect switch division and business was stagnant. Upon his arrival, Raj quickly made two major changes. First, he met with Southern States’ sales representatives and used their input to change their approach to bidding projects, which quickly led to strong sales growth. Raj also brought in some former coworkers from Siemens and started our Power Switching Division, which produces protection devices and applications. This division took off and Southern States grew tremendously,” he enthuses. “While the business has always been focused on manufacturing quality products at a fair price, since Raj took over, there has been a genuine focus on innovation.

“The business has continued to innovate and develop new ideas and bring new products to the market. Raj developed a committee to meet with leaders of different utilities to ascertain their business needs. Many of our newer products have come about because of customer feedback. In the mid-2000s, we added the Distribution and Automation Division to our portfolio, which focuses on wireless monitoring and relay devices.”

Jeremy Stewart, Director of Supply Chain

Elite customer care
Southern States supplies a wide offering of distribution switching solutions in response to an increasing need for improved system reliability and reduced installation times. This range of solutions spans from a basic group operated disconnect switch to building a customized ‘substation in the sky’. The Southern States Grid Services Division is committed to providing the best customer care on the market. The team of trained engineers and technicians have developed unique mobile switching solutions including full mobile substations, capacitor bank trailers, breaker trailers, and more to meet a variety of customer needs and challenges.

“Our Grid Services Division offers a variety of solutions,” Jeremy continues. “We have a ballistics panel division for utility security. Substations have many critical components, so we sell ballistic panels that can be strategically put up around substations to protect the expensive, long lead time equipment from being damaged. We also have a Mobile Substation Division, that in the event of extreme weather conditions, such as a hurricane or tornado, can transport a substation on the back of a flatbed trailer to restore operations while the primary substation is being repaired. These are just some examples of the level of service offering and activity the business undertakes.

“The grid in the US is a good 20-to-30 years behind the times, and needs considerable updating to get the existing infrastructure up to par and that’s not taking the needs of new growth in technology, renewables, and EVs into account. As such, and with our majority market share, we are well positioned to address these challenges.

“We are a privately held company and have brought in a few like-minded businesses over the years to complement our offering. Raj has always been very employee focused. We have around 430 employees, but as the company has grown, he is still in the office most days of the week and his door is always open. He prides himself on taking care of his employees and in his 25-plus years at Southern States, no one has been laid off. As such, the company provides its employees with security, along with benefits such as healthcare. We also strive to promote open communication and engagement.

“Our business has been around for over 100 years. While our products have developed and evolved over the years, we have been hesitant to obsolete old designs. We want to ensure that we have the product lines our customers require, as service is of paramount importance. We have over 400,000-part numbers and about 150,000 of those are active, so, it’s a lot to maintain. We do have regular-use part numbers, but we deal a lot with one-offs, designed to meet specific customer requirements. Prior to the pandemic, we were focused on operating a just-in-time inventory, but that changed with Covid. Fortunately, we had been running a little heavier on our main usage items, coupled with a temporary decrease in capacity, meant that we did not feel the effects too severely. The demand for electricity and power never goes away.

“In 2021 and 2022, we experienced some severe parts shortages and long lead times for certain electrical components, some of which are still difficult to obtain. Historically, our purchasing department had been divided into specific commodities with buyers assigned to each one. In 2022, we restructured the department to include a sourcing team and a critical supply team to source materials, forecast potential issues, and work to mitigate risk. Our supply chain needs are a moving target and require a collective, focused effort and responsibility. To that end, we have brought on board a few key personnel in our department to support expected growth. We are also exploring additional ways in which we can best support each of our divisions to, in turn, support our customers,” Jeremy explains.

Looking to the future, he shares his hopes for the business in the coming years. “In line with the demands on the US grid, we are anticipating solid growth over the next five-to-ten years. The utilities are booming right now and are heavily investing in renewables; in addition, the US government is pouring billions of dollars into the country’s infrastructure. With this expansion, we expect the market to continue its significant growth, and we plan to be right there alongside it, offering both our existing and new innovative products,” he concludes.