Rahul Shukla, President and CEO
Former U.S. President, John F. Kennedy, in one of his famous speeches, once said, “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society.”
While JFK’s sayings have indeed stirred many minds over decades, one, in particular, is Rahul Shukla. An entrepreneur who is adept in American politics, Shukla is a long-time admirer of JFK. When he purchased S.S. White Technologies Inc.—the world leader in flexible shaft technology—in 1988, he decided to put that very value of “transparency” in the front and center of his company. “I believe that transparency is our strength. We become our customers’ partners, and they trust us so much that we become more of their subsidiary than a vendor. That trust is the foundation of our business,” notes Shukla, the president and CEO of S.S. White Technologies. This is one of the key reasons why his company, S.S. White, has become a preferred partner for many aerospace organizations.
Notably, S.S. White is the pioneer of flexible shaft technology and has been working on its development since obtaining its first patent in 1874. Today, they are the global leader of the technology and provide specialized rotary motion solutions for the aerospace, automotive, medical, and industrial markets worldwide. Approximately, 95 percent of the aircrafts in the world, whether it is a helicopter, military jet, prop plane, or jumbo airliner, have at least one flexible shaft on board that is made by S.S. White. Most of the thrust reverser actuation systems provided by the frontrunners in the market also employ S.S. White’s flexible shafts. They have also stretched their hold onto the automotive industry, and more than half the cars produced in the U.S. now have one or more flexible shafts designed by S.S. White.
Today, flexible shafts are increasingly preferred over solid shafts with universal joints. While the solid shafts provide flexibility only where the universal joints could exist, the flexible shafts provide flexibility throughout their length. This property particularly comes in handy in sophisticated systems like that of the thrust reverser actuation systems on aircraft. Here, flexible shafts can negotiate their way through the obstacles more efficiently without compromising on the torque. At this juncture, Shukla points out that S.S. White is the only company that can design a flexible shaft based on science and mathematics. Shukla developed a software application based on complex equations developed by S.S. White scientist Dr. Adam Black in his Ph. D. thesis on Design of Flexible shafts. The result of this alliance was S.S. White’s computer-modeling software, PERFLEXION, which is used to design flexible shafts to precise parameters.
With the help of this software application, the company offers a vast product line that caters to different industries and products. “Our proprietary software, PERFLEXION, enables us to come up with a design of flexible shaft that exactly suits the needs of our customers,” says Shukla.
Our proprietary software, PERFLEXION, enables us to come up with a design of flexible shaft that exactly suits the needs of our customers
The evolution and development of this flexible shaft technology is, in fact, closely intertwined with the life story of Shukla himself. His story reminisces an exemplar of The Great American Dream itself. His journey through the ranks, from a QC Inspector to the CEO of a century-and-a-half-old company, has been nothing short of spectacular. He had worked his way up to become the director of research when the previous owners of S.S. White put the company up for sale in 1988. While his peers were scared of losing their jobs, Shukla found an opportunity in the crisis and decided to buy the $6 million worth company. In his own words, with just six thousand dollars in his pocket, confidence and determination were his only allies in this maneuver. After dozens of rejections, a bank finally decided to fund him the $6 million with which he bought the company, and the rest is history.
Over the years, S.S. White has invested considerably in the flexible shaft technology to remain at the forefront. They have leaped far ahead of their peers in the sector today. Whereas other manufacturers define and measure only four characteristics of a flexible shaft, S.S. White has defined 12 key characteristics and designed custom test equipment to precisely measure those characteristics. Shukla beams with pride when he says, “All the advances in the last 50 years in the science and technology of design and manufacturing of flexible shaft have happened at S.S. White only.” They have designed their own manufacturing machinery and have put in sophisticated controls to perfect their product line. Shukla asserts that they have rarely lost a customer. However, there have been instances where the customers of their competitors have taken them on board to solve complex performance issues or meet the tight deadlines, which underscores their stature as the dispenser of knowledge in this sector.
Forging ahead, S.S. White is determined to carry on with its technological leadership in the sector by fine-tuning the flexible shaft technology. With the considerable advantage that flexible shafts have over solid shafts, they have already made their way into automotive, medical, and other industries. “I fell in love with the flexible shafts when I came to work for S.S. White 46 years ago. You don’t want to become an author to make a lot of money. You do it if you love to write. Although making money is an essential part of running a business, we work on flexible shafts because it’s fun and exciting,” concludes Shukla, who is also known for his dabbles in the field of art and literature, has written several books, is tech savvy and has passion for cinematography.