Roger Jette reflects on 25 years of innovation

Aug. 6, 2021

By Patrick McLaughlin

In 2021 Snake Tray celebrates 25 years in business. The company, which put itself on the map with its hand-bendable metal tray systems, offers a variety of conveyance and power systems for cabling infrastructure. We took the opportunity to ask Snake Tray's founder Roger Jette a few questions, about the company and his own experiences, on the occasion of Snake Tray’s 25th anniversary.

CI&M: What was your career prior to founding Snake Tray?

RJ: I started my career by owning a manufacturing company that made rivets, then became a manufacturer’s rep for 18 years selling all kinds of products related to the datacom industry in the tristate New York area.

CI&M: Was there a single “a ha” moment that gave you the idea to develop the original hand-bendable Snake Tray? Or was it more of an accumulation of experiences that led to the concept?

RJ: My “a ha” moment came when I was visiting Credit Suisse in New York City and saw the cable mess under their computer access floor. I thought to myself that there must be a better way to manage the cables, so I came up with the idea for Snake Tray. I wanted to make a cable tray that lowered construction costs, so I made it hand-bendable with built-in mounting rings. The new cable tray would require no onsite fabrication or create any material waste and require less material handling, which was a huge issue in New York City. I named it Snake Tray because the cable tray bent like a snake. The name proved to be a big hit with customers.

CI&M: The original Snake Tray has been joined by a number of other products in your company’s portfolio. Would you select a few products and tell us about their origins and the need they were designed to meet?

RJ: Snake Canyon was created as a modular cable tray that interfaces with the computer access floor. It was created during the “dot-com” era when data center construction had its first boom. The original system actually replaces the stringers of the access floors; other models attach to the U-shape stringers with cams. We also have models that latch to the top of the pedestal. All the models were designed to install faster than traditional methods available on the market. Snake Canyon is moveable and reusable to keep up with the changes in offices and data centers.

Mega Snake was created out of the demand for a larger cable tray. Instead of manufacturing a generic wire basket system, we decided to design a cable tray from scratch that consisted of premanufactured straights, turns, T’s and crossing sections. This allows the cable trays to be installed quickly on site like Legos™. No onsite fabrication is required. We also designed a patented rail system that can be used to mount or suspend the cable tray—no trapeze or center strut required—and hang data and electrical accessories. Mega Snake was designed to nest together so that you can ship three times as much cable tray on a pallet than traditional cable trays. We basically took the traditional wire basket cable tray and innovated it to bring new features to lower the costs of construction for labor, materials, and shipping.

CI&M: Snake Tray products’ value proposition seems particularly applicable in the changed world brought on by the pandemic. Can you tell us how the ease of ordering, shipping, and onsite installation of Snake Tray products have been difference makers in the current times and environment?

RJ: Because all Snake Tray products are inherently designed to save on labor by either being hand-bendable or premanufactured, our products hit the jobsite and can be quickly installed and produce predictable results. This has been critical during the COVID-19 pandemic at construction sites where staffing can be limited. All our products are made in our New York factory and stocked throughout the U.S. at our warehouse locations so lead times are short, and we offer 24/7 customer support. My cell phone number is on our website and I am happy to speak with a customer at any time to answer questions along with our team of sales professionals and engineers. We are particularly proud to say as a New York State designated essential manufacturer we remained open and manufacturing during the pandemic, and assisted many healthcare facilities build temporary structures to meet their increased demands. Now more than ever I believe American-made products are critical to the supply chain for construction.

CI&M: You continue to visit customer sites regularly and help solve challenges firsthand. Thinking about all the jobsites you have seen, have you found any trends or widespread challenges that users of all types face? Or, have you noticed that certain vertical markets—such as financial, medical, military, or education—generate specific types of situations or challenges?

RJ: I think the biggest thing I have noticed is that agility is required. Not only with the pandemic but also with the ever-changing and advancing technology, companies need to design and build infrastructures that can be changed. Agility is key to that. I think about how the concept of the open office plan was so popular and now, after COVID-19, companies will need to scramble to safeguard their workforce by creating barriers to limit the transmission of viruses. Who would have thought that would be a challenge two years ago?

Another challenge for our industry is the shortage of skilled construction labor. Until the education system begins to embrace the trades again, I think the market for skilled labor will be tight. I go to speak to high school students about this, and encourage them to consider careers in the trades or in manufacturing. I believe there are great opportunities in these fields for young people.

CI&M: Finally, can you give us a sneak peek at anything that Snake Tray is working on, that we might see in the future?

RJ: As we celebrate 25 years, all I can say is there is a lot more coming from Snake Tray. Recently we were awarded our 30th patent. We have no plans on stopping. Our mission is to continue to innovate products in cable management, power distribution and enclosures to lower the total cost of construction for our customers. We are having way too much fun. It is hard to even call it work.

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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