By Diane M. Calabrese / Published March 2021
A customer of BE Power Equipment sees a trusted manufacturer of hot and cold pressure washers and other machines, such as generators and pumps. The team at BE Power sees that—and what makes it all possible.
“We are a passionate group of like-minded individuals who enjoy designing and building high-quality power washers,” says Curtis Braber, owner of BE Power Equipment.
The sum of meeting customer needs and a forward-looking, engaged team befits a legacy that begins with Nick Braber, the company founder and Curtis Braber’s father. While in high school, Nick Braber sold Palm Line machines out of his pickup truck.
The elder Braber’s first customers were farmers in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. His mobile sales effort contributed to the income stream at Braber Equipment (from whence the ‘BE’), a family-owned agricultural implement wholesale business.
[In a June 2014 issue of Cleaner Times, Adia Walker recounts Nick Braber’s arrival in Abbotsford, BC, from The Netherlands at age eight with his family. See http://pubs.royle.com/article/ACCOMPLISHING_EXCELLENCE_ACROSS_THE_GLOBEL_AND_AT_HOME…_CURTIS_BRABER_LEADS_BE_AND_CETA_TO_GREAT_HEIGHTS/1708129/208687/article.html]
Braber explains that his father remained intrigued by pressure washers, even after he became immersed in the agricultural implement sales business (established by his own father). “As the years went on, my father would often stop and pause when he would see a pressure washer display at trade shows and reflect on when he sold them.”
It was something more than nostalgia—a strong vocational calling. “In 1991, my father was walking the halls of a show and looking at a pressure washer display near his agricultural products” with an intensity that caused Susan Braber, his wife, to urge him to “give it a try and start manufacturing his own machines.”
Change, the partner of looking forward, is the norm in the Braber business lineage. “BE is constantly evolving,” says Curtis Braber. “When we started in 1991, we were producing cold water washers one at a time. Today, BE develops a wide range of both hot and cold pressure washers, and we have diversified into other power equipment, such as air compressors, generators, and water pumps.”
The name BE Power Equipment reflects the company’s robust product line. It represents a change made a few years ago (from BE Pressure Supply) to do just that. (In the moniker vein, we note Braber Equipment continues with its core focus on agricultural products and equipment.)
The headquarters of BE Power has been in Abbotsford, BC, since the inception of the company. The 140,000-sq.-ft. facility there produces industrial pressure washers, water pumps, and compressors and serves as the distribution center for the North American market.
With a global workforce of approximately 300 people, BE Power staffs three other manufacturing facilities, located in Shakopee, MN; Shanghai, China; and Sydney, Australia. In addition, there are distribution centers in West Palm Beach, FL; and Canby, OR; as well as London, Ontario; and Hamilton, New Zealand. (See facilities chronology on page 15.)
The family ownership of BE Power has provided the agility required of a company with a global manufacturing footprint. “The structure allows us to stay competitive with our competitors, many of whom are owned by larger overseas companies,” explains Braber.
“We can be flexible and adapt quickly to changes in the marketplace, as we don’t have all the layers of the multi-national companies,” says Braber. Responsiveness is what converts a challenge to an opportunity.
Braber explains the vision at BE Power is encapsulated in three words: “To challenge ourselves.” And the company mission statement cements the vision.
The mission statement, which is printed on building walls, reads: “To deliver high quality power equipment fast and on time to our global customers through our dedicated and engaged team.” It is referenced almost daily, says Braber.
“We constantly challenge ourselves to build better equipment at a faster pace for our distributors,” says Braber. The philosophy suffuses all at BE Power.
“Here at BE, we run the ‘Toyota manufacturing system,’ Kaizen, commonly known as ‘lean,’” says Cameron Martyn, VP of operations. “Using the lean methodologies in our factories allows us to constantly adapt our products to keep up with demand and add the newest technology to our assembly process.”
The push to identify potential efficiencies and then realize them is just one part of the focus on doing it better. “We also run a very structured product development system that allows us to properly design and deliver more than 18 new products per year,” says Martyn.
A focus on excellence coincides on working with other members of the industry. “We consider ourselves friendly with most of the competitors in our market,” says Rory Bjarnason, co-owner of BE Power.
The collegiality is a natural part of a strong industry. ‘We share similar suppliers, such as the big four pump companies, as well as engine companies,” says Bjarnason. “We find our suppliers are generally supportive of companies like BE and others to help us develop better equipment each year.”
Following through on collaborative efforts, BE Power is a strong supporter of CETA, the Cleaning Equipment Trade Association. Curtis Braber has served both as a board member and as CETA president. Dave Megathlin, VP of U.S. sales, has served as a board member.
BE Power Equipment—Key Personnel
- Curtis Braber—Owner
- Rory Bjarnason—Co-owner
- Cameron Martyn—VP of Operations
- Jenn Wolfe—VP of Communications
- Dave Megathlin—VP of U.S. Sales
- Chantell Segal—Marketing Manager
“Staying connected to the industry allows us to keep up with the changes in the market and create new connections,” says Braber. It’s also a way to assess needs among customers and think about ways to meet them.
“In the past few years, we are most excited about how quickly our range of commercial hot-water washers has developed, says Megathlin. “Our portable, four-wheel 4000 psi has become our fastest growing product. We designed it from the ground up with input from our distributors.”
Development of the commercial hot-water washer series is gratifying in itself. But there is more. “It’s exciting to watch it sell so well,” says Megathlin.
Interaction with customers can give a big boost to ideas about product development. “We support and engage with our end users through various social platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and our popular YouTube video channel that is filled with how-to and product videos,” explains Chantell Segal, marketing manager.
The digital ties are fortified by in-person interactions. When the pandemic ends, the company will resume its tech school, a real-world venue for equipment adopters. “We have dedicated training facilities to educate our users,” says Segal.
Marketing campaigns mounted by BE Power also include educational components. Users can learn about the variety of products and how to use them, says Segal.
There is also the easy flow of day-to-day as-needed contact with customers. “Our warranty/technical service desk answers calls from distributors, service depots, and end users to troubleshoot issues and assist users with how to use their product,” says Segal.
The best procedures and most exacting plans can still be disrupted by the unpredictable. For BE Power Equipment, meeting the challenge of the pandemic that overtook North America in March 2020 has been a priority.
“BE felt the impact in April and May just like other companies,” says Cameron Martyn, VP of operations. “We made a commitment right away that we would stay the course, continue to produce equipment at the regular price, and be there to support our distributors.”
Team Members Reflect
“BE is a high-energy company with an excellent work ethic. Everyone is passionate about the company and products we make. We have been experiencing explosive growth in recent years with the expansion of our hot-water washer range, so it’s fun to be part of.” — Dave Megathlin, VP of U.S. Sales
“Ownership at BE empowers us to think outside the box and help push the company forward.” — John Carreiro, Canadian Sales Manager
To stay the course, adjustments had to be made. “We added dozens of safety protocols to protect our staff and sent weekly updates to the staff to keep them informed,” says Martyn.
The proactive approach brought results. “BE saw a quick V-shaped recovery as pent-up demand led to sales growth from June through the end of the year,” says Martyn. “As we enter 2021, we are seeing the same spike in demand as we saw last summer.”
BE is more than prepared. “Reacting quickly last spring has allowed us to keep up with customer demand,” explains Martyn.
With a commitment to continuous improvement, BE Power Equipment marks its 30-year anniversary with quiet dynamism. All that has been accomplished is just part of an ongoing process to keep doing more and doing it all better.
There is something to celebrate every day in the ongoing quest for excellence.
- Abbotsford, BC—1991, headquarters, manufacturing
- West Palm Beach, FL—1997, distribution
- Kitchener, ON—1998, serves eastern Canada
- Sydney, Australia—2006—manufacturing, joint venture with BAR Group
- Shakopee, MN—2012, manufacturing
- Shanghai, China—2017, manufacturing
- Canby, OR—2018, distribution