State of the Industry

State of the Industry: Looking to 2014 with Optimism and Confidence

By Diane M. Calabrese / Published December 2013

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Things are getting better. So much so, industry leaders cite optimism about growth, new markets, new products, and a healthy U.S. economy as we fast approach 2014. Optimism sums up the perspective of Dale Reed, Founder and President of Pressure-Pro, Inc. in Fort Pierce, FL. How does he arrive at his view? “For us, it is growth and sales,” he explains.

“For the last four years, we’ve had phenomenal growth,” remarks Reed. “The industry is growing, and we’re finding our place in the industry. Sales tell us the economy is getting stronger. It is a unique time in the history of this company,” says Reed. “We have a broader product line than at any time. The pressure washer is the standard for outdoor cleaning—and increasingly for indoor cleaning.” The health of the economy is improving, says Reed. And the reach of industry is also growing. “For us, we couldn’t be more optimistic.”

Indeed, positive outlook transcends all those involved with the wide spectrum of tools that make the most of
the power of water—and with reason. Looking at the future, in the context of the past, provides great confidence in what comes next: Solving problems and allaying concerns have long been integral parts of doing within the business sphere of realizing the full potential of water.

Given that water is an essential compound for life and living systems, any commercial use of the abundant liquid inevitably garners wide attention. Members of the pressure washer and waterjetting industries know the importance of addressing concerns that arise in communities where their tools are used. They also realize that the receptiveness to concerns has often led to significant innovation.

The waterjetting industry has always demonstrated itself to be responsive. Especially so in “its bold attempt to evolve as the world around us advances,” says Terry Gromes, Jr., with Terydon, Inc. in Navarre, OH. “It makes me optimistic about our industry.”

Just consider the way the industry has innovated to make equipment as safe as possible. “Acknowledging the potential hazards within the waterjetting world, steps have been taken to replace hands-on products with automated tooling to create a safer working environment,” comments Gromes.

“Intuitive developments within our industry, combined with embraced modern advancements in other fields, can create increased efficiency and production without putting a human life at risk,” explains Gromes. Risk taking, of course, is part of reaching for all that’s possible and gaining a better perspective with each step secured.

“The trepidation that accompanies any first-of-its-kind venture is natural,” says Gromes. “For any new technology, there is always controversy and there is always some fear associated with it. I think that’s just the price of being first sometimes.”

Yet look at the reward in getting out there and doing—not just to a particular company, but much more broadly to the society and world at large. “And where the average cell phone today has more power and capabilities than the technology which landed Neil Armstrong on the moon, the opportunities are endless,” enthuses Gromes.

It’s tantalizing to consider how invigorating it would be for our nation to turn its attention to returning to the moon and visiting other planets. Aspiration is a powerful motivator.

To be sure, while we are (surely) temporarily Earth-bound—save a few treks to and from the International Space Station—innovators such as those cited in this article aim to keep pushing forward. Not difficult to imagine is the day a U.S. space program again leads the world and members of the pressure washer and waterjetting industries contribute to extra-terrestrial exploration.

The array of ever-more-refined technologies emerging from our industry demonstrate the brilliant intellects ready to work on projects of any sort—be they far beyond the stratosphere or deep in the ocean. Consequently, one reason for abundant cheerfulness about the future—2014 and after—is the solid foundation being built.

Good Grounding

Ingenuity extends to all dimensions of the pressure washer and waterjetting industries, including partnering. The dealer model puts end users within easy reach of expert advice and consultation. (It’s not unlike the terrestrial relay station personnel that communicated with orbiting space shuttle crews.)

“Mi-t-M feels very optimistic with the direction of this industry,” says Karl Loeffelholz, distributor division manager at the corporation based in Peosta, IA.

“Pressure washer dealers now, more than ever, are in demand because of their expertise in applications, installations, and the ability to service the product after the sale.” In other words, it’s not all about one point of contact or one experience. Give and take, flow of information, and good ties are vital components of a vigorous industry.

“Companies that rely on pressure washers for their day-to-day maintenance and operations understand the importance of a quality dealer with which they partner to create efficient solutions,” explains Loeffelholz. “Dealers continue to increase their knowledge and ask for support from manufacturers to meet the demands for their end user, and we plan to be there to help in every possible way.”

Such guidance is really a facet of leadership. Analogous to the guidance systems that ensure spacecraft operate within the parameters that keep them on a desired trajectory, advice from a knowledgeable dealer can make a huge difference to the success of an equipment end user.

“I would have to say the most concerning thing we continue to hear from the dealers is the ability for an end user to find and source the same or similar product over the Internet, eroding profits for a stocking dealer,” notes Loeffelholz. “It’s important for dealers to differentiate themselves quickly from a Web provider.”

Expertise gives dealers a boost when aligning with specific industries. “It is evident the oil and agricultural industries are strong and will be for a while,” says Loeffelholz. “The serving dealer should and will be able to prosper off these two sectors alone very well as long as it’s their geographical area.”

Competition

Clear-eyed is the only way to meet the competition that does exist. Mutual understanding between manufacturers and distributors benefits the entire industry. Communication helps each appreciate the perspective of the other.

“There has been a change in the relationship between manufacturers and distributors over the years,” remarks Roberta Savelli, Owner of Industrial Equipment in Chico, CA. Some manufacturers now sell directly to end users, which can set up a competition between manufacturer and distributor. For that reason, a distributor must highlight what it offers. Service and knowledge are paramount considerations.

“Even with the engineering improvements to our products, they will still need service,” says Savelli. “Granted, many customers prefer to deal direct for parts and do repairs themselves. Many still need the assistance of service.”

Yet the distributor cannot survive on providing only service. “The distributor that survives will change or perish,” says Savelli. “Meeting a customer’s specialty needs and paying attention to our customer’s needs are good ideas.” She adds that she hopes he has “the good sense and luck to see the opportunity” where it exists.

Competition does not restrict itself to a company-to-company tug and pull. Nations at large compete. But there’s some good news regarding resurgence in interest in U.S. goods.

“I am optimistic about our industry in the near and long term because two major factors have strengthened the fundamentals of our industry,” comments Bruce Tassone, President of HydraMotion Cleaning Systems in Bridgeport, PA. “The U.S. economy is strengthening and imported products are losing ground.”

The good news continues, says Tassone. “With the rebound of the economy, residential and industrial customers have slowly, but steadily, been coming back. Cleaning projects or equipment purchases or repairs that have been put off are now being implemented.” And it has meant more market share for his company.

Even so, Tassone does sound one note of caution. “The concern we have at our company is the lack of new individuals entering the industry and new companies being founded,” he explains. “There appears to be education and training missing, which would allow younger or displaced people seeking jobs to acquire the skills necessary to enter the manufacturing, distribution, or contract-cleaning fields.”

“Getting the message out is important,” notes Tassone. “While there is a perceived allure to fields like the computer and electronic industries, specialty cleaning is and always will be a viable market, and we need the influx of fresh ideas and energy.”

In other words, strivers of all sorts bolster the mix. “We have been in the field for over 20 years,” says Tassone of his firm. “Over that time, the majority of companies we have been affiliated with both as manufacturers and distributors are still in business today. I think this is a testament to the tenacity and ingenuity of these firms and their employees.”

For anyone wavering on the good to come, Tassone offers a few words of encouragement. “To those of us who have weathered the economic storms and changing business structure across two decades, I am looking forward to another, great 20 years with all of you,” he says.