RER: What types of new technologies, enhancements and features are on the horizon for the next generations of pump models?
Thompson: Considering our increased awareness of the importance of environmental issues and, by extension, fuel economy, recent current models — as well as the next generation — will feature higher efficiencies, reduced emissions, increased sound attenuation, automatic start-stop capabilities, automatic variable-speed controls, longer running times between fueling, as well as wireless remote operating, monitoring, trouble-shooting and GPS locating and fencing. Approximately 75 percent of our model offerings are dry-priming units (able to achieve prime without filling the pump casing with fluid) as opposed to the wet-priming units, which used to dominate the industry. Especially in construction applications, the additional ability of the pump to run dry — run while not pumping any liquid — is a very desirable feature.
How have pumps developed over the years?
Until recently, pumps were not considered to be high-tech machines. However, with the incorporation of computer-controlled electronic systems, which regulate fuel injection and operating parameters of the engines, they have entered a new realm. Electric motor-driven pumps are being provided with variable-speed capability as well. We at Thompson Pump Company have focused on developing larger, more powerful pumps with higher flow capacities and higher head capabilities than many observers thought possible just a decade ago. These capabilities have opened the door for many new uses for our products.
What are customers asking for in their pumps and how are manufacturers responding to them?
Our customers demand pumps that are the highest quality, are extremely reliable, easy to operate and are easy to service, maintain and repair. They require pumps that can operate 24/7, unattended for long periods of time and that have long maintenance intervals.
What do you expect for the future of the pump market? How does the market look right now?
The future of the portable, diesel-driven pump market is extremely bright. With the availability of the features described previously, we are constantly identifying new applications and uses for our wide variety of models. Although ours is a very competitive industry, those who constantly strive to produce and provide high-quality products, bolstered by strong service and engineering support, will always do well.
Another consideration must be the expectations of the pump users in relation to the capabilities of the pump unit providers. Whether they own the pumps, or are renting them for a limited period of time, simply being supplied with a product is the bare minimum expectation today. Most pump users require the manufacturer or the dealer or the pump rental company to support that use with project design and engineering advice, installation assistance, operation and maintenance services and, in some instances, turn-key involvement. With the wide variety of product types and the tremendous variation in application requirements, a fundamental decision such as choosing the right pump for the job can become a daunting task.
How much has the market grown in the past year and what do you anticipate for the coming year?
The year 2007 saw a steep decline in large pump usage in the construction markets in many regions of the nation. This was due primarily to the decline in residential construction and new housing developments in conjunction with the pervasive drought, which impacted much of the Southeastern U.S. and other areas. On the other hand, the precious metal and mineral mines, the multitude of pit and quarry operations, along with oil and natural gas exploration and recovery industries have been very strong users of portable pump sets. In response to the relatively low exchange rate of the U.S. dollar versus many foreign currencies, we have seen tremendous growth in the export markets.
What do we expect in 2008? We anticipate 2008 to be, at best, a repeat of 2007.