Training for Disaster

July 13, 2012
RER recently held a series of interviews with pump manufacturers, including the following with Pam Meyer, equipment sales manager, Subaru Industrial Power Products.

RER recently held a series of interviews with pump manufacturers, including the following with Pam Meyer, equipment sales manager, Subaru Industrial Power Products. Meyer spoke with RER about the importance of training rental personnel on proper pump application, being prepared for disaster response, and how the economy looks in the rental market.

RER: What is new in your company’s line of pumps and what is unique about it?

Meyer: In 2012, we became the first company to offer a 5-year limited warranty on our entire line of gas-powered pumps. It’s the first warranty of this kind. And what makes it even more exciting for our rental customers is, because we use Subaru engines in our pumps, both the engine and the pump are covered under the 5-year warranty.

What level of training and knowledge is required for a rental company to be successful in pump rentals? What level of training should rental companies provide to their customers?

Meyer: First and foremost, associates need to direct customers to select the proper pump for the application — in particular, the water being pumped and what’s in it, like sticks, stones and other debris. Most pumps, like Subaru’s line, are classified based on how much debris they can handle while still achieving optimum performance. Ours are standard centrifugal (including the high-pressure model), semi-trash, trash and diaphragm.

In addition to their category, pumps are typically classified based on Maximum PSI, Maximum Head and GPM (Flow). Desired height, distance and speed are primary considerations when choosing a pump. To ensure maximized efficiency, understand basic pump characteristics and performance curves.

A common misconception is the larger a pump, the greater the GPM, Head and PSI. This is not always the case. In fact, a pump offering a higher GPM output often offers a lower Maximum Head and PSI — and vice versa. This translates to performance in regards to height, distance and speed. For example, a diaphragm pump is perfectly capable of pumping clear water, but it operates at a much slower speed than most standard centrifugal models.

Also a misconception: A pump can achieve both maximum GPM (Flow), and maximum Head and PSI. In actuality, the amount of flow varies with the amount of head generated. As a general rule with centrifugal pumps, an increase in flow causes a decrease in head, and vice versa. Understanding this relationship will ensure expectations are met.

Most customers won’t be aware of all these factors, so it’s crucial for rental center associates to be trained in proper selection criteria. They must know the basics, but also understand the relationships between the pump characteristics.

What markets for pump rentals do you see as most important in the coming years — i.e., construction, industrial, homeowner/light contractor and energy markets?

Meyer: While there’s no argument those are all and will continue to be crucial markets, the number one area I feel has the strongest potential is emergency management/disaster preparedness. We’ve seen the weather do some unbelievable things the past few years, flooding among the most severe. Regardless of what happens in the economy and how it fluctuates, weather will always be a constant. And when you’re dealing with severe rain and even flooding, a pump isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. But a pump isn’t something most people, whether in a home or professional setting, have on hand, making availability at a rental center imperative. I look at that both from the standpoint of being prepared for what’s coming, or quickly responding to an unexpected situation.

How do you see the economy in the foreseeable future?

Meyer: My outlook is optimistic. I feel very positive about the future state of the rental industry. We’ve seen it come back, albeit slowly, the past year, and I’m confident it’s going to continue to grow. For Subaru, our first quarter was the best one I’ve seen in years, and much of that was directly tied to rental. Additionally, I read a report from ARA confirming this, both in terms of a better-than-expected first quarter, and continued growth. We’ve seen rental centers remain pretty conservative over the past few years, just trying to maintain their fleets as long as possible. But now, I feel they’ll make the investments into new equipment, and we’ll begin to see many start to replace their aging fleets.