Interview with Tsurumi’s Glenn Wieczorek: Vertical Integration

Dec. 10, 2023
Glenn Wieczorek, managing director, Tsurumi (America) Inc., talks with RER about the trend towards vertical integration, the company’s growth in the wastewater sector as well as rental, new explosion-proof pumps, weather emergencies and what it takes to become a pump rental specialist.

By Michael Roth; photos by Tsurumi America

RER: How Is life in the pump world? The technology must be changing!

Wieczorek: As technology changes so do process requirements. Tsurumi continues to grow in areas like wastewater treatment with new products recently introduced. Additionally, we continue to see consistent growth in the rental business. To prepare for this growth we have recently invested in a new building close to our current facility in Illinois. This recent purchase will serve as a testing facility. Our engineering team will use this testing facility to ensure our pumps continue to meet the required duty points that are needed by the various applications. We’re excited to get this up and running.

What’s new recently in Tsurumi’s products?

We are proud that our HS series of pumps has been so successful throughout North America and globally as well. Recently we’ve expanded this line of products to include the HS3.5SL, meeting the market needs for a high flow pump with the same Tsurumi quality and design. The HS3.5SL features a 3-inch discharge and one horsepower making this an ideal addition to an already popular line. Our HS2.75 submersible pump has been working great but adding a high flow option will meet the added requirements of our customers already accustomed to the HS line.

The HS series has been successful for us. Our customers continue to enjoy the quality, dependability, and durability of this lightweight pump. Now with a high-flow option available, this line of products will continue to grow in demand. 

That’s a recent product?

The HS3.5SL was introduced about a year ago and we continue to promote market visibility. Our focus on product launch remains in the wastewater sector. AVANT is Tsurumi’s new explosion-proof line of FM-Approved sewage pumps, ideal for hazardous locations. The AVANT MQ products were introduced in 2020 and due to the pandemic visibility of this new line was limited. However, this year we decided to expand our product range to include the MY series pumps and MMR series of mixers.  With these new additions Tsurumi is dedicated to raising awareness of overall product introductions within the AVANT line.

Due to the FM rating on the AVANT line, Tsurumi successfully offers solutions in applications where explosion-proof pumps are required. The rental sector may recognize this as an opportunity to offer a product in areas like a sewer bypass where explosion proof is a must. Most municipalities make this a requirement and Tsurumi is ready to provide the solution.

It makes sense that they would require that. 

Having been in the pump business for quite some time, I am able to recall when explosion-proof pumps were not a requirement.  However, once the importance of this became evident municipalities started recognizing the benefits.  Accidents can be a common place and so safety needs to be a priority.

This is why we are so excited to offer the AVANT line. This line of products has been designed to optimize performance at the necessary duty point with energy savings due to the high efficiency motors. Not to mention the highly customizable capabilities of the MQ series. The materials of construction like the cast iron body, dual silicon carbide mechanical seals and moisture probes reduce downtime. Both the MQ and MY series offer versatility through different impeller type options.  The breadth of products at Tsurumi is extensive.

This is evident as we continue to grow our product lines to stay ahead of requirements like the need for a CO (carbon dioxide gas) monitor in generators. This isn’t an official requirement yet, but we have recently added these sensors in our generators to ease any future concerns. Having done this has made a bigger impact than anticipated. Recently a Tsurumi employee was watching C-Span and Tsurumi was noted as one of the manufacturers that has incorporated this feature into its products.

What are some of the new trends in pump manufacturing that you see?

A significant trend in pump manufacturing and one we are addressing is vertical integration in manufacturing. COVID and the supply issues that it caused have really shed light on potential problems that could be faced in the future. We have recently seen this with our motor suppliers. They have either increased their lead times or have stopped supplying us with motors all together. 

This is why Tsurumi is happy to announce we broke ground on a new factory in June.  By this time next year, we are hoping that we’ll be manufacturing our own motors. This will prevent the risk of fluctuating prices and supply limitations. Motors are an important component of our products. Therefore, we need to do what we can to minimize inventory outages. For this reason, we have also decided to purchase a foundry; thus, easing any future issues with supply. This is not to say that we are manufacturing all our castings but will help by having a backup in case the need arises. Tsurumi will continue to have integration in manufacturing due to the supply chain concerns.

Another trend we see becoming more common is the need for battery-powered products. Having a battery component added to a submersible pump creates added challenges. This may not be a feasible possibility; however, integrating the possibility of battery power with a pump is something to keep in mind. Perhaps this means replacing generator power with a battery pack for pumps. Not quite sure how it can all work but a need for a more environmentally friendly option is on the horizon.  With various states, like California, having strict demands a battery powered solution will be needed.

What kind of demand are you expecting in 2024?

It’s an election year coming up, election years always present their own challenges in creating a business plan for the year. While I don’t foresee a deep recession for next year, I think our customers may be more conservative with their purchasing than they’ve been in the recent past. I believe one of the biggest challenges we will have to be mindful of is having adequate inventory. We want to continue to be a leader when it comes to product availability, but we also don’t want to over-forecast sales and be left with inventory that is not moving as quickly as anticipated. Though I believe the demand is continuous, most buyers will be cautious with their spending. 

Will an increase in infrastructure spending benefit the pump market? 

I think we can all agree that infrastructure spending can benefit our market segments in various industries. Particularly in the construction sector where we are heavily visible, we are anticipating an increase in demand if the Infrastructure Bill gets rolled out. Tsurumi will be ready to supply that demand when and if this happens. 

There have been some large rental companies setting up their own pump specialty divisions. Do you see that specialty trend growing? 

We see that continuing. Most of the big companies have made that move already. However, whether this trend can be sustainable by smaller companies is yet to be seen. But I do think specialty divisions are here to stay. Becoming a pump expert is not an overnight feat, it takes time and experience. This is especially true when you go beyond the typical 2-inch pump and move on to larger pumps that require a higher level of knowledge. Such is the case with 6-inch diesel pumps or specialty electric submersibles. It’s not reasonable to expect a person or company to become pump specialists without sufficient training, experience and simply time to soak in the information. 

We’re seeing more extreme weather events and weather emergencies, which is a big part of the rental business. What are some of your thoughts about preparing for those?

The best thing we can do to support weather emergencies and weather-related events is to be prepared with inventory. For this reason, we have several satellite warehouses throughout the United States.  While this dips into our margins at times, it is important to be able to supply pumps in areas where there is a need. Our main location remains in the Chicago area; with a Utah location recently added. Using two locations as main hubs we can supply the satellite warehouses with products easily and efficiently. We have found that this strategy has helped in our efforts very well.

Additionally, we realized that some rental businesses have hurricane contracts with customers in areas susceptible to hurricanes. Many businesses don’t want to pay rent for equipment that is unused most of the time. With Tsurumi’s satellite warehouses these rental companies can rest assured knowing that if this equipment is needed it’s readily available. Adding a sense of security knowing that they’ll be able to handle the needs of inclement weather. 

In the generator business, I talk to people who go to customers and say, “You need a plan.” You can’t just say “send us a pump,” when a hurricane comes. It takes preparation.

Having a plan in place requires preparation before an event occurs. This is true for manufacturers and suppliers as well. We must be ready in anticipation of these events before they happen. I believe this is what sets us apart from the competition. Our inventory levels at the satellite warehouse tend to be higher than what some inventors would advise. However, we are more concerned with helping those in need and supporting our customers when disaster remediation is needed. 

I think it’s important for me to note that we are aware of the cost associated with his tactic. However, we think it’s worth our investment to be able to support our distributors, our customers, and our end users. This may seem like a plug but worth noting: We partner with Lowes and their disaster remediation support trailer that is used to aid areas stricken by weather related disasters. The trailer is equipped with tools and equipment used to support homeowners, business and anyone affected in these areas. 

You must have unusual applications all the time in the pump business. Any interesting ones you can tell us about? 

The nature of our products means they are used in many types of applications. One that recently came to mind is shipping 21 pumps to a large dewatering project in Central America. These pumps are massive and require efforts from several of our departments, from sales to operations. This unique project required powerful pumps to dewater the area. We were delighted that we were able to secure the inventory for our customers. The shipment of these pumps has been sent and we are happy to support them on this project once the pumps are in place.  With this being an exceptional job, we anticipate challenges, and our team is ready with solutions.

About the Author

Michael Roth | Editor

Michael Roth has covered the equipment rental industry full time for RER since 1989 and has served as the magazine’s editor in chief since 1994. He has nearly 30 years experience as a professional journalist. Roth has visited hundreds of rental centers and industry manufacturers, written hundreds of feature stories for RER and thousands of news stories for the magazine and its electronic newsletter RER Reports. Roth has interviewed leading executives for most of the industry’s largest rental companies and manufacturers as well as hundreds of smaller independent companies. He has visited with and reported on rental companies and manufacturers in Europe, Central America and Asia as well as Mexico, Canada and the United States. Roth was co-founder of RER Reports, the industry’s first weekly newsletter, which began as a fax newsletter in 1996, and later became an online newsletter. Roth has spoken at conventions sponsored by the American Rental Association, Associated Equipment Distributors, California Rental Association and other industry events and has spoken before industry groups in several countries. He lives and works in Los Angeles when he’s not traveling to cover industry events.