by Dushyant Mehra

Pumps & Systems, July 2007

Positive displacement pumps are known as the poor cousin in the global pumps market. With regard to the two broad product classifications, one being centrifugal and the other positive displacement (PD) pumps, the former dominates with nearly 70.0 percent of the 2006 market share revenues.

By definition, PD pumps displace a fixed quantity of liquid with each revolution of the pumping element. This is accomplished by trapping the fluid between the pumping elements and a stationary casing.

The PD pumps market can be segmented into three broad product type classifications: rotary, reciprocating and peristaltic pumps. The pumps that comprise the rotary pump classification include lobe, vane, gear and progressing cavity/multiple screw pumps. Additionally, the reciprocating pumps category includes piston and diaphragm pumps.

PD pumps are expected to become increasingly popular during the forecast period 2007-2013, mainly due to their relatively compact design, high-viscosity performance, continuous flow despite differential pressure and overall ability to handle high differential pressure.

Although different types of positive displacement pumps are utilized in diverse applications by the end-user industries, they all essentially perform the same function - increasing the rate of fluid flow in a conduit. Some of the major end-user industries include chemical processing, water and wastewater treatment, pharmaceutical processing, oil and gas, food and beverage processing and power generation.

Crossroads: Key Challenges

Saturated traditional industry applications forces manufacturers to penetrate new markets

Positive displacement pumps have traditionally targeted very diverse applications, ranging from chemical processing to pulp and paper to power generation. However, most of these end-user markets are now approaching a saturation stage and, as such, new applications must be found to drive revenue growth rates. For example, new applications for PD pumps can be found in juice plants, poultry and pharmaceutical processing.

Market maturity forces manufacturers to provide value added support services to customers

Customers are increasingly looking to PD pump manufacturers for full global support services. Extensive competition among manufacturers and other suppliers has led to partnerships and consolidation within the pumps market, forcing manufacturers to provide value-added services in order to sustain end-user loyalty.

Consequently, many PD pump manufacturers are now providing on-site assistance and annual maintenance contracts to their end users. In these situations, manufacturers must undertake preventive maintenance work throughout the year for the end user.

Increased competition compels manufacturers to introduce innovative technology and efficient pumps

Since the PD pumps market is in a mature stage, the key differentiator for manufacturers will be innovative products that are highly energy efficient and unique in terms of design. Because the current PD pumps market is flooded with products that have similar features, there is a major challenge for manufacturers to differentiate their products from other competitors on the basis of pump design and niche applications.

Manufacturers that successfully meet this challenge are in a position to benefit from the present and expected changes in the industry.

The market's consolidation trend challenges the existence of medium and small manufacturers

The consolidation trend in the PD pumps industry will continue, wherein the established manufacturers will benefit as the focus shifts to providing more solution-based and full support services rather than just the product itself.

Top manufacturers prefer to go for smaller acquisitions to expand their product offering and penetrate newer markets. As a result, the existence of medium and small PD pump manufacturers who concentrate on niche applications will be threatened. They will find it hard to compete with the established market participants, and this will have a direct effect on their sales and profit margins.

Having discussed some of the key challenges in the market, let's take a sneak peak at some of the emerging trends in the PD pumps market as highlighted below.