Pumps & Systems spoke with, Glenn Wieczorek, managing director of Tsurumi America, on the state of the industry as it affects Tsurumi and its customers entering the new year. Wieczorek was appointed managing director of Tsurumi America in 2010. He has more than 30 years of experience in the pump industry, in both the marketing and engineering of water transfer products.
P&S: Can you tell me if the pandemic has impacted your operations at all and if so, how?
WIECZOREK: I don’t believe that there is any organization or operation that hasn’t suffered some sort of impact from this pandemic. For us, it has been the move to working remotely. In the past we were hesitant to have people work remotely, as we thought it would be indispensable to have the staff in the office, but now we have proved that we can perfectly work this way. We haven’t seen any loss of productivity with working remotely. This experience has also showed us that we don’t need to travel as much. We can still improve our operations and solve customer challenges by working remotely, and obviously, we can cut costs. For example, we had a big sales meeting in April where all of our salespeople in North America would normally have had to travel to our headquarters. That would be a three-day meeting, but because of COVID-19, we had the meeting online. It was tough, but very productive and efficient, and we were able to accomplish our goals in three hours. As an organization, our customers aren’t experiencing a decline in service either. Phone lines are routed to our team members, so there is the same level of responsiveness for critical services. Our warehouse people are working normally, with safety measures in place to ensure our parts and products are readily available to our distributors and customers. I believe that this mindset will continue after the pandemic, as companies look to maximize their effectiveness in helping customers solve their pumping challenges.
P&S: What are the positives you’re looking at going into 2021?
WIECZOREK: An important lesson from this pandemic is that we can make more use of modern technologies to enhance our relationship with distributors and customers. This is something we will definitely continue to pursue in 2021. Tsurumi Pump recently launched a new explosion-proof pump line, the AVANT Series, 100% virtually. We also participated in WEFTEC’s virtual trade show. We learned a lot from both experiences. We acquired new equipment — such as computers, cameras and microphones — to make it possible for us to communicate more easily with business partners and customers, and we believe this will add great value to our services in 2021. I am very enthusiastic about all these improvements in our operations. Despite the circumstances in 2020, we had a solid year and hope that continues in 2021. We don’t have a clear picture of what next year will look like, but we are committed to serving our customers no matter the scenario.
P&S: What do you expect the challenges to look like for your business next year?
WIECZOREK: One of the biggest challenges ahead of us is to see if the rebound will continue in construction and mining. The construction industry in North America saw some decline this year, mostly due to the uncertainty surrounding the economy and COVID-19, but we’ve seen recent indicators that it’s rebounding. We’ll want to see if this trend continues. With mining, there is an expectation that it will pick up in 2021, especially with prices of gold and other minerals increasing. For municipality jobs, there is currently a steady demand for equipment replacement, but the pandemic’s economic effects are going to affect the tax base that municipalities are working with in the future. If we have a scenario with companies going out of business and high unemployment, tax bases will decrease, and it can affect the pump industry down the line.
P&S: How has your applicable industry (wastewater, etc.) been most affected by the pandemic?
WIECZOREK: Mining was the first to be affected. It was interesting to watch the movement geographically: Canada and the American West closed down pretty quickly in the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, followed by the rest of the U.S. Then you saw Canada reopening, followed by the rest of the West. In Canada, even when mines shut down and workers were sent home, mining companies continued their maintenance service, so the demand for parts actually went up. They wanted to have everything ready for when workers were able to come back. In Mexico the demand for new equipment remained the same all year. Now, as the price of gold has skyrocketed, there is a big pressure on these mines to start mining gold again. It will be interesting for us to see how the wastewater industry will be affected, as we’ve just introduced an explosion-proof pump line that will allow us to expand our operations into large wastewater projects. We know that, at least for replacements, there should be continuing demand, as wastewater treatment is essential.
P&S: What keeps you up at night?
WIECZOREK: The fact that 2021 is still an enigma. Is the economy going to continue to resurge or will it take a real nosedive? Despite the challenges this year, many companies in the industrial sector were able to continue their operations, even if sales were down. We hope that this will still be possible in 2021. I’m also apprehensive about what’s going to happen after the elections. Right now, we are more divided than I can ever remember, and I’m hoping that no matter what way the election goes, it doesn’t further divide the country. As a country, when we pull together in the same direction, working on the same vision, we can do amazing things.