Submersible pump industry survey provides a unique forecast
Since 1997, the Submersible Wastewater Pump Association (SWPA) has conducted an annual Industry Outlook Survey as a major component of its strategic initiative to “forge the future of the submersible wastewater pump industry.” The primary purpose of the survey is to gain valuable insight and gauge the expectations of the industry's performance and product trends for this year.
Members from all three SWPA membership categories (manufacturer, component and associate) participated in the survey. In addition, SWPA's pump manufacturer members reported on quarterly pump shipments through the association's Pump Shipment Reporting Program. These shipments are estimated to represent more than 75 percent of the industry's total.
The 2012 outlook presents a unique industry forecast of our members' expectations of pump shipments; trends in the market for component parts and accessories; and the overall condition, changes and influences affecting the marketplace in 2012. Respondents projected modest increases in pump shipments in all categories.
Respondents said that they expect grinder pump shipments to increase 2 to 2.5 percent. With a continued lackluster housing market, many respondents cited aging infrastructure and failing septic tanks as the main driver for these modest growth projections.
Solids Handling Pumps
Respondents expect total solids handling pump shipments to increase 3 to 3.5 percent, with municipal installations accounting for about 70 percent of all shipments. Significant comments on the solids handling pump market for 2012 included:
- New stations will remain minimal as funding stays tight
- Pump sales will primarily consist of replacement and upgrade work
- Slow, modest but steady growth
- Economic conditions continue to impact the growth of this market and not much growth or improvement is expected during the next 12 months
Dry Pit Submersible Pumps
Total dry pit shipments should be up 4.5 percent, with about 85 percent of those pumps going into municipal applications, ac-cording to respondents. Significant comments on the market outlook for dry pit submersibles for this year included:
- The continued replacement of conventional dry-installed pumps
- Very slow but steady growth
- Demand is stronger in larger horsepower pumps
Component Parts and Accessories
The outlook for component parts and accessory items (as per SWPA's established product categories) according to the survey respondents will increase 2 to 8 percent this year. Several of the respondents said they were cautiously optimistic for 2012, but sales for component parts and accessories are still correlated to pump sales, which are expected to show only modest gains in 2012.
Demand for more intelligent controls and variable frequency drives (VFDs) are expected to outpace other component parts and accessories, according to the survey respondents. Other, more specific comments on the outlook for component parts and accessory items include:
- Spending will need to slowly but steadily increase to respond to aging infrastructure and updating of existing equipment.
- While large municipal spending is slow, replacement and small projects still exist.
- Winners will be those that differentiate and supply value add solutions.
- Money must be available.
The SWPA survey asked respondents to address their expectations of product trends that will continue in this year as well as any emerging product changes. Many respondents talked about the continued movement to premium efficiency submersible motors, more focus on energy savings and greater use of VFDs. Technological advances will also lead to improved grinding and cutting designs. Advances in controls technology is always a factor, including smarter technology that will allow increased communica-tion/monitoring of equipment status over the Internet.
In this difficult economic climate, the concept of “the systems approach,” (the customer purchasing all accessories with the pump as a total package instead of purchasing pumps, components and accessories piecemeal) should be considered as customers look for total value and intelligent solutions. In looking ahead to 2012, the factors that will influence the marketplace for submersible wastewater pumps are:
- The U.S. and global economies
- Achieving the lowest costs of operation
- Government regulations
- The availability of public funding for municipal markets
- Residential and commercial new construction
- Pricing and quality product support
- Neglect of the retrofit market, as preventative maintenance.