Pumping at-home conveniences

Optimism and innovation are the buzzwords in the pumps sector of the marine industry so far in 2006.

However, the challenge pump manufacturers face, whether they make bilge, freshwater, live-well or whatever kind of pump you seek, essentially remains the same. Boaters want the convenience and all of the comforts of home when on board their leisure craft.

To that end, three key marine pump manufacturers – Jabsco Worldwide, SHURflo and Johnson Pump – have introduced, or are about to introduce, new products this year. Another one, Whale Water Systems, Inc., recently debuted a new Aqua Source water filter.

“Boaters are continually looking to have the at-home experience,” when it comes to pumps and, in particularly, water flow, said Steve Tilders, marketing manager at Jabsco Worldwide, a subsidiary of ITT. “They are interested in high water pressure, smooth flow, and we’re delivering products to satisfy that request.

“We’ve had a lot of technological advances in fresh-water pump design and it’s continuing to take hold with our boat builders, distributors and dealers as well.”

Jabsco will introduce a brand new line of live-well pumps, called the Rule Tournament Series Live Well Pump, by the time the Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show rolls around in July.

SHURflo, meanwhile, has already introduced its new line for ’06, entitling it the “Next Generation” line, according to Ryan Sessler, senior marketing manager. SHURflo is one of the dominant players in the freshwater, wash-down and live-well side of the business.

At Johnson Pump, aftermarket sales manager Gregg Pardus said his company will be introducing the Integrated Johnson Ultimatic bilge pump at MAATS, which will utilize its Ultima Switch technology. Also, Johnson has its heavy-duty bilge pump line, called the Bilge Alert, which has all of the threaded discharge ports and integrated check valves.

Of the new line at SHURflo, Sessler said, “We actually changed the line entirely for ’06. It’s a lot quieter, more flow, more specific flows for the application. It’s marine grade and made for the marine environment. It’s just a much better product overall.

“We introduced 1-, 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-gallon pumps that are all part of our ‘Next Generation’ line.”

All four executives of the aforementioned companies were pleased with the results of first-quarter sales this year and three of them were very optimistic for the remainder of 2006.

Brian Gallagan, national sales manager at Whale Water Systems, Inc., of Peabody, Mass., said, “We’ve had very solid business the first quarter of the year and we’ve been doing quite well in the marine pumps industry. We’re beating what we anticipated our budget to be and are slightly up from last year.

“But I really couldn’t say how the rest of the industry will perform this year. Most of our business centers on the larger boats, 23-footers and beyond. They did very well last year and they seem to be doing very well so far this year. I think we will have a good year, but I’m not going to say it will be stellar because I really don’t know yet.”

Whale Water Systems’ latest introduction is the Aqua Source water filter, a charcoal filter for fresh water systems that is easy to mount under the sink that will filter the water through the faucet.

SHURflo’s Sessler was equally high on the first quarter. “A lot of it is the way we do business,” Sessler explained. “We’re a little more aggressive when it comes to the new product side of the business. That is, more aggressive not only with our new pump products, but the accessories that go along with the business like faucets, fixtures and things like that.

“While the market in general was down about three percent last year, SHURflo still was at double digit growth. A lot of it had to do with the OEM side of the business, expansion of our product across multiple lines, and that enabled us to have really good growth.

“Right now,” Sessler added, “after our first quarter, our end-of-year expectations certainly look attainable which is always a good sign.”

At Jabsco, the acknowledged leader in the bilge pump category with its famous red, white and blue Rule brand, the first quarter was equally productive.

“While our sales were definitely up,” said Jabsco’s Tilders, “our sales with our partners were even greater. We’ve seen a nice increase over last year, certainly in the first quarter.

“We have some changes on the drawing board right now that we’re trying to prove out. There will come a day when bilge pumps truly will dry out a bilge. We are working toward that solution. As far as the rest of the year, we have very positive expectations and all of our distributor partners are actually very bullish on 2006. They are cautiously optimistic and we are as well.”

The new Jabsco line about to debut, which also includes the new Rule Tournament Series line of live-well pumps, will offer the unique Jabsco Smooth Flow pump controller, an aftermarket upgrade that will adapt to any system and convert its standard water pressure system into a variable speed drive pump.

“What that will deliver to the boater,” Tilders explained, “is the smooth flow they desire. No more rat-a-tat you normally experience with a standard water system on board. The pumps will be controlled by this system and you also won’t have the hot-and-cold spikes anymore. It’s a unique product and there’s nothing like it in the marketplace.”

Johnson Pump, located in suburban Chicago also experienced a strong first quarter, according to Pardus.

“I think our segment of the business goes hand in hand with the boat builders, and the boat builds, and it was certainly up in the first quarter,” said Pardus.

“But I think as a sector in the marine supply business, like we are and other pump makers are, we’ve seen an increase in the state of technology and the quality of the product base not only by us here at Johnson Pump but by our competitors as well.

“You’re seeing more and more additional features (on pumps) that reduce or almost eliminate the number of problems that might have been there years ago. There’s more of a movement, too, away from mechanical switches toward sensor or automatic switches and the new switches are mercury free, unlike some old switches.”

Pardus also said Johnson Pump, which also makes the Mayfair brand, has been a strong player among bass fishermen and boaters in the Midwestern states, and is now making inroads on both coasts as well.

“We’ve put together some good marketing plans and pushed very hard to move our products into the coastal and salt-water areas and we’re starting to make some fairly good penetrations on the coast areas with our Johnson line of products.”

As far as the remainder of ‘06 is concerned, Pardus said, “We’re not getting an extended winter and the weather patterns have been decent throughout the country, so we’re looking forward to a strong aftermarket this summer season.”

And so is the rest of the marine industry.

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