Thursday, July 31, 2003

New president plans to pump up company

By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Terry Atwater on the production floor of Wayne Water Systems in Harrison.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
HARRISON - A sudden thunderstorm was pounding on the roof and windows at Wayne Water Systems, but Terry Atwater didn't mind.

"We call that pennies from heaven," said the new president of Wayne - a maker of sump pumps - and sister company to Campbell Hausfeld Air Products Co.

Atwater, 35, a former business manager for General Electric Co.'s commercial and industrial motors unit in Fort Wayne, Ind., has plans to grow those pennies into big bucks at Wayne, part of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Although sump pumps for removing water from wet basements are Wayne's bread and butter, Atwater wants to expand the company's market to include other types of water-movement equipment: for above and in-ground swimming pools, spas and commercial and residential water-filtration products.

"Over the last five or 10 years, Wayne's operations have been great, but it hasn't had tremendous growth," Atwater said.

The company doesn't disclose revenues, estimated around $100 million, but Atwater said he expects to double the business over five years.

The growth strategy includes new products, joint ventures and acquisitions to build Wayne's market presence.

The company was started in Fort Wayne in 1928 to make household products and entered the water-pump market in the 1940s.

• 1928, Norbert G. Berghoff formed Wayne Home Equipment Co. in Fort Wayne, Ind., to make products ranging from refrigerators to lawnmowers.
• Late 1940s, the company entered the water-pump market, acquiring Zepher Pump Co. in Decatur, Ill.
• In 1978, the Berghoff family sold the home equipment business to Scott Fetzer Co. in Cleveland.
• In 1991, Scott Fetzer combined manufacturing for Wayne Pump; its Powerwinch Co. of Bridgeport, Conn.; and Campbell Hausfeld Air Products in Harrison.
The family-owned business was sold to Scott-Fetzer Co. in 1978, and in 1991 the business was moved to Harrison to develop synergies with Campbell Hausfeld.

The expected synergies have never developed, but Wayne occupies about 130,000 square-feet adjoining Campbell-Hausfeld's plant.

The company employs about 200 in Harrison.

Atwater, who grew up in Chicago working in his father's warehousing business, succeeds Gary Heeman, who was Wayne's president the last five years and now heads Campbell Hausfeld.

Atwater, who spent 12 years at GE in various manufacturing and marketing assignments, said he has four strategic aims for Wayne:

• Globalization: Wayne pumps are sold mainly in North America, although the company obtains some components from China. Atwater left for China last week to develop sourcing arrangements and explore exporting pumps to China.

Harrison remains the heart of Wayne's manufacturing and distribution. That Midwest presence is important to react quickly to changing market conditions, such as recent storms in the Midwest that spurred about $1.5 million in new orders in less than two weeks.

• Innovation: The company will continue to push new-product development.

"No other pump company I know introduced 20 new products in the last 12 months," he said.

Although not as big as some competitors like ITT Gould, Atwater said Wayne is small enough to move quickly. "Our focus is on speed," he said.

• Digitization: Atwater, who was immersed in GE's use of electronic data to drive decision-making, plans to bring those tools to Wayne Water. Tools like so-called "digital dashboards," which allow managers to focus on key operating measures, "allow you to make decisions quicker," he said.

• Education: "We have a good workforce with a strong desire to learn," he said.

The company's growth initiatives in new markets and products will give employees opportunities to expand their experience and skills.

Atwater said he's impressed with Wayne's workforce.

"The people here really care about their jobs, and they're very knowledgeable," he said.

Most of Wayne's pump business is targeted to the spring, when water problems are most prevalent.

By expanding into leisure products, the company expects to extend its peak season through summer.

There are other avenues for market expansion as well.

He points out in Europe about 15 percent of homes use water for landscaping, with things such as ponds and small waterfalls. In the United States, Atwater says, only about 5 percent of homes have ponds or waterfalls.


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