Pullman Ermator Full Steam AheadPublished 28/12, 2016 at 16:11
Dust extraction and wet vacuum equipment manufacturer Pullman Ermator has developed rapidly in recent years. This year has seen a further 30% increase that appears will continue in 2017. PDi editor in chief Jan Hermansson reports from the company’s factory in Smedjebacken, Sweden.
But a few months ago it was time again. PDi’s editor in chief met up with the company’s management team, consisting of the company’s CEO Petra Bengtsson, sales manager Fredrik Akermark, sales manager for the Nordic region, the Baltics and Poland, Stefan Bergsten and product manager Jonas Eriksson. Torbjörn Bengtsson, who founded the company, has been retired and has withdrawn from the operative business. Quite a lot has happened during the last five years and today the company also has assembly in its subsidiary in Tampa, USA.
The boost came in the 2000s
A lot has happened at Pullman Ermator. The company was founded in 1985 by Torbjörn Bengtsson and was then called Bevaclean. At that time they imported vacuum cleaners and air cleaners from Italy. As the business grew during the 1990s they began to develop and build their own machines. In the late 1990s, Bevaclean acquired the dust extraction and wet vacuum production from the US manufacturer Pullman. Bevaclean changed its name to Pullman and had 20 employees and a turn over of about $2.7M (€2.44M).
Since the beginning of the 2000s a lot has happened. Pullman made a series of acquisitions, including Ermator, hence the name change to Pullman Ermator. The product range was expanded and exports took off. Since 2007, Pullman Ermator has had its own subsidiary in Tampa, Florida, and in 2013 it acquired the US Pullman Holt line of HEPA vacuum cleaners. The expansion pushed Pullman Ermator’s sales last year to almost $25M (€22M) with 65 employees. “We were very pleased with the development last year, but it’s nothing compared to what we’re having this year. We are facing a sales increase of over 30% overall this year and I expect that we will have a turn over of almost $33M (€30M),” said Pullman Ermator sales manager Fredrik Akermark. “Some markets, like the Nordic countries, have increased more than 30% and the US 20%, but we expect a further increase in the US in 2017.”
What are the reasons for the increase?
What are the causes of the company’s strong expansion, one may ask? Actually, Pullman Ermator has issued some upgrades and new accessories in recent year, but few new products. “We don’t believe in developing new products just for the sake of it,” said Akermark. “We have good basic products and many of our dust extractors and air cleaners were ahead of the regulation when they were launched in Sweden. Here I think we, and also our competitor Dustcontrol, are distinguished from other manufacturers. We both have good products that amply meet the regulations and are effective both in terms of capacity and protection of users.”
The reason for Pullman Ermator’s success is the wide product range of quality products and a strong sales organization. When Pullman Ermator started up in the US and managed to establish a good foothold, it had a big impact on sales growth. “Our turnover in the US today is more or less the same as in the Nordic region of Europe,” said Akermark. “It is 40% in the Nordic region, 40% in the US and the remaining 20% in the rest of Europe and in more distant markets. But this year we are seeing a clear increase in Europe, especially in Germany, which is growing strongly.”
In the Nordic market, Pullman Ermator currently has 45 employees, 30 in production and 15 in sales and administration. In Sweden they have five salesmen and 20 employees in the US. There are nine dealers in Germany with two further retailers joining later this year. There are also distributors in many European countries such as D.I.F. Worldwide in France, The Higher Supply in the UK, Decovan in the Benelux, Turkey, Greece and others. It also has distributors in Australia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Israel, South Africa and others.
“In the Nordic countries we have also had very favourable year,” said Nordic and Baltic countries and Poland sales manager Stefan Bergsten. “The home market Sweden is obviously the strongest and the engine itself, but we have great development, especially in Finland and Norway. The Baltic States are also clearly gaining ground.”
Bergsten adds that particularly in Sweden leasing plays a key role in sales. It works with all the major players like Cramo, Ramirent, Lambertsson, Skanska Maskin and Stavdal. The smaller independent rental companies are equally important. It is more or less 50/50 between the two rental associations Hyrex and SRA. It also continued a strong foothold among piercers, cutters, flooring contractor and traditional building contractors. The only market that is a little sluggish at present is Denmark.
Production can become a bottleneck
Pullman Ermator is currently grappling lack of space in Smedjebacken, which has about 30 employees. “With the pressure we are experiencing now in orders makes it busy days in production,” said chief executive Petra Bengtsson. “It is important that the components come into line with the actual devices they will be mounted on for shipment to customers. But it quickly becomes full production and we will need to expand our production premises pretty soon. It may seem like a pleasant problem but can cause a lot of problems if products sold cannot be delivered. However, we have so far managed to keep delivery times pretty good.”
Growing opportunities in the US
The office in Tampa, Florida currently has about 20 employees. The operation began there almost 10 years ago with Fredrik Akermark who moved his family from Sweden, but is now global sales director still residing in the US with his family. Responsible for sales in North America is Lyndon Kelsey. “I travel to many different countries, so living in Florida is not an immediate problem. We are rooted in the US and the children are thriving,” said Akermark.
The US company is not only a sales office as now some of the machines from Sweden are assembled in the US. Also the Pullman Holt series is produced in Tampa. The US company has six salesmen and additionally the products are sold through dealers, such as Jon Don, which has branches at 11 different locations. Pullman Ermator also provides 3-phase vacuum cleaners to the rental chain Sunbelt, one of the largest rental chains in the US.
Akermark is eagerly looking forward to 2017 in the US as the Obama administration has produced new legislation about new working environment directive. It will come into force in June 2017 and means that permitted dust levels on construction sites in the US will be reduced to half compared to the levels approved today. “This will be an important breakthrough for us. We have been successful already, but I think will have an edge with our dust collector S26. We already reach these levels with our products as we follow Swedish regulations. It is worse for American and other manufacturers who must now adapt their equipment to the new rules,” said Akermark.
Some 50 basic models
Pullman Ermator product line predominantly consists of products, equipment and accessories for professional use. The most popular product is the S26 dust extractor, but the entire A series of air purifiers is also a favourites. Another key product is the 3-phase dust extractor T7500. The programme currently consists of nearly 50 different basic models and there are different versions of some models. In the US Pullman Ermator has been very successful with the new propane-powered vacuum cleaner. The company is constantly working to improve the product range and in time for the exhibition World of Concrete will release three new models. Akermark said that he believes that the current upturn in Scandinavia will continue for another three years. Rest of Europe with Germany and the United States looks very promising, and the increase will be gradual in the coming three years.