The Future is Now with Vanton Pump’s Lewis

March 1, 2007
Vanton Pump’s reputation is such that it ranks high for products it doesn’t even make.

by Carolos David Mogollon, Managing Editor

Vanton Pump’s reputation is such that it ranks high for products it doesn’t even make. The world’s largest maker of thermoplastic pumps consistently breaks the Top 5 in surveys for thermosetting pumps which aren’t in its product lineup, notes Gerry Lewis.

President of the Hillside, NJ, company since the mid-’70s, Lewis was working for Vanton on the Flex-I-Liner rotary peristaltic pump when it was acquired in the early ’50s by Cooper Alloy, which thought the acquisition would boost its stainless steel castings business. Development of the sealless thermoplastic pump was driven by a need to keep fluids separate from metal parts where corrosion or oxidation might contaminate them. As plastics improved, Vanton took advantage of enhanced durability and other properties to expand its applications breadth.

Over the years, Vanton also added centrifugal, mag drive and sump pumps, as well as non-metallic pump/tank systems. The most recent addition is a 3,000 gpm, 8" x 6" CGA horizontal centrifugal pump designed to help it compete in public aquariums and applications handling seawater.

“If somebody told me 10 years ago there’d be a plastic pump that would run and deliver 3,000 gpm, I would have told them he was crazy,” Lewis said.

While the pump maker grew, Cooper Alloy’s business shrank as foundries moved overseas for cheaper labor - to the point that Vanton is now the “tail wagging the dog” as Cooper’s sole manufacturing unit. Likewise, many of Vanton’s customers went overseas.

“The markets have changed very radically in the U.S.,” Lewis said. “Initially, the market was CPI -- the chemical process industry. This would be companies like Union Carbide, DuPont, Monsanto... but many are no longer in the chemical business here. They’ve moved into other markets. After this market, we were in electronics... Again, this work went overseas.” Major markets more recently have been industrial wastewater treatment and municipal utilities.Production and sales increasingly moved overseas as well. Machined iron now comes from China and molded parts from Serbia. Among his sales staff are native Chinese and Spanish speakers, and non-U.S. sales have grown from 5% to 25-30% in the last decade.

For the future, Lewis sees automation controls as a challenge the company plans to tackle.
Click here to read: "Q&A: An Interview with Vanton Pump's Gerald Lewis" in full.

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