Mark Devaney writes about Guardian (Generac Power Systems, Inc.), leading manufacturer of generators and engines for home and RV applications.
The recent blackout stretching from Ohio through eastern Canada to the New York metropolitan area was good for business at Guardian. The company makes the top-selling residential standby generator. A few weeks before the blackout, Guardian gathered many of its dealers in the Michigan region for a conference to inform them that there would be an ad running in their major newspapers about being prepared for a blackout. Guardian Project Manager Derwin Pepper said the ad worked well before the blackout, but really paid off afterward.
“Our biggest challenge is lack of consumer awareness for automatic standby generators,” said Pepper. “If you polled 10 people on the street about a generator, at least seven will say it runs on gasoline and that you have to pull a rope to make it work. So in our marketing campaigns we try to educate the public on the benefits of an automatic standby generator and the potential problems they could encounter during a major power outage with a portable generator.”
Last month 50 million people got a firsthand education about living without power. A few weeks later, another 10 million went without power due to Hurricane Isabel. And those lucky enough to have a Guardian became the envy of their neighborhoods. Much to Pepper’s delight, Guardian followed up with many residential customers and learned that the Guardian did exactly what it was supposed to do – restore power within 30 seconds of an outage.
Clearly, Guardian’s concentration on residential standby power generation has paid off. That strategic decision took place prior to Y2K, a moment in history that didn’t live up to its worst predictions. It was also the year that Guardian was launching to provide reliable standby electricity for homes and small businesses.
“In 1999 we were marketing our home generators through our Generac Power Systems industrial dealer base,” said Pepper. “We knew that we had to make a change. So we developed an entirely new independent dealer network (which currently consists of more than 2,000 companies) as well as most major retailers nationwide. This has proven to be much more in tuned to the residential market and is doing a fine job for us.”
Dairy barn dreamer
Forty years before Y2K, people were not too worried about losing power, but one man, Robert Kern, knew that would change. The young electrical engineer started developing the technology for a generator with revolving field design in a dairy barn workshop in Waukesha, Wis. Kern boldly took his product design to Sears and Roebuck and convinced executives that there would be a need for a portable generator for consumers and small businesses.
Generac was born with six employees. Today, 1,400 employees work for Generac (which is still headquartered in Waukesha). According to Pepper, the spirit of innovation inspired by Kern remains today, as does Kern himself, still in charge as Chairman of the Board of Generac Power Systems.
“The industry looks to Generac to be innovative,” said Pepper. “The saying is, ‘If there’s something new, it’s coming from Generac.’ Our executive management encourages out-of-the-box thinking. We are not so entrenched in what we do that we are inflexible. In fact, flexibility is our strength.”
“We are renowned for the quality and durability of our four-cycle small engines, which power everything from our own home standby and RV generators to lawn and garden equipment,” said Pepper. “Our five engineering groups are responsible for our reputation as a designer and producer of advanced power generation products.”
With several design groups working overseas, Generac engineering employs an around-the-world, around-the-clock effort that brings the best minds to every challenge, and speeds the development of new innovations. Guardian uses worldwide component sources and its own engineering and manufacturing expertise to build and customize its products to individual customer requirements.
Vertically integrated manufacturing
“We utilize proven engine designs and modify them for all kinds of custom applications,” said Pepper. “All major product components – stators, rotors, controls, transfer switches, and enclosures – are designed and built in our state-of-the-art facilities.”
The company designs and builds its own line of air-cooled engines for in-house product lines as well as OEM applications. The OHVI(r) line of single cylinder and V-twin engines – from 6HP to 33HP – boast full pressure lubrication, which employs an oil pump and filter, the XTorque(r) governor system that promotes the quickest response to RPM and horsepower demand, and a host of other features unique to the industry. The 33HP 990cc V-twin is the most powerful air-cooled engine on the market and drives the industry’s fastest commercial mower. The company also provides full factory support for technical training, warranty programs, parts and service.
“Guardian is truly a vertically integrated manufacturer,” said Pepper. “From the core of the engine to the controls, we design and build our complete product. This is precisely why we stand so strongly behind it with one of the best warranties in the industry. With intensive control over our engineering through manufacturing, we’re able to ensure that our products are quiet, powerful and reliable.”
The company manufactures a complete line of automatic home standby generators that can be installed during new construction or retrofitted into existing residences and businesses. Residential emergency home standby generators are permanently installed outside the home (similar to an air-conditioning unit), supply electrical power to all pre-selected lights and appliances, and are powered by either natural gas or LPG. Models range from 3,500 to 40,000 watts and start at $1995 making Guardian the most affordable systems on the market. They work with a matched automatic transfer switch that responds within seconds when utility power shuts down, even when no one is home. Performance and starting ability is ensured with weekly self-testing and self-charging of their battery.
For the RV industry, Guardian offers the best values in the industry. IMPACT(r), QUIETPACT(r), and PRIMEPACT(r) models are designed, tested and manufactured specifically for recreational vehicles using OHVI(r) engines, state-of-the-art alternators and sound-attenuated sheet metal enclosures. These are available from 3.6 to 7.5 kW with gasoline, LP and diesel machines. They are built to last and are backed by the best warranty in the RV industry. Additionally, the company recently introduced its new line of commercial/residential/industrial portable generators under the name of GUARDIAN(r) ULTRA SOURCE to meet the demand from the industrial/construction contractor sector that was familiar with Generac’s past portable generator product lines which were sold off in 1998.
Although Generac has 85 percent of the home standby market, there is always room for improvement, especially considering the upward potential in home standby power. Pepper estimates that it could be a $2 billion industry, but in order for it to reach that potential, awareness among consumers about standby power must increase.
“Our society increasingly demands reliable supplies of electrical power, making on-site power generation indispensable for commercial and residential users,” said Pepper. “The growing frequency, inconvenience and expense of unpredictable power outages provide a compelling need for Guardian equipment to ensure that businesses keep operating and homes stay comfortable. The power generation business is not standing still, and neither are we. The world requires reliable power, and we supply it upon demand. This urgency keeps us focused on meeting customer needs, and being quick to adapt or design Guardian equipment to particular requirements in rapidly changing markets.”
As a vertically integrated manufacturer, Guardian maintains total quality control and prides itself on being a flexible, efficient producer of quality products that are suited for a wide range of demanding applications. Technical innovations, value-added design features and exhaustive product testing keep Guardian at the forefront of the power generation business.