Positioned in the American Heartland, Great Plains Industries, Inc. provides fluid transfer and liquid flowmeter technology for companies around the world. Further, by continuing its manufacturing in the United States, the Kansas-based company can offer its sophisticated devices at competitive prices, as Dan Harvey reports.
Great Plains Industries, Inc. (GPI) operates on the concept that a business can only improve itself by measuring what it does. To that end, the Wichita, Kan.-based company offers a full line of meters designed to meet the flow needs of customers that require optimal measurement capabilities.
In business for nearly 35 years, GPI has evolved into a world-class provider of flow measurement and instrumentation devices. The company manufactures and markets extensive product lines that include devices for both liquid transfer and monitoring applications. Its line of fuel transfer products includes a complete range of hand and electric fuel transfer pumps for portable and stationary applications. Liquid transfer offerings also include a line of chemical and herbicide pumps. Its unique meter line is comprised of digital turbine meters, precision turbine meters, sanitary meters and oval gear positive displacement meters. The company offers a wide variety of flowmeters, anywhere from a quarter inch to three inches covering ranges from .1 gallons per hour to 600 gallons per minute. “Also, we not only have various types of flowmeters, but we have all different kinds of grades, from high precision to economy,” reports Marque Peer, sales manager for Great Plains Industries.
GPI services fluid transfer and liquid flowmeter markets on a global basis, with clients in the agricultural, water treatment, chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries. “Our products can be found in factories across the world and in a gamut of industries,” says Peer. “They’re used primarily in the manufacture of other products, typically in the manufacture of chemicals and liquid products. We also do a lot of OEM business.”
Peer informs that there two main reasons why customers use GPI products. The first, and this pertains particularly to chemicals and liquid product manufacturers, relates to environmental considerations. “Increasingly, companies need to know where their waste products are going. This increases the need for meters,” explains Peer. “Companies that haven’t metered before may need to start metering, for regulatory reasons.”
The second reason involves general cost containment issues. “It’s about improving return on investment,” Peer points out. “Some companies may worry that they’re using too much of one particular chemical, for instance. They wonder if they’d do better if they measured and monitored usage, so that they can keep better track as cost of chemicals, products and waste increases.”
GPI has been building fluid transfer pumps since it was founded in 1972. “GPI started out by manufacturing equipment for the agricultural industry such as implementing evaporative coolers and fuel transfer pumps, and through its 34 years, it has remained a very big supplier of fuel transfer pumps, meters and accessories,” says Peer.
During that time, he adds, GPI also became involved in agricultural chemicals, which led to the development of its turbine meter. “Quite often, people would take fuel pumps, put in a few different seals and use them to transfer bulk chemical,” says Peer. “Usually, this was a viscous product, and they needed a way to measure it. So we developed a small, hose-end type of turbine meter for that particular market.”
Eventually, that development evolved into GPI’s instrumentation business, relates Peer, which includes flowmeters for various applications in industrial, commercial, chemical, foods and pharmaceutical industries. “That product line is about 15 years old and has grown quite a bit,” he comments.
Currently, for the liquid flowmeter market, GPI offers a complete line of turbine and oval gear meters in various materials, sizes, and fitting configurations with state-of-the-art electronics.
Turbine flowmeters are available in a variety of housing materials including stainless steel, brass, aluminum, PVDF and PVC. The complementary line of oval gear meters is designed for highly viscous applications.
In April 1996, GPI built its current headquarters, a 170,000-square-foot site that houses its administrative offices and its manufacturing facilities, where it designs and manufactures its products.
“We have a machine shop and injection molding capabilities, and we do almost all of our manufacturing in house,” says Peer. “We probably do more vertical integration than other companies. In the current business environment, many companies tend to farm out a lot of their needs so that they can save money by not buying a lot of equipment. But we do a lot more vertical integration because it allows us to better control our quality. We can get parts and feed our subassemblies much more rapidly, because we actually control those subassemblies.”
By continually improving production within the United States, GPI is able to manufacture its products at a more competitive price. “We’re a forward thinking company, so we’ve looked at offshoring, but it wasn’t appropriate for what we do, because we’re a lean manufacturer that seeks to continually improve quality and cost,” explains Peer. “We’ve taken projects to other countries, just to see how it would work out, but we didn’t realize any great cost savings. The only way we can remain so competitive with other countries is by continuous improvement in the areas of cost containment and increased productivity. We’re very proud of the fact that we can do it quite well right here, in the middle of the United States.”
As Peer suggests, GPI takes the measurement maxim mentioned at the top of the article and applies it to its own activities. “One thing that is unique about us is that we measure everything we do, as a means to continually improve our quality,” he says. “We believe that if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
According to Peer, in each of the past two years, GPI has experienced more than 30 percent growth. That growth, for the much greater part, has been organic. “We’ve done some acquisition, but that really represents only a small part of our growth,” he says.
In one recent acquisition worth mentioning, GPI purchased Geo Technology’s line of liquid measurement and control products, which represent a natural extension of Great Plains’ own product line. The new products include readout instrumentation, a large line of industrial and sanitary turbine flowmeters and conductance-type level controls. All activities related to these products, including manufacturing, were relocated to the Wichita manufacturing facility.
Even more than acquisitions, GPI’s success and subsequent growth results from its commitment to quality, which it extends to customer service. Indeed, the company has established a strong reputation in this regard by providing elements such as shipping-to-promise, short lead-time manufacturing and optimal after-sale service.
“In addition, one of the biggest things that differentiates us from our competition is that we strive to make it easy for customers to do business with us,” says Peer. “They can order via email, fax or phone, and when they call us, they don’t get a voice prompt. They will actually get to talk with somebody.”
Great Plains Industries, Inc. is dedicated to providing the most innovative, versatile, and reliable products to meet customers’ specific needs as well as the best customer service in the industry – and all of this it does quite well. The company has the business metrics to prove it. It has measured how far it has come. It’s also well aware of how far it wants to go.