Serfilco, global leader in pumping and filtration systems, is ready for water duty. The innovative company is poised to provide large-scale potable water systems if the need arises. George Lauer profiles a growing Midwestern industry leader.
Water – finding it, moving it and cleaning it – will become increasingly important as the new century matures. Potable water has been relatively abundant so far in human existence, but that may be changing as the resource itself begins to dwindle and industrialized use of it grows.
“We think there will be a growing need to provide suitable drinking water,” says Jack Berg, president and founder of Serfilco, Ltd. a global leader in two of the three key water efforts: pumping and filtration systems, offering cartridge, multi-media (sand), automatic Strainers, and disposable fabric.
Serfilco is involved in much more than water. In almost half a century the company has become a leading designer and builder of all kinds of equipment to move, process, filter and treat all kinds of fluids ranging from toxic chemicals used in manufacturing processes to waste treatment systems.
While the need for industrial pumps and filters is growing in petroleum, chemical processing and metal manufacturing systems as more of the world becomes industrialized, plain old water may be the major growth area for the industry in the near future. Widespread problems from contaminated water, such as the recent North American outbreak of E-coli traced back to a water system used to wash spinach, may become more common as the 21st century progresses. New kinds of filtering and processing may be needed to provide reliable potable water on large scales.
Serfilco designs and builds equipment to protect membranes of reverse osmosis systems which can be used to remove bacteria such as E-coli from fresh water or salt from sea water.
“The day might come when we would supply components to municipalities – strainers and filters and purifying systems on a large scale,” Berg says. “Reliable, potable water – formerly distilled water was the only kind that qualified on large scales – will very possibly become a big issue in the future. We provide the kind of step-down filtration and straining systems that can do that in a cost–effective way.”
No matter what the company does – from water systems to waste treatment, Serfilco officials pride themselves on personal service.
“We like to talk to our customers – find out the requirements of the application before we make a recommendation,” Berg says. “Our talent is to understand the application and design to meet the goal in the most economical way.”
As the pumping and filtering industry inches toward status as a commodity, Serfilco’s emphasis on personal attention bucks
“The thought that many of our products and those of our competitors will simply be bought from the company with the best Web site is scary,” Berg says.
Berg says his engineers and designers can help customers devise custom systems rather than using the one-size-fits-all approach. For example, Berg points out that many pumping and filtering applications work better with larger pumps and slower motors, or oversize filters, which reduce operating cost.
“This increases efficiency, employing a motor of smaller horsepower which saves electricity, prevents or reduces motor bearing wear and lengthens the life of the pump seal,” Berg says.
Midwestern roots, global reach
Jack Berg began selling and advocating filtration systems in 1951 in the Chicago area. Ten years later he and a partner started Service Filtration Company as a sales company, handling goods and services manufactured by others. But within a few years, Berg decided to begin assembling and selling his own pumping and filtering systems, specializing in plating systems. He bought out his partner and eventually the company began designing and manufacturing its own components as well as entire systems. The company changed its name to Serfilco, Ltd. and began to expand with a series of innovations and acquisitions that brought it to its current status as global leader.
Serfilco, headquartered in Northbrook, Ill. near Chicago, now has about 250 employees in more than half a dozen facilities worldwide and annual revenues of about $45 million. Serfilco has manufacturing and assembly facilities in several U.S. locations, Canada, England and Germany. The company also has sales offices in France, Russia, China, and Pakistan. Its major products are centrifugal pumps resistant to chemicals and corrosion and a wide range of filtration systems.
Pump types include direct drive horizontal and vertical pumps, self-priming pumps, magnetic coupled pumps and hand-operated electric and air-powered drum pumps. Serfilco custom designs pumps to handle a wide range of fluids ranging from relatively benign liquids such as water, both fresh and sea, to highly aggressive, corrosive chemicals.
Serfilco’s filtration systems, also custom engineered, remove organic impurities and particles from a variety of chemical solutions including acids, alkalis, solvents, electroplating solutions and waste liquids. The company also designs filtering systems used in the food, pharmaceutical and water treatment industries. Serfilco’s oil/water separators and coalescers are used in pollution control, waste treatment and recovery processes.
Reputation for innovation
Serfilco has developed a reputation over the years for being the first to conceive, design and perfect innovative pumping and filtration systems in a competitive industry. It was among the first to use depth wound cartridges in filtering systems. The company introduced magnetic-coupled pumps, which have no seals to leak, and was one of the first to make vertical pumping systems with plastic components.
Serfilco created a special filter chamber used by the U.S. government as part of the military’s water purification system. U.S. troops can get good tasting, potable water from the most suspect sources in remote locations using Serfilco’s device which was designed to withstand the impact of a parachute drop. It’s been standard U.S. military equipment since the Granada invasion.
Over the past two decades, Serfilco has grown and improved its market leverage through a few strategic acquisitions. Buying a competing pump company in the late 1980s gave Serfilco a line of self-priming pumps for water treatment as well as a line of hand dispensing pumps. Both lines are injection molded at Serfilco’s Pennsylvania plant.
Serfilco does its own injection molding through the company’s Polymer Division of ASM Industries, another acquisition. Using its own injection molded components rather than machined parts keeps the company agile and better able to respond to foreign competition.
“As new needs arise for pumping and filtering, we’ll be there wherever it is in the world,” Berg says. “There’s definitely growth potential in Europe and certainly in Asia.
“But no matter where our customers are,” he adds, “we’ll continue to emphasize personal, custom solutions in the most efficient, economical designs available. I insist that our emphasis is listening to our customer’s needs.”