When the U.S. government required 3,000 pressure washers within two weeks’ time during the Desert Storm operation, the only manufacturer in the country able to fulfill this critical requirement was Mi-T-M Corporation. “We supplied the cold-water pressure washers which were used to disinfect military equipment before it was all shipped back to the United States in order to expedite the troops,” says Sam Humphrey, president of the Peosta, Iowa-based company. “That was a major feat for us back then because we did not have the capabilities we now have in our present two facilities totaling 340,000 square feet.”
It is this kind of immediate and nimble response to customers’ needs that has defined the company since its doors opened in 1971 by entrepreneur and owner A.J. Spiegel, a painting contractor who was searching for a better way to prep exterior surfaces for painting. “He wanted better results than sanding and scraping offered for holding the paint, so he developed a gear-driven, cold-water pressure washer which he began building in his garage, and which he sold to other painting contractors,” Humphrey says.
Today, only three decades after A.J. Spiegel produced his very first pressure washer, Mi-T-M Corporation is a leading force, not only in the power-washer industry, but in several ancillary markets as well. Most of these ancillary markets and products were developed in response to customer requests and include air compressors, industrial wet/dry vacuums, power tools, wastewater treatment systems, and job-site tool boxes. Mi-T-M also offers total fabrication services to other manufacturers requiring a wide array of components.
Mi-T-M is the silent partner to the world’s top major manufacturers, each with its own respected brand-name equipment. In its OEM market segment, the company is the private-label manufacturer of cold-water pressure washers for more than 35 different manufacturers. Its other market segments include the rental equipment division (representing the company’s largest business segment); the paint-store market; the hardware market, and the industrial hot-water pressure washer market, which sells to dealers who then sell to contract cleaners or window cleaners. Mi-T-M also designs, develops and manufactures specialty equipment for the government and other manufacturers.
“Our specialty competency is in the bigger and heavier industrial equipment, which represents the lion’s share of our business – with our remaining business accounting for our consumer-type models,” Humphrey says, noting Mi-T-M produces more industrial equipment than any of its competitors.
Holding patents on its technology and equipment, Mi-T-M offers about 120 different models of cold-water pressure washers, ranging from 1,000 psi for electric and gas models to 6,100 psi for its diesel-powered pressure washers. Hot-water units range from 1,000 psi to 4,000 psi and, in this category, the company offers 80 models that include electric-powered, gas-powered, diesel-powered, or natural gas-powered washers.
Vertically integrated, Mi-T-M operates two seven-stage fully automatic, variable-speed powder coating lines offering customers cost-effective solutions. “Most companies only offer three-stage capabilities, but the seven-stage operation cleans parts better so powder adhesion is maximized,” Humphrey explains. Three metal-cutting lasers and five robotic welders complement the company’s manufacturing capabilities. “All our frames are welded robotically, which is still unique in this industry,” Humphrey says, adding Mi-T-M’s 120,000 square feet of fabrication and powder-coating space is one of the largest fabrication shops in the region.
With more than 2,000 service centers nationwide, Mi-T-M stands firmly behind all one of its products, each of which is tested before being shipped out the factory doors. Quality-driven, Mi-T-M subjects its equipment to extensive abuse and durability testing, Humphrey says. “We collect mechanical data on every piece of equipment we manufacture and this provides our service organization with important information,” explains Humphrey. “This precise product history allows us to optimize servicing our equipment.”
The company even sends its service training personnel to dealer locations in order for dealers to become certified service centers, assuring customers that personnel in each center are certified by the company to repair Mi-T-M equipment. “We do this four times a year, as well as having four annual in-house training sessions so every mechanic working on our equipment is certified by us to do the repairs,” Humphrey says.
Quality-focused, Mi-T-M is also certified to UL or CSA safety standards. “We are a self-certified CSA testing lab and we do all of our own testing here and certify our equipment to CSA standards,” explains Humphrey. “No one else in the industry does this. We send our documents to them for their certification and they put their final seal of approval on our equipment.”
Working closely with its customers for years has paid off for the company that continually develops new product markets to satisfy diverse requests of its customer base. “All our other markets were really a natural progression for us from our original product and these other products fit nicely into the requirements of our customer base,” Humphrey says. “For example, customers using our pressure washers were continually approaching us and asking if we could manufacture air compressors. So this meant we had a built-in customer base and we knew what we would need from an R&D standpoint. This was also the case with our wet/dry vacuums.”
For about five years, Mi-T-M has been manufacturing a full range of air compressors, including hand-carry, portable, and stationary models. It has been manufacturing industrial wet/dry vacuums for about four years. “These are the most quiet and powerful in the industry,” Humphrey says. And, for about three years the company has been manufacturing job-site custom tool boxes, in which companies store their specialized tools and equipment. “These boxes can be powder-coated to any color and with any kind of decal a company might want to match their company logo, for example,” Humphrey. “So companies can promote their own company image on these boxes, which act as traveling billboards.”
Also complementing its product line are Mi-T-M’s water treatment systems. “Any water from pressure washers needs to be filtered to remove any contaminants, according to the Clean Air and Water Act,” explains Humphrey. The company manufactures both mechanical systems – filtering out greases and oils – as well as biological systems that contain the water runoff, sending it back to tanks where resident microbes digest the hostile organics. Mi-T-M has been offering this line of products for about six years.
Producing a full range of private-label power tools, Mi-T-M provides pneumatic, battery-powered, and corded tools such as drills and impact wrenches. “This market segment is just another example of how our customer base relies on us to produce this line for their branded products because they know we will deliver them top-quality products worthy of their reputable brand names – all at a good, fair price,” Humphrey says.
Not only does Mi-T-M manufacture equipment for other leading OEMs, but it also is a major job shop to which other manufacturers look for specific outsourcing requirements. “We do a lot of work for local manufacturers needing fabricated components,” Humphrey says.
Its fabrication division is involved with a growing number of production runs for other companies, including a world-famous manufacturer of gym equipment and a major appliance manufacturer, for whom Mi-T-M manufactures extension boxes that raise this customer’s washers and dryers in order to help eliminate the need for home-users to bend while loading and unloading.
The company also manufactures steel-cased gas fireplaces for a major manufacturer of these products. “All of these various manufacturers bring their ideas to us and we help them develop their products and we produce prototypes for them,” Humphrey says.
Some recent capital investments will take the company into totally new markets with the new products it plans to develop, hints Humphrey. But for now, the company is dealing with evolving trends in the industry. “We have always been strong in belt-driven pressure washers as well as direct-drive units, which are less expensive,” he says. “But with today’s competitors catering to the consumer market with direct-drive units, and that market growing as consumers push to purchase these less expensive pressure washers, we’re selling more direct-drive products to dealers and distributors looking for a competitive advantage. This is due to the influence of consumers buying from big-box stores, so we responded quickly to the desires of these consumers.”
With a growth rate of between 15 percent and 20 percent annually, despite the rocky global economy, Mi-T-M cites this significant growth to its business plan steeped in a philosophy of diversified product lines. “The majority of our growth now is coming from the wide range of our other products we introduce continually to the market,” says Humphrey, who is quick to credit the company’s success to the dedication and excellent work ethic of the company’s 245 employees.
Although all of this growth is organic, Humphrey notes adding that the company is poised to act on acquisitions only if these complement the company’s current direction. In the meantime, Mi-T-M will continue to make it easier for its customers to purchase a wider range of superior-quality products, Humphrey says. “We will continue to research and develop whatever those new products will have to be to satisfy our customers’ requirements.”