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The company has continuously reached new heights over the last 20 years and Paul Harvey, Director of New Business Development, sits down to talk about the factors behind their shift in success throughout the new millennium, and why he believes it’s only going to continue. Steve Engelhardt reports.
In 1991, EMP was purchased by current owner Brian Larche from the newly merged Freudenberg-NOK, as its division was no longer considered to be a core interest of the ensuing company’s new identity. The acquisition turned out to be quite a blessing, however, as EMP quickly established itself on its own as a highly dependable full service engineering and manufacturing provider to the heavy-duty and diesel industries in North America. “Throughout the 90s we were content with our position, but felt like we had the potential to always be something much, much more,” says Harvey, adding, “Finally, in the late 1990’s, the company made the decision to develop its’ own innovative proprietary thermal and oil management components and systems. This move enabled EMP to begin product research and development in order to expand product offering and the types of customers we could do business with.”
The move was highlighted by the construction of a 30,000-square-foot formal research and development facility next to its headquarters in Escanaba, Mich. “We focused on bringing electrified properties to conventional mechanical oil and water pumps, and this facility was critical in our ability to achieve such.” The move proved to be an instrumental one in the company’s short history, with EMP being named Michigan’s “Manufacturer of the Year” in 2001, and producing a sales figure of $145 million by the end of 2002—more than tripling their revenues over a four year period ($45.1 million in 1998).
And as for that research and development facility? “What started as a 30,000-square-foot facility with twelve people, is now a 100,000-square-foot commercial product launch facility with about sixty-five EMP employees there today,” says Harvey.
He says one of the biggest breakthroughs in EMP’s technology came when they began offering robust electrified fans in thermal management systems to the transit bus market in 2005. “We had been working on developing new technologies to bring fuel saving qualities to the market, and reached out to a few municipalities in the area who said they would give our thermal systems a shot in field pilot tests.” He adds that the EMP thermal systems, which since has become a registered trademark (“Mini-Hybrid”), initially produced a 6 to 18 percent fuel savings figure for those transit properties who are utilizing EMP Mini-Hybrid Thermal Systems – word soon spread quickly about their effectiveness, leading to demand pouring in from all over.
“If you think about a bus travelling all day, every day, then six percent in fuel savings becomes pretty darn significant,” he says, continuing, “We began receiving orders from a number of new customers from across North America, and this was at a time when fuel economy wasn’t exactly paramount in terms of a buses’ performance, so you can imagine how our market success has grown even more in today’s world.”
Beyond fuel economy, robustness and overall performance of EMP’s electrified components and systems were what really propelled them into the commercial markets. A shift from mechanical belt driven products to electronically controlled components and systems enabled transit buses to continually operate with additional power, regardless of whether the vehicle was driving down the road or at idle. “Our software engineers developed sophisticated algorithms that drive the controller, which is programmable in itself so it can effectively operate and run on its own.” Harvey says that while they initially tested their products in local areas, EMP’s ‘Mini-Hybrid’ Thermal Systems can now be found in over 200 municipalities throughout North America.
Progressing the Product
While some of EMP’s biggest technology breakthroughs came over a decade ago, the company has only continued to accelerate its push for more innovation within its products. In fact, they launched a few new products in the month of May, and Harvey says he’s excited about the solutions they bring to existing needs in the marketplace.
The first is their Brushless DC Electric Oil Pump, a new product defined by its advancement in technology for oil management applications. “The new EMP Brushless DC Electric Oil Pump—model OP40i—features high performance gerotor pumping technology, including a long-life brushless DC, sensorless motor which is sealed and fully submersible, delivering four gallons per minute at 100 psi,” says Harvey, adding, “It’s a very robust pump and lasts significantly longer than any others.”
Then there is the launch of EMP’s Remote Power Pack for heavy-duty service vehicles that can be mounted on a bracket and put on the side of the truck to provide additional power for them as needed, something particularly important for the off-highway heavy duty work truck environment, construction and emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances.
Also launched in May, EMP’s Electric Remote Air Condenser which is being piloted in field tests by one of North America’s largest truck fleets. “We have partnered with Wal-Mart to prove viability and performance,” Harvey says, adding, “Once we have all field test data proven we are well positioned to execute our global market sales and marketing initiatives.”
But perhaps the company’s most impressive new product technology is their Air Cooled Power 535 Brushless Alternator for heavy-duty vehicles. “The Power 535 Brushless Alternator delivers an impressive 325 Amps at idle, with the proven durability to perform under the harshest of commercial conditions, and its high degree of efficiency enables it to run cooler and thereby achieve a much longer lifespan,” says Harvey, adding that the Power 535 is “ground isolated and has an electrical noise suppression feature that allows for clean, electric power—even if the vehicles engines are powered off.” Equipped with the same innovative, oversized robust bearings as EMP’s popular Power 450 brushless alternator, the Power 535 has a four-inch inlet duct to maximize air-cooling.
While innovation has defined the company’s success in the 2000’s, one cannot look past EMP’s dedicated manufacturing presence when determining the source behind their consistency over the last 15 – 20 years. “One of the biggest advantages we have is that two of the world’s largest foundries, Grede and Waupaca, happen to be within 50 miles of our Escanaba facility, which is where most of our castings are done.” He notes that for a global precision machining company this convenience gives EMP a competitive edge over competitors.
With regards to their actual manufacturing capabilities, Harvey says quality is paramount to their everyday operations and they have committed themselves to having the best possible processes in place in order to ensure such. “Outside of certifications and control programs, one thing that we have that no other company like us has, is the presence of a metallurgical lab which analyzes the products coming back from the foundries, to ensure that their robustness and veracity are up to or exceed customer standards,” he says.
Beyond their facility in Michigan, EMP also has a dedicated assembly operation located in Greenfield, Ind., a facility strategically set up to be as close as possible to the main production hubs of many of their global customers, including John Deere, Caterpillar, and Cummins.
Serving customers as big as those speaks to the level of commitment EMP has when it enters into each and every partnership, and lately it’s been paying off, with Harvey noting that 2014 represented the second best sales year for the company ever. “We are growing profitably and developing every part of our company, from fostering innovation within our research facilities, to strengthening our customer service, where we have incorporated a twenty-four-hour, 1-800 service number to go along with an already strong warranty program for our products.”
It was fifteen years ago when EMP decided to reinvent itself, and fifteen years later, it’s a decision that has succeeded in a big way. “As pioneers of vehicle electrification technology, EMP has established itself as an innovator in the marketplace, and we look to only build off this going forward as our markets—and global industry by extension—continue to become increasingly complex,” says Harvey. That should come smoothly though, as EMP has built itself up to possess both the resources and proximity to the customer to succeed in both the U.S. and international marketplaces for many years to come.