Industrial Utility Efficiency    

Distributor Profile: Northwest Pump & Equipment


Good afternoon. Can you start us off with a little background on your company history?

Good afternoon. Northwest Pump & Equipment was founded in 1959 - opening three branches on the same day in Portland, Seattle and Spokane. The business focus was to distribute petroleum equipment for the oil and gas market – primarily to service stations and oil jobbers. In-ground fuel tanks, hoists, lubrication equipment, lighting, farm pumps, air compressors and other gas pumping equipment were our primary product lines back when there were “Full-Service Gas Stations”. Over the years, this successful business model was expanded so the Company did business in California, Hawaii, Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana.

In 1993, we diversified our business by starting an Industrial Division in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Our primary product lines are process pumps and blowers serving manufacturing and process industries. We climbed back into the air compressor business in 2010 by taking on the Sullair product line for the Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana. In 2013, we agreed to add the five-county Los Angeles area to our Sullair coverage.

Northwest Pump & Equipment today employs 300 people. We operate 17 branches and carry a significant commitment to inventory of products, parts and rental equipment to service our customers. Our philosophy has always been to be a full service company supplying almost all of our customers needs. When we go into a refinery to sell pumps, we may have ten different pump lines, with no overlap, enabling Northwest Pump to solve different challenges for the client.


NWE Location Map

Northwest Pump & Equipment 0perates 16 branches and employs 300 people in the western U.S.

Your company seems to focus on business fundamentals. Can you elaborate?

Sure. Business doesn’t need to be all that complicated. We’ve found it requires the appropriate investments in people and resources so that customers are taken care of.

Our SolvOne 24-hour call center is an example of these investments. We own and operated this 14-year old Portland-based call center to provide technical support, dispatch service, monitor alarms and handle emergency after-hour phone calls from our clients all across the country. Emergency after-hour phone calls come into this center and are then pushed out to our service technicians on stand-by in the local markets if required. Many issues can be handled right then and there on the phone, be it a technical question or a request for an emergency part shipment.

We do a lot of marketing activities with our customer service representatives. We do cold-calling and email campaigns to support our sales managers. We perform sales blitzes, in specific geographies, by bringing in people from other territories to canvass a target area to find machines we can service. The customer service reps help prepare these sales blitzes by cold calling in advance and setting up appointments.


NWE SolvOne Call Center

The 24-Hour SolvOne Call Center Based in Portland


Please describe your investments in experienced people and in training.

When we took on the Sullair product lines, our first step was to service the existing customer base. The company we replaced put out a lot of equipment so we focused on building our inventory of lubricants and parts and developing our service capabilities.

Most of our service and sales force has been doing this for a long time. Our senior guys have been 30-45 years on the pump side. Our air compressor people have a minimum of 10 years industry experience. In addition, we work with Stuart Johns and conduct his week-long compressed air system service training programs. His schools are very hard-nosed and very thorough. They are a tough test for the guys – and that prepares them well to take care of our customers.

In the larger markets we have dedicated sales managers for air compressors. We have 8 sales and 13 service personnel dedicated to compressed air systems in the Northwest. In Los Angeles, we have two branches (Anaheim and Glendale) supplying and servicing petroleum equipment. We added two dedicated sales and two dedicated service technicians for compressed air systems to these branches.

In other markets we do extensive cross training so our people can represent pumps, blowers and air compressors. Our people spend a lot of time with Regional Sales Managers from the different vendors training on product and application knowledge.

There are some excellent synergies between pumps, blowers, and air compressors. Pumps get abused and tinkered with and damaged. There are several hundred of them in a plant so you really can develop a strong and deep relationship with their personnel. Air compressors, however, run for years and are very reliable. We find we can leverage our pump relationships quite effectively to grow our air compressor business.



Air compressor service technician training with Stuart Johns

 Air compressor service technician training with Stuart Johns


Sullair air compressor start-up and check-out at a food processing plant.

 Sullair air compressor start-up and check-out at a food processing plant


Inventory is an important part of the equation. How do you manage this?

Our philosophy has always been to be a full service provider. In our petroleum equipment division we supply tanks, valves, fittings, dispensers, lighting – everything the customer needs. We do the same in our car wash system division.

Our industrial division receives the same commitment to inventory. Our strategy is to have a complete product line ranging from high-pressure Sauer compressors to low-pressure blowers and vacuum pumps from Robuschi. For our “normal” industrial plant air applications, we work with Sullair as our main air compressor and dryer vendor complemented by Hitachi oil-free rotary and scroll air compressors and Parker Transair piping systems.

Our industrial parts inventories are centered in Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Pasco (southeast Washington), and Anaheim. The inventories in these hubs are complemented by branch inventories of frequently used parts. We also carry an inventory of roughly 40-50 rotary screw air compressors, ready to ship, out here in the West. We also own a fleet of rental air compressors based in Portland and Seattle. We also stock compressed air filtration products and piping systems.


What’s new with Sullair?

When Sullair approached us about representing them on air compressors we knew it was a top-tier air compressor line. It’s a good quality, stable line that’s been around a long time. They are industry-known for building a bulletproof airend. It’s built in Michigan City, Indiana and it’s so robust. As an ex-mechanic and service guy, that draws me to their rotary screw product line. Another great thing about the Sullair product line is you can have load no-load modulation systems, variable displacement compressors or variable speed drive compressors.

Variable displacement compressors are usually as effective or as efficient as a variable speed drive compressor in the 60-100% operating load range - at a fraction of the cost. To provide a rough example, a 150 horsepower variable displacement machine might cost $50,000 while a VSD compressor will run $65,000. That’s a big difference in price. Many people have greater faith in electrical components over mechanical devices. Variable displacement is mechanical and does require maintenance, however, the maintenance requirements are reasonable. It’s a $150 kit you put in once every two years plus some labor. At the end of the day, Sullair’s product offering allows us to offer the customer all three technologies.


What do you think of Sullair’s new 10 year Diamond™ warranty?

We are excited about it and believe we will be able to leverage this new program. This is an example showing how Sullair believes in the distributor and the factory working together. We think this shows The Carlyle Group will be aggressive with new products and innovative approaches to the market. This new Group sounds like they want to expand and get new market share.

Regarding the 10-year Diamond™ warranty, any new Sullair compressor, with operating pressures up to 150 psi, is eligible for the 10 year warranty. It shows the confidence Sullair has in their products. It requires that normal “best practice” maintenance is conducted and recorded including an oil analysis program.

Sullair airends will seemingly last forever if maintenance is done. We have plenty of case studies of airends operating for 20+ years. We have one customer with 150,000 hours - without having to do any airend rebuild work. That machine is still sitting at that plant as a backup machine, ready to go.


Sullair has announced a new 10 year Diamond™ warranty

 Sullair has announced a new 10 year Diamond™ warranty


Are you involved with compressed air system assessments?

Absolutely. We have invested in Sullair’s audit tools and conduct regular audits in all of our markets. Sullair has three levels of audits designed to reduce operating and maintenance costs.

The Sullair SystemWizard™ analysis software allows one to quickly evaluate the cost and efficiency of a compressed air system, compare multiple compressor alternatives, identify opportunities, and calculate investment paybacks on energy saved. Sullair’s SysteMate™ solution provides real-time, objective measurements of compressed air usage. SysteMate™ takes power and pressure readings, and accurately calculates true system flow output and requirements, automatically generating reports that graph system parameters. This entire process can be competed without interrupting production. Lastly, the LogAir™ auditing system can log virtually any parameter in the system, including true power (actual kW measurement), flow, pressure, dew point, and temperature. Based upon a customer’s needs and resources, we can use one of these three auditing tools to help them improve their system.


What kind of work are you doing with blowers and vacuum?

This is a good example of synergies within our industrial division. We work with engineering firms and with Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association members with our pump and blower brands. We are using blowers for wastewater treatment plant applications. These are, of course, high-volume low-pressure applications. We work with a lot of clients in the Northwest. We emphasize grit pumps, vortex pumps and then Robuschi blower systems for the aeration basins.

We talk to customers about actual vacuum demand and the ways to optimize these applications. With “pick and place” and “vacuum hold-down” applications we will compare the pros and cons between a centralized vacuum system and point of use venturis. We will calculate the compressed air flow going into venturis or we have also placed put monitoring equipment (compressed air flow meters) to measure how much compressed air a “pick and place” application is using.

We have also done interesting projects involving the use of vacuum for hold-down on CNC router tables machines. As you draw the wood sheeting sheet metal down to the table and cut it, what is needed is volume - not pressure. We have started challenging how deep a vacuum is required and found that providing higher air volumes will get the job done. We might see 6 to 20 of these units in a plant using significant volumes of vacuum (and energy).

We are finding that using a blower in a vacuum application can be a better way to go. Sometimes you can go from a 50 horsepower compressor (designed to provide vacuum), to a 10 horsepower blower (designed to provide vacuum) with small 67 dba sound-attenuated packages located right at the CNC machine. Working together with Robuschi, we have found you need 3-5 inches of mercury at higher air flows, rather than 28 inches with lower air flows.


Northwest Pump & Equipment services all types of rotating equipment

Caption: Northwest Pump & Equipment services all types of rotating equipment.


Thank you for your time.


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