For industries like mining, power generation, steel mills, pulp and paper, sand and gravel/aggregate and water treatment, downtime from equipment failure can be catastrophic. They turn to GPM, Inc., known worldwide for its reliable submersible and horizontal pumps, and the toughest of all, the GPM-Eliminator™.
Founded in Duluth, Minnesota in 1978 by current Board Chairman and President Pete Gemuenden Sr., GPM began as an industrial supplier of rotating equipment parts, primarily pumps for mining operations and power plants across northern Minnesota. GPM expanded sales and service efforts into North Dakota in the early 1980s by opening up a second office located in Bismarck, North Dakota; both locations remain active today.
It was in the late 1980s that GPM identified amongst its customers the need for a reliable, submersible slurry pump. GPM found a dissatisfied market segment continuously battling with weak submersible pumps that kept failing, or struggling with other styles of pumps that performed poorly.
Pumps made tough
In late 1987, the team at GPM began the design of its own submersible slurry pump, the GPM-Eliminator, sending the first model out the door in 1989. Thirty years later, the GPM-Eliminator represents the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) side of the company, which continues to grow into new markets and sells worldwide. “We have a network of distributors and sales personnel strategically located supporting sales and service solutions for the GPM-Eliminator,” says Blake Kolquist, Marketing Director. “We’ve been able to build off the successes of our pumps that first started in our own backyard and are now shipping pumps all over the world to global leaders in mining, power generation, oil and gas and more.”
Designed, engineered and made tough, the GPM-Eliminator can handle anything from water to 70 percent solids such as taconite – abrasive iron balls the size of marbles used in the steel-making process.
Ranging in size from 5HP to 500HP, with standard discharges from two to eight inches, the American-made GPM-Eliminator features 28 percent high-chrome iron liquid end, double mechanical seals, oversized pump shafts, and casing agitation spray holes, which allows the user to keep contents suspended during operation. The company’s Class-H insulation and VFD inverter duty motors are able to withstand a winding temperature of 180 degrees Celsius.
Made to order
Beyond the standard product line, GPM’s line of high-quality pumps are also available for custom made-to-order applications. Some may require special impellers – depending on what the client is pumping – with many factors such as variations in pressure, pumping distance, and more also affecting the engineering choices.
“These aren’t stock components,” says Peter Haines, Chief Executive Officer. “Sometimes we have a special casing made.” Depending on the type and size of pump, some may take just two weeks to be manufactured, while larger pumps may need twenty-five to thirty weeks to complete.
“Last year, the company shipped a couple of large pumps to a gold mine operation in Indonesia, which required specialized aluminum barges because the gold mine is atop geothermal veins. Bulk water temperatures reach 200°F (93° C) – almost boiling. A plastic floating barge could not be used, and the client needed to dewater the pit to be able to mine.
“So we customized pumps for their application and for their electrical requirements – which are different in Indonesia than they are in the U.S. – and then customized barges that can handle that type of operating environment.”
With standard products and pump sizes readily available and the ability to offer custom-designed, engineered and made-to-order pumps for specific applications, customers can choose from a variety of options including multiple metallurgies, the company’s exclusive spray-hole sump agitation design, slide guide systems and more. Customers disinclined to buy can take advantage of GPM’s Pump Leasing and Finance Program, which allows them to lease any GPM-Eliminator pump or system for 24, 36, 48 or 60 months, owning the equipment at the end of the lease or finance option.
The pump pros
GPM’s pumps, packages, and systems include barge-mounted, skid-mounted, trailer-mounted, mobile pump packages, blower packages, dewatering pump houses, and more.
Depending on client needs, pumps range in size all the way to certain models 25 to 30 feet high, often used for pit dewatering. “We’ve been doing this for 41 years,” says Haines. “Since we can pump up to 70 percent solids, GPM’s real claim to fame is we can pump just about anything you can throw at it.”
Built to provide years of reliable and worry-free operation, GPM-Eliminator pumps come in a range of types, including submersible and submersible mixer pumps, vertical or horizontal pumps, extended shaft, and even explosion-proof pumps. Beyond pumps, GPM also represents many of the world’s best manufacturers of related equipment, providing customers with products and solutions such as mechanical seals, gearboxes, valves, air handling, cooling towers, and material handling systems.
Service, repair and more
With 74 full-time staff including CNC operators, fabricators, assembly workers, engineering technicians, marketing, information technology, sales and others, GPM’s business is divided into three primary parts. First, there is the OEM side consisting of the pumps the company manufactures itself and sells, the GPM-Eliminator. Second is distribution – 16 global leading rotating equipment products that GPM provides – and the third is service and repair.
Because it’s crucial to customers in industries such as mining, pulp and paper, chemical, and power generation, that their pumps are up and running continuously, GPM dedicated itself to providing a service restoring this kind of equipment to OEM specs and tolerances quickly and efficiently.
In each case, certified technicians provide thorough documentation, so customers can decide the best, most cost-effective strategies to increase productivity and decrease downtime in their respective operations. And unlike many other companies, GPM factory-trained service and repair technicians not only work on GPM-Eliminator pumps but also those from other manufacturers as well offering factory warranties on all repaired equipment.
“We will fix anybody’s pump, rebuild it to the OEM specs, and offer the OEM’s original warranty as if it is new,” Haines says. “Sometimes the stuff we repair is so old you can’t buy parts, so we have to make parts. We have specialized, highly experienced technicians who are tearing pumps apart – service technicians, welders, fabricators, assemblers, machinists, and others out on the floor and in the field identifying and executing service solutions.”
Depending on the client, GPM will either work on pumps brought to their site, or deploy field teams to the customer’s location. With three primary locations and three satellite offices, the company’s manufacturing, service and repair, and corporate headquarters are in Duluth, Minnesota. Together with a sales and service center in Apple Valley, Minnesota, the company also has a sales office and repair center in Bismarck. And to ensure client pumps are working properly, GPM has built-in performance-monitoring componentry, and can check pumps throughout the U.S., and even certain equipment in other countries.
At its Duluth operations, the company has a constant stream of pumps and other rotational equipment of all shapes and sizes coming in the door, while the Apple Valley location specializes in compressors, blowers, and vacuum pumps in particular.
“With our pumps and the pumps we are fixing here in Duluth, it’s all about liquid conveyance – pumping liquids,” Haines says. “Blowers and vacuum pumps suck air, so that specialty is our shop in Apple Valley, set up to fine-tune that type of service and repair.” In Bismarck, GPM’s niche is mechanical seals inspection and repair – an important facet of the pumping process.
Last year was pivotal for GPM. Not only did it turn forty in 2018, but the company also put together a core business plan for the coming five years. GPM is looking at three objectives: first to stabilize the organization; second to transform the organization; third, to optimize it. Once they have completed this process in 2022, GPM will move into the next phase, which is the expansion of its product line deep into the private-label sector, making pumps for other pump companies and equipment manufacturers, and deploying an international distribution network.
Already gearing up for Phase 2, the company will delve further into technology, investing in a new system upgrade, and moving to a business central platform. “Everything we do is pretty high-tech,” says Haines, “even our technicians who tear apart pumps. As they’re doing it, they photograph everything, and log it directly into the computer which assembles an in-depth repair report that is provided to every customer.
“By the time we’re done, we have a computer-generated report complete with photos that gives every customer a visual and technical evaluation of the equipment including all critical dimensional data, providing an overview of all the physical things we encountered and uncovered in the pump, and what we recommend to repair it and get it operating in the fashion the customer wants,” says Haines.
“So we utilize a really eclectic approach to helping our customers optimize the performance of the pumps they’ve entrusted to us to rebuild to OEM specs.”
Quality, dedicated service, and trained repair technicians are just some of the factors boosting GPM, which grew 24.8 percent in 2018. While working with existing, established markets, the company is also looking at new markets such as environmental remediation, nuclear power, wastewater treatment, highway and street construction (using portable aggregate machines), and increasing specialized engineered fabrication projects like the one in Indonesia.
Also, knowing that clients often have tight timelines once a decision is made to purchase a pump, GPM has assembled a dedicated group of engineering talents to assist with those needs.
This year, the company’s projected growth is 25 to 30 percent.
Looking to the future of GPM, the company is putting a strong emphasis on workforce development, bringing in classes from several local high schools for tours, and exposing the next potential workforce to career opportunities as CNC operators, welders, machinists, metal fabricators, engineers, IT staff, and other positions.
Partnering with the University of Minnesota, Duluth, GPM brings in some of their top engineering students, not just in summer but in the school year, with the aim of hiring suitable candidates. GPM provides funding for mechanical engineering design classes. The company is also active in the Lake Superior College Women in Operations program, which has a course on women’s opportunities within the machining sector.
From mine sites pumping water to nuclear facilities removing waste, one thing is common, namely a pump. And when it comes to reliable, American-made pumps, GPM has staked out a commanding position.
For the future, too, there’s no better business for GPM to be in. “Twenty-five percent of all electricity generated in North America powers a motor that drives a pump, and we are in the pump business,” Haines says, summing it up nicely.