NSS Enterprises, Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on NSS Enterprises, Inc.

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History of NSS Enterprises, Inc.

NSS Enterprises, Inc. is a privately-owned, Toledo, Ohio-based manufacturer of floor care products for commercial, industrial, and institutional applications. The company's full range of equipment includes carpet vacuums, sweepers, carpet extractors, wet/dry vacuums, floor machines, burnishers, and pressure washers. Prices range from under $500 to more than $15,000. NSS also sells heavy-duty tools and accessories for use with its equipment. Major customers includes the United States government; the Big Three automakers, which use the equipment for their showrooms and repair facilities; hospitals; casinos, resorts, and hotels; factories; schools; airlines; and big box retailers. NSS equipment can be purchased in 60 countries around the world. In the United States, the company has more than 400 distributors and service centers.

NSS Grows out of 19th Century Carpet Cleaning Technology

NSS first made its mark with the vacuum cleaner. The forefather of all vacuum cleaners was an 1869 non-electric device called the "Whirlwind," which created suction using a hand crank. Several years later a brush roll was added to improve performance, but even then, the device still relied on a cumbersome hand crank. The next major development came in 1901 when British engineer Herbert C. Booth created a gas-powered, wagon-mounted vacuum cleaner; it was parked outside a home to be cleaned and long hoses were drawn through the windows to power the sweeper attachments. The first "portable" vacuum cleaner, which weighed a mere 92 pounds, was introduced in 1905. Two years later a more user-friendly model was invented by a Canton, Ohio, janitor named James Spangler, whose creativity was prompted by a persistent cough caused by the dust thrown up from the carpet sweeper he used. He built his own vacuum cleaner using an old fan motor mounted on a soap box fixed to a broom handle, and for a dust collector he relied on a pillow case. He received a patent on the design in 1908 and began producing commercial versions, which weighed in at 40 pounds. One of his first customers was a cousin who was married to a saddlemaker and leather merchant named William H. Hoover. With the emergence of automobiles reducing the market for saddles, Hoover was looking for a new endeavor. He liked Spangler's invention, took a stake in his cousin's Electric Suction Sweeper Company, became president, eventually acquired control, and in 1922 renamed it the Hoover Company.

Another man fascinated with the commercial potential of vacuum motor technology was Julius Bevington, an executive at Bissell Manufacturing Company, which produced components for the Ford Motor Company. In 1911 he convinced his boss, Fred Bissell, to diversify by producing vacuum motors that could be used for a wide range of industrial uses. Although NSS traces its origins to this 1911 date, it would be the 1920s before Bevington took a partner, Edward Rosenberg, and bought Bissell's vacuum motor unit. Using their initials, they called the company B&R Manufacturing Co., although Bissell's owner, Fred Bissell, retained an interest in the company. B&R would later change its name to National Super Suction Company, reflective of the high-powered industrial vacuum cleaners the company manufactured. A further name change resulted in the company becoming known as the National Super Service Co. The main product was the Super Cleaner, a heavy duty vacuum cleaner used in buildings, furnaces, and heating plants.

In 1940 National Super Service introduced the first model in its highly successful "Pig" canister vacuum cleaner. It represented a major step in the development of the heavy-duty vacuum cleaner. With the motor housed in a cast-aluminum alloy body, it was a extremely durable machine. In addition, its longevity was maintained by the inclusion of a "scrap trap" that preventing large objects from being pulled through the fan. The Pig was also very effective in cleaning high, out-of-the way areas, like ceilings, skylights, and vents. According to the company, the Pigs were so hearty that in 1995 a 50-year-old unit was still being used in an Indianapolis movie theater, where it was put to the test every day sucking up popcorn, candy, and other stray items that littered the aisles.

World War II Interrupts Growth

World War II disrupted the affairs of National Super Service, which was doing a roaring business in 1941. However, with the United States' entry into the conflict, the company was denied key raw materials, which were now diverted to the war effort. The company had built up a supply of vacuum cleaners that lasted through 1942, but for the rest of the war, it was lucky to scrounge up renewal parts for the thousands of Super Cleaners that were in use at the time. The company's production capacity was now utilized to produce commutators, which were used in aircraft and tank engines. As the war was entering the final several months, Fred Bisell, in September 1944, finally sold his stake in National Super Service to Bevington and Rosenberg.

After the war, Bevington's son, John F. Bevington, joined the company after graduating from John Carroll University. He first went to work in the office and later turned his attention to sales, which gave him the opportunity to become intimately familiar with the distributors of National Super Service. He also became well connected in the industry, serving as the company's representative at trade shows and conventions. John Bevington would become a founding member and board member of both the International Sanitary Supply Association and the American Association of Cleaning Equipment Manufacturers.

John Bevington eventually bought out his father and Rosenberg, but not before the first generation of ownership was involved in yet another technological breakthrough. In 1947 National Super Service introduced the first wet/dry vacuum. Until that time, vacuuming water was a highly dangerous task, one that could easily lead to the electrocution of the operator. National Super Service solved this problem by way of an internal by-pass motor that not only protected the operator but also extended the life of the motor. This design breakthrough would lay the foundation for later heavy-duty models, the NSS Colt and BP-Ranger.

Under John Bevington's leadership, National Super Service continued to be an industry leader in technology innovations. In 1972 the company developed a cold-water extractor. Hot water extraction was used to deep-clean synthetic rugs by laying down a solution of water and detergent in a pressurized mist that loosened the dirt in the carpet's fabrics. The dirt and water was then vacuumed out of the carpet, but the process required a great deal of water and even the highest quality hot water extractors were only able to remove 70 percent to 90 percent of the moisture. As a result, carpets were often damaged, experiencing shrinkage as well as the fading and running of colors. Cold (or warm) water extraction, on the other hand, did not encounter these side effects. Furthermore, National Super Service's engineers greatly improved the ability of the machine to pull water out of carpets by stacking vacuum motors to dramatically increase power.

Technolgoical Advances in the Modern Era

The 1970s saw other advances for National Super Service. In 1976 it introduced a propane-powered buffing machine, the first full-line manufacturer to do so. The buffer was capable of extremely high speeds to produce a shine that became known as the "wet look," which became the standard finish of the industry. A year later National Super Service solidified its industry lead in this area by offering the first high-speed, corded electric buffer. This development launched an industry race to develop new floor pads and chemicals to give floors the highly desirable wet look. National Super Service also set another industry standard in 1984 when it became the first floor care equipment company to make machine bodies out of rotomolded polyethylene, a lightweight yet durable material. Ultimately, all large burnishers, sweepers, and scrubbers would rely on it.

Perhaps the greatest advance for National Super Service in the last 15 years of the century was not in research and development but in a modification of its business model. Instead of merely selling equipment and accessories, it sought to become a resource and service company, one that sold complete solutions. National Super Service was also uniquely positioned in the United States because it remained privately owned and unlike its large competitors had not been gobbled up by foreign companies. The sales force had longstanding ties with retailers and paid regular visits to make sure they understood their customers' needs. The company also took the time to make inroads with companies and distributors that might have been dissatisfied with their current supplier. Given that National Super Service was involved in what amounted to a non-growth industry, luring away the customers of the competition was an imperative to increasing market share. It the early 1990s, National Super Service developed a six-part direct mail program that targeted top-level managers at select companies. They received an introductory letter, followed in one-week intervals by four mailers that included premiums to get attention, and finally a call-for-action follow-up letter that asked prospects to set aside 30 minutes to speak with a regional manager.

In its marketing effort National Super Service emphasized that the way it serviced its accounts was far superior to that of the competition. This customer service approach evolved into the Total-Logistics Control (TLC) program, which permitted distributors and corporate clients to customize their relationship with National Super Service, allowing them to pay for what they actually needed. The menu of programs and services the company offered as a solutions provider was long and varied. It included onsite installations, operator training, program manual development, facility surveys and workloading, central service dispatch and repairs, planned maintenance programs, rental and loaner machines, order tracking, and follow-up audits.

In a 2003 article, Chain Store Age offered an example of how the company was able to help a major retailer with training. According to vice president Tom Dyszkiewicz, "The company was experiencing difficulty with in-house cleaning staff due to turnover and their national scope of operations." To address this problem, National Super Service was hired to conduct 70 workshops to train the retailer's employees after closing hours. A maintenance schedule was also developed so that employees and their supervisors knew what needed to be done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. The benefits of the program included a better trained work force, less machine downtime because of proper usage, and, most important of all, cleaner floors.

National Super Service also launched the NSS Institute, which conducted three-day seminars several times a year. Sales managers, equipment specialists, product managers, and sales representatives were taught how to best sell NSS equipment, learning inside tips and tricks of the trade. Service managers, equipment specialists, service technicians, and product managers were taught how to repair NSS equipment, as well as how to perform preventive maintenance.

In 1999 John Bevington retired as president and chief executive officer of National Super Service and sold the business to his son, Mark Bevington. In July 2004 the elder Bevington died at the age of 79 from complications of strokes. The company he devoted his life to was now in the hands of a third generation, providing the kind of continuity that could not be matched elsewhere in the floor care equipment industry. The company changed its name to NSS Enterprises, Inc., but remained steadfast in its approach to doing business, emphasizing a strong research and development program and a devotion to customer service. In the early 2000s the commitment to product development was evident with the introduction of the Ultra Maxx, the floor care equipment industry's first 27-inch walk-behind battery-powered burnisher. Another example of the company's commitment to new products was the 2006 introduction of the battery-powered Colt 800 PB Wet/Dry Vacuum, designed to be used where electrical outlets were not available or impractical, such as cleaning up food or liquid spills in an occupied area. There was every reason to believe that more innovative products were to come and that NSS was positioned to enjoy many more years of success as it approached its 100th anniversary.

Principal Divisions

Manufacturing; Sales; Support Services; Strategic Accounts; Marketing.

Principal Competitors

AB Electrolux; The Hoover Company; Shop-Vac Corporation.


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