SIC 3561

This category covers firms primarily engaged in manufacturing pumps and related equipment for general industrial, commercial or household use, including domestic water and sump pump manufacturers. It does not cover manufacturers of fluid power pumps or motors ( SIC 3594: Fluid Power Pumps & Motors ); manufacturers of measuring and dispensing pumps for gasoline service stations ( SIC 3586: Measuring and Dispensing Pumps );non-laboratory-use vacuum pumps ( SIC 3563: Air and Gas Compressors ); laboratory vacuum pumps ( SIC 3821: Laboratory Apparatus and Furniture ); or motor vehicle pumps ( SIC 3714: Motor Vehicle Parts and Accessories ).

NAICS Code(s)

333911 (Pump and Pumping Equipment Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

Because pumps are one of the most common machines used by industry, second only to electric motors, the health of the pump manufacturing industry depends to a great extent on the general health of industrial America. Particularly important are the petrochemical and the pulp and paper industries, but steel making, electric power generation, sewage system construction, general housing and commercial construction, and oil and gas wells, fields, and pipelines also depend on special purpose pumps.

Such pumps, which can be abrasive by nature themselves, often wear quickly because they frequently move materials contaminated with abrasives in challenging climates and environments. This requires frequent replacement or repair, making the replacement parts segment of the industry particularly important. The U.S. pump industry is considered mature, and the bulk of growth is expected to be tied to replacement purchases. The value of shipments in 2000 totaled $7.83 billion.

Organization and Structure

Some 613 establishments manufactured pumps and pump equipment in 1977, an increase of 10 percent over the 1972 census figures. However, this number dropped to 528 by 1987 and an administrative redistribution of SIC codes left the industry with only 405 establishments at the end of 1987. The other 123 establishments were reclassified into SIC 3594: Fluid Power Pumps and Motors. The 1990s saw a small rally in the industry, though, and 489 establishments existed by 1997.

At 55 percent of output, industrial pumps constituted the largest product class in the business in 1997. Replacement parts and accessories generated the next-largest share of sales, at about 19 percent, followed by domestic water systems and sump pump (9 percent) and oil and oil field pumps (7 percent). Other miscellaneous pumps made up the remaining 10 percent.

Historically, manufacturing in this industry has been heavily concentrated; in 1977 more than half the industry's employees worked in the four largest facilities, and 79 percent of all facilities employed fewer than 100 workers. By 1987 this had changed slightly with 75 percent of all facilities employing fewer than 100 workers, but diffusion was more evident in the larger firms. The 1987 Census showed the largest 41 firms employing 52.6 percent of all workers. In 1997 about half of the industry's establishments had at least 20 employees, and 20 percent had at least 100 employees.

Background and Development

The world's first pump was probably the force or air pump built by Ktesibios of Alexandria about 270 B.C. He used a cylinder and plunger arrangement to pump air through pipes of various lengths, creating the first water organ. The water was used to maintain a steady air pressure in the system. Simple pumps became common fairly quickly for domestic use and as fire extinguishers. Roman ruins yield examples of pumps used for fire control and for lifting water in wells. The famed Roman aqueducts were probably not fed with pumps, but rather used waterwheels to lift water from reservoirs directly to the piping system.

A major advancement in pumping technology came in 1698 with the issuing of a British patent to Thomas Savery for a steam powered pump for use in coal mines. The device was later adapted to provide water to some country houses. This pump was effectively replaced by the Newcomen engine, patented in 1712, which placed the steam boilers and piston assembly at the top of the mine shaft instead of at the bottom. The concept introduced the now familiar working or balance beam to transfer power to the pump mechanism in the mine.

The industrial revolution found many uses for the powered pump, including industrial processing and domestic distribution of water. However, the twentieth century introduced a new refinement, electrification. The first American factory to replace its central steam plant and its maze-like system of pulleys and belts with electric motors was a cotton mill in 1894. All new factories used the new technology.

Economic and technological expansion in the 1960s stimulated pump production and encouraged the adoption of new manufacturing techniques. The industry adopted specially designed milling machines and combination machines that could perform milling, radial drilling, and facing (smoothing) in one operation. Automatic tool changing devices, operated by numerical control tape programs, increased production efficiency.

In general the pump industry manufactures large specialty items to meet a client's specific needs. To accommodate such a need for flexibility, the industry quickly adopted numerically controlled machine tools and computer numerical controls. This shifted the center of production control to the firm's engineering department and away from the craftsmen on the shop floor. Computer assisted drafting and modeling programs have further increased design efficiency.

The general industrial slowdown of the 1980s hit the pump industry hard. Major clients such as the nuclear power industry, the oil well and pipeline industry, and the construction industry cutback on orders for new equipment and idled existing components. A strong U.S. dollar made American products uncompetitive in foreign markets.

By 1988 this began to change. A weakening dollar increased exports and a general pickup in the manufacturing climate sparked new domestic orders in almost all sectors. The industry continued to modernize production by consolidating facilities and adopting sophisticated CAD/CAM systems and metalworking and casting technologies. New materials and designs were explored to extend the life of components in corrosive environments and to increase reliability.

The most important markets served by the pump industry have been the steel, oil, construction, and chemical industries.

Steel mills and blast furnaces used industrial pumps to move liquid fuels and water for coolant. The move in the steel industry away from open-hearth furnaces to oxygen and electric furnaces and to continuous casting instead of slabbing mills necessitated larger, more powerful pumps to provide higher volumes of coolant water. This meant the development of higher-output centrifugal pumps.

The oil well and pipeline industries also purchased a large number of pumps. Demand in this sector dropped off dramatically in the 1960s but recovered after that. This industry bought reciprocal pumps for mud circulation, submersible centrifugal units for lifting crude oil, and standard centrifugal pumps to maintain pressure with water flooding. Pipelines required high-horsepower centrifugal pumps. In the 1960s the average pipeline diameter was enlarged by 33 percent, requiring much larger pumps to move the higher volumes of petroleum products.

The construction industry used centrifugal pumps and trash pumps, which could accommodate up to 25 percent small solids in the pumped liquid. New sewage plant construction to accommodate increasingly stringent environmental regulations was expected to increase the demand for pumps. Infrastructure replacement and upgrading was expected to do the same through the end of the twentieth century and into the 2000s.

Another important user of pumps was the chemical industry. Pumps for this market used special materials such as fiberglass, plastics, and stainless steel to accommodate salt solutions, acids, and chlorine.

Current Conditions

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2000 this industry shipped $7.83 billion worth of goods and spent $3.88 billion on materials. The 216 establishments that made primarily pumps shipped $5.5 billion worth of merchandise in the late 1990s. The 43 companies that made primarily parts and attachments shipped $964 million worth of merchandise in the late 1990s. Texas, California, Illinois, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Florida had the highest concentrations of establishments in this category.

The pumps and pumping equipment industry remains closely linked to the state of American industry in general. Focus in the twenty-first century will be on producing technologically advanced, highly customized pumps and equipment.

Industry Leaders

Of the companies whose primary products were in this classification, Dover Resources Inc. (a subsidiary of Dover Corp. based in Tulsa, Oklahoma) had 3,600 employees and estimated sales of $3.9 billion in 1998. Ingersoll-Dresser Pump Co. (Liberty Corner, New Jersey) had 6,000 employees and estimated sales of $800 million. Goulds Pumps Inc. (a subsidiary of ITT Industries Inc. based in Seneca Falls, New York) had 5,250 employees and sales of $774 million. Commercial Intertech Corp. (Youngstown, Ohio) had 3,904 employees and sales of $576 million. BW/IP Inc. (Long Beach, California) had 3002 employees and sales of $492 million.

Diversified companies also competing in this category included Orion Research Inc. (a subsidiary of Thermo Electron Corp. based in Beverly, Massachusetts) with 20,000 employees and sales of $3 billion; and Harbour Group Ltd. (St. Louis, Missouri) with 300 employees and sales of $750 million.


Historically, the industrial machinery group has used a high proportion of skilled trades, about 30 percent of all production workers compared to the 26 percent proportion in all manufacturing. Metal working craftsmen and machinists have been about three times more common in this industry than in manufacturing as a whole, while laborers were half as common. The industry also tends to employ a high proportion of nonproduction workers, perhaps indicative of its reliance on mechanical engineers.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, companies that manufactured pumps and pumping equipment employed about 33,543 people in 2000, including 18,805 production workers who earned an average hourly wage of $16.48. In the late 1990s, the 216 companies that made primarily pumps paid their production workers an average hourly wage of $15.39, while the 43 companies that made primarily parts and attachments paid their production workers an average hourly wage of $17.02.

America and the World

Pumps and pumping equipment were manufactured to international standards, allowing American manufacturers to compete in the international market. These same standards, however, also made the United States vulnerable to foreign competition, particularly with regard to price and quality. During the early half of the 1980s, the strong American dollar made such competition particularly difficult, undermining an already weak industrial climate in American manufacturing. As a result, the U.S. merchandise trade deficit quadrupled between 1982 and 1984, reaching $145 billion. This effect showed up in the pump manufacturing industry but was delayed. In 1985 the industry showed a trade surplus, but by 1987 this had become a $1.9 billion deficit. The drop of the value of the U.S. dollar in 1985 provided new impetus for the pump industry. By 1987 the average export price expressed in foreign currency of pumps and other machinery had fallen 23.1 percent. By 1990, even though domestic prices increased an average of 5 percent each year, the foreign currency price of pumps and components had dropped more than 11 percent. This made American operations more profitable, increased export volumes, and discouraged imports. It also encouraged foreign firms to establish manufacturing and assembly facilities in the United States.

By 1990 exports approached $1.1 billion while imports exceeded $700 million. By mid-decade, Purchasing magazine estimated foreign purchases at 45 percent of overall demand. This share was expected to decline as companies set up overseas manufacturing operations. Major markets for American products included Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, West Germany, Venezuela, and Japan. The top importers included Japan, West Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Emerging markets included Latin America, Africa, the Mideast, and Asia, especially China.

Goulds Pumps, an industry leader, was particularly focused on international sales. By 1995, 45 percent of its revenues were generated overseas, with 29 percent of its total sales coming from Europe. The company expected most of its future growth to be concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region. China appeared an especially appealing target. In 1985 Bingham-Willamette (based in Portland, Oregon) sold the country six pumps valued at $600,000 and expected to increase that to 200 pumps per year, but the business dwindled within two years. In 1998 Goulds signed a joint-venture agreement with Nanjing Deep Well Company to produce 600 pump units for four petrochemical plants, a deal worth several million dollars at each plant.

Research and Technology

Most pumps are made to a client's specific requirements for use in complex applications where the failure of the pump could be disastrous. Consequently, manufacturing innovation has stressed flexibility and reliability. Major innovations included the adoption of numerical and computer control manufacturing systems and the reliance on engineering expertise, assisted by computer modeling software, to custom design components for short run production. New corrosion resistant materials have been developed and refinements to old processes adopted. Specially designed metal-forming machines were created for the industry, including combination milling, radial drilling and facing machines, variable setting grinders which automatically form tapered shafts, and automatic tool changing devices controlled by NC tapes or computer software. Foundry operations for production of pump casings and core-making have advanced with rapid-cycle machinery, synchronous fabricating machinery, and a no-bake molding process using a resin binder and catalyst. Closer tolerances were achieved in components by replacing wooden molds and cores with ceramic.

Demands for higher-efficiency pumps meant an industry shift from fixed displacement pumps to variable displacement because they do not waste energy by venting excess pumped material through a relief valve. A variable displacement pump adjusts its own flow rate to match demand.

Ongoing research concerns include noise and leakage reduction, increased efficiency, corrosion-resistance, and development of oil-free and self-lubricating models.

Further Reading

Darnay, Arsen J., ed. Manufacturing USA: Industry Analyses, Statistics, and Leading Companies. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1996.

United States Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census. Washington, DC: GPO, 1999. Available from .

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

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