Salamander Pumps – Under Pressure
Salamander Pumps is offering a solution to a problem many customers don’t realise can be solved.
Based in Sunderland, Salamander Pumps is a British manufacturer of water boosting products. Last year the company enjoyed a turnover of £16 million, it employs a team of 80 people and forms part of the Davidson Holdings Group.
“We manufacture water boosting and pressure boosting products like shower pumps, pressure boosters and accumulators,” says Dale Robertson, Salamander Pumps’ Managing Director. “We sell products that boost shower pressure in a gravity-fed system, the traditional hot and cold-water tank system, or a mains pressure system. We also do products that boost the mains pressure to the whole house.”
It is an exciting time for Salamander Pumps, as its offering is currently undergoing a dramatic transformation.
“We have completely overhauled our product range after taking feedback from installers and homeowners to understand what they want,” Robertson says. “We really focussed on their needs over the last few years.”
One thing all these products have in common is that they are British-made, using locally sourced materials and components wherever possible.
“We are a UK manufacturer, and that’s always been relevant but it is becoming more and more relevant now,” Robertson tells us. “We’ve great, longstanding relationships with our customers and likewise with our suppliers. One of the key things is we really do show passion in our business. In everything we do we put the customer first. We’ve got some of the most compact and quiet and reliable pumps on the market.”
Of course, one of the reasons locally based businesses and supply chains are sought-after now is that the last couple of years have shown the vulnerabilities of long-distance, just-in-time supply chains.
“It’s no surprise that over the last couple of years Covid has been a challenge. Everyone’s had to face that,” Robertson says. “It’s emphasised how important our supply chain is and how important it is to be responsive and adaptable. By being a local agile manufacturer we’ve buffered our customers from component supply chain issues.”
As well as businesses across a range of sectors appreciating the importance of locally-based supply chains, there is another Covid-driven sea change that is affecting every industry.
“One thing that’s underlying all that is the shift to digital. More and more people are expecting a level of service-driven through that online shopping experience,” Robertson points out. “Customers expect to be able to engage and communicate with companies right back to the manufacturer through digital means. We’ve dealt with that through a new initiative that will provide a digital offering. Of course, Covid has accelerated that.”
While every industry is dealing with challenges around the supply chain and digitalisation, Salamander Pumps also faces a unique challenge within its own market sector. It is hard enough to get a product recognised on the marketplace, but that is even more difficult when most customers don’t even realise your solution exists.
“The biggest challenge going forward is educating the general public, creating awareness around water pressure, Robertson admits. “We did a survey a few years ago and found a lot of people had low water pressure – people just accept when you turn the tap on that’s it. They don’t think ‘Is it good? Is it bad? Can it be better?’ 48% of them didn’t realise that there was a solution to their problem, they just accept it takes ten or fifteen minutes to fill a bath or that you can’t do anything else while someone else is in the shower.”
Salamander Pumps has been working hard to educate consumers and spread awareness of its products and the problems that they can solve.
It is clear as we talk with Robertson that he believes strongly in the British manufacturing sector and his company’s mission to improve water pressure.
“We’re passionate about UK manufacturing. Our main market is the UK and the Republic of Ireland. We have a fantastic opportunity here with boosting mains water,” he points out. “Most people don’t realise they have low pressure and we have great products for that. One thing we’ve got to focus on is the customer journey. What we’ve done is pulled all our external touchpoints, our technical support team, our sales and marketing teams and our external training team and service guys out on the road, and gone through their approach to ensure the focus is on the customer.”
Long-Term Career Prospects
None of this would be possible without Salamander Pumps’ superior staff. It is clear talking with Robertson how important people are to the business, and that each recruitment is a long-term commitment for the company.
“We’ve got a fairly low turnover of staff with people who’ve been here for years. But we also do a lot of work with apprentices,” Robertson says. “We work with local universities to bring graduates in marketing, engineering and design into the business. One of the key things we do is invest in our people with training and development through coaching and giving people a progression path through the business.”
The level of commitment Salamander Pumps puts into its staff may seem unusual in an age where the “job for life” is almost a mythical concept.
“It’s almost commonplace now for people to move jobs every three or four years, but we invest and promote our people through a set career path,” Robertson says. “A great example of that is at the moment we have just promoted our marketing manager, Claire, and she’s sitting on the board meetings and is on the journey to be a director at Salamander within ten years. She’s worked through the business with the career objective of being a board director. We’ve brought in apprentices who are now design engineers on our research and development team.”
The point, Robertson says, is not just that Salamander invests in its people, but that it gets to know them.
“We have a fantastic culture and great internal relationships. I know it’s a cliché, but we have that family feeling,” he says proudly. “I know everyone’s name on the shop floor, and that type of culture helps build loyalty and helps keep our staff turnover low as well.”
Robertson himself is relatively new to Salamander Pumps, having only joined the business in March, but listening to him talk, you can already tell he is filled with admiration for the company.
“It’s been growing for several years and continues to grow. My background is very much in product development and that’s where our focus is right now,” Robertson says. “We have a strong roadmap, a strong research and development team, and we’re introducing more product management.
Throughout all of this, we’re putting the customer first.”