May 2021 Pulse: Industrial Brush Sector

In our May/June issue of Brushware we took the opportunity to catch up with three key players in the industrial brush industry to get their insights on the sector.

Michelle Swiniarski: Schaefer Brush / Gornell Brush

What has been your best-performing product over the past 12 months?

Product category sales heightened as they related to the cleaning industry. Brushes related to the MRO industrial sector skyrocketed with the increased cleaning practices required during the height of the pandemic. What made this a challenge during the pandemic was securing raw materials, while various businesses were navigating the challenges of being able to operate and ship, while everyone operated under different business operating rules during this past year.

Michelle Swiniarski, Schaefer Brush and Gornell Brush

Any underperforming segments in the past 12 months?

Sales dropped at the beginning of the pandemic as non-essential businesses around the country were closed and medical facilities focused on the COVID-19 virus and training their staff. Our product lines that were related to HVAC took a dip during the pandemic with businesses and residences locked down. Our custom brush category was also down as businesses shut.

How would you characterize your current volume of overall sales?

Schaefer Brush and Gornell Brush sales are extremely strong, and businesses are opening back up and resuming ordering. There is a large backlog of need as businesses open and return to servicing their customers. We are not seeing seasonal sales for items that would typically have low/high sales depending upon the time of the year. Businesses are restocking as quickly as they are able and placing repeat orders rapidly.

What is your 12-month outlook?

We anticipate very strong sales as the world reopens and begins normal operations. The trend of increased cleaning product sales may become the norm as businesses continue to adjust to the new normal and realize the value of sustaining the cleaning practices learned this past year.

Biggest challenges over the past year and any current issues?

This past year was a challenge in shifting production schedules and raw material purchases to meet high demand in product categories that excelled during the pandemic. It was also a challenge at times keeping up with the changing information as it related to protocols and cleaning regimens at the onset of the pandemic. We kept open communications with our employees as information was received and held question and answer sessions, so everyone was comfortable and knowledgeable as we faced ever-changing work environments.

Any final comments?

We are excited about 2021 and beyond. We look forward to meeting with our customers again and are grateful for their business and support. We are thankful that we were able to support so many of our customers as we all navigated this exceptionally challenging past year together. We look forward to seeing everyone again and are enthusiastic about the business growth ahead.

More information on Schaefer Brush and Gornell Brush.

Jim Benjamin: Precision Brush Company

What has been your best-performing product over the past 12 months?

We started out last year pretty strong. We mostly concentrate on custom products, which is a good thing. The one thing that has been steady all long is food processing brushes. Everybody still needs to eat. We are seeing a little bit more of a trend toward automation – companies trying to take out labor, whether it’s cleaning or scrubbing or processing. It’s been happening over time, but we’ve had a few more projects interested in that. Especially here recently as there’s been talk about increased minimum wages.

Any underperforming segments in the past 12 months?

I know a lot of the floor cleaning guys got hit hard from the schools being closed and large events and airports … things that need to be cleaned every day like casino floors. We’ve done a lot in oil and gas and I imagine that’s probably going to be a little bit less this year with the cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline. We haven’t seen the repercussions yet, but I imagine that will change a lot of things in deburring and the wire brush industry.

Jim Benjamin, Precision Brush

What is your 12-month outlook?

We’re not projecting substantial growth. Last year, we were down a couple of percent over 2019, which I look at as a grand success compared to being in the restaurant industry or running a movie theater or any other business that was just completely decimated by the virus. This year, we’re starting out on average about the same as we were last year. It may be a little bit lower, but I think the economy is going to be coming back with all the spending that’s happening. But I also feel like that could be a little bit inflationary. We’ve also been seeing inflationary pressures on our raw materials more so than in the past.

I don’t see a major change up or down. I think it’s going to be a fairly steady year, which again, I consider as a huge success in these times

Biggest challenges over the past year and any current issues?

Hiring workers. We’ve had a pretty good run of success in hiring and the people we have are happy and we’re happy with them and they’re compensated well. But bringing in new people is probably a bigger challenge now than it’s ever been with all of the government assistance that workers or potential workers have for not working. This is probably the driest market we’ve ever seen for hiring.

The one thing about almost every brush company … it really is a small industry, so for somebody that gets into it, there’s room to be able to do a number of different things and become an expert in different manufacturing processes or move up in a small company faster than you could in a larger company. There are obviously repetitive tasks in making brushes, but if someone’s willing to really make a career out of it, most companies have that capability to take someone that’s young and start them in the shipping department and move up to manufacturing and then supervising or management. I would imagine it’s a quicker path than most larger companies can offer.

Any final comments?

It’s a fairly cohesive industry and people get along fairly well. It’s been sort of a shame to not get together with the group this year. I really miss that. Although we are competitors, we are also friends. There’s always something to be gained and shared when we get together. Whether it’s sharing struggles or hiring techniques or just finding out how everybody’s family is doing. It’s really just a lovely group of people and it’s been a shame to not be able to get together. I’m really looking forward to that in the future.

More information on Precision Brush.

Lance Cheney: Braun Brush

What has been your best-performing product over the past 12 months?

Automotive detailing by far.

Any underperforming segments in the past 12 months?

Foodservice and hospitality as is to be expected.

Lance Cheney, Braun Brush

How would you characterize your current volume of overall sales?

Off slightly for the 12 months trailing. We are noticing an uptick now. There is pent-up demand and overall improvement in the marketplace.

What is your 12-month outlook?

I am optimistic. A further return to “normal” will improve business overall. Historically if we look at the pandemic of the early 1900’s it was replaced by the roaring ’20s. My hope is that we see this reaction again.

Biggest challenges over the past year and any current issues?

Keeping morale up and focusing on the long term.

Any final comments?

We did take on some large projects, thinking that we would be much slower than we were. We upgraded our ERP system to Global Shop Systems and built a new factory in Oregon, which just opened last week.

COVID-19

Current Issue

MAY/JUNE 2021

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