By Donna Kreutz
A.S. Baker patented the first well pump in 1876. By the 1930s, the company he co-founded was manufacturing well supplies of every description. Today, the Baker Manufacturing Company operates four plants, with a total of 325,000 square feet. Baker products are used on every continent, including Antarctica.
“Our most recent patent is for a high-efficiency spool that works with our pitless well unit to use less energy and reduce turbulence as it boosts the well-water flow from a vertical to a horizontal direction, into the house or water treatment facility,” said Jonathan Klumpp, who began working for Baker in 2007. “Baker was the inventor and originator of both the pitless well unit and the pitless booster. The pitless unit, for those unfamiliar with it, attaches to the top of the well to make the 90-degree transition from the vertical to the horizontal plane while keeping the well sanitary and protected from frost and freezing conditions.
“While we aren’t a huge company, we do have a very wide range of products (including simple well and domestic water accessories such as fittings, wire splice kits, pitless adapters and pressure switches) in our residential lines. We do custom orders and turnkey booster packages for municipal applications. Our industrial line offers lead-free, NSF/ANSI 61- and NSF/ANSI 372-certified pitless units and boosters for wells from six to 40 inches (15 to 101 centimeters) in diameter with bury depths from two to 20 feet (0.609 to 6.09 meters). We’re currently developing equipment to access much deeper well sets.”
The Baker monitor booster stations can increase line pressure for flowrates ranging from five to 5,000 gpm (18.9 to 18,927 L/m). Additions to pitless boosters can accommodate flowrates as high as 30 million GPD (113 million LPD). “The vast majority of our products are distributed and used in North America, with a much smaller presence in the international market.”
The Baker Water Systems Division encompasses four brands: Baker Residential, Monitor Industrial, Monoflex and Campbell Manufacturing (acquired in 2008). The Monoflex division is the leading manufacturer of products for environmental monitoring and remediation, mineral exploration and irrigation. Baker also includes the Haight Pump Division (formerly Haight Pump Company, acquired in 1977), which produces gear pumps and the Baker Casting Division, which pours gray and ductile iron castings. The foundry has been in operation since 1874 and is the foundation from which many of the Baker products stem.
Wide-ranging water industry experience
“Since starting with Baker, I have been Sales Engineer, Haight Pump Territory Manager, Monitor Industrial Division Manager and now Product Specialist for both Monitor and Haight. I did take a break from Baker for two and a half years to go to work for our Australian Haight Pump distributor but I was working with Baker products almost daily. Given that opportunity, there was no way I’d turn this down. We sold the house, the cars and moved the whole family, including the dog, when my son was seven months old. We lived in a small beach community in New South Wales two hours south of Brisbane. We were in Ballina (which is pronounced ‘Bal-lin-a’). I don’t gamble much but I do gamble on myself. It was an absolutely amazing experience.”
After returning to the US and working for Baker in Washington state, the lure of the ocean was too great. “We relocated to Florida where I work from my home to better service a number of the Haight clients in the area.”
Klumpp’s first exposure to the challenges of the water treatment industry was as a student at Michigan Technological University. “For my senior design project in electrical engineering, a fellow student and I were tasked with developing a leak detection system for municipal water pipes. The basic premise was using sound waves and mathematical correlations between two listen points to determine the approximate location of a leak.”
At the time he graduated “very few people were getting hired.” It was during the recession that followed the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Klumpp worked a variety of unrelated jobs, including retail sales and grinding knee-brace components, then in the automotive industry, before applying at Baker. “They were looking for a sales engineer with PLC controls experience and a sales background. I interviewed with them and a month later was moving to Wisconsin.” It turned out to be a very good fit.
More water reuse, desalination, efficient irrigation
“This is a dynamic and challenging industry. Among the challenges are environmental regulations, pushed by situations like the Flint, MI water crisis. All our pitless units and booster stations are lead free. One of the changes we’ve made is visually apparent. Our domestic pitless adapters are made of bronze—there used to be a little bit of lead but we took that out, so now they are a duller color. I was at a national groundwater show in Las Vegas and was asked about the change in color. It’s simply because we changed the product formulation.
“My personal opinion is that the water industry is going to keep changing to reflect our evolving understanding of the interconnection of ground and surface waters. As we are all aware, water is essential for life as we know it. No water, no life; simple and straightforward. As we learn more about the balance and interaction between surface and groundwater, the industry will need to adapt. Places that have been under very heavy strain from drought conditions have had far less surface water to depend on and have had to resort to greater use of groundwater resources. Unfortunately this has had other consequences. Surface water recharges groundwater, so by continued drought and groundwater pumping, we are essentially double-dipping. As a start, I think we are likely going to see a great deal more water reuse, desalination and more efficient methods of irrigation. There will be change and some of it may be difficult, but in the end worthwhile, because it will secure a lasting solution for our water needs.”
With a history that dates back 144 years, Baker is ever adaptable. After all, the company has survived World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Great Recession and many more challenges. For 72 of those years, until 1975, Baker family members headed this business with a “diverse and intriguing” corporate culture.
“The business has had to change with the times, offering different products at different moments in history. We have had to sell off components of the business or buy additional businesses to cope with the changing markets. In our long history, we have offered a little bit of everything: water well pumps, windmills to power them, farm equipment, iron castings, military equipment, children’s toys, oil jack pumps and numerous other products. Some of these things we still make, many we have moved away from. The bottom line is the owners and employees have buckled down and taken a hit financially from time to time when things got lean. We changed products and offerings to reflect the demands of the times. And when times were good, we had to capitalize on the opportunities presented.”