Power Zone’s History by Trevor Toews
History of Power Zone Equipment, Inc.
By Trevor Toews / Co-founder
Like most family-founded businesses in this great country, Power Zone Equipment, Inc. had small beginnings. In 1999, my father and I set up office in a renovated two-car garage at our residence near Center, CO. Across the field, we hauled in a used rail car and set up a limited workshop while we looked for a place to build a better facility. Drawing from Dad’s past experience in managing similar businesses in Canada, and my enthusiasm to learn the trade, we began hunting the country for opportunities to buy equipment. Our vision from the start was to help companies get some value out of their surplus equipment, then repurpose that inventory to suit our customer’s applications, at a lower cost and faster than their option of buying new equipment. We held honesty and integrity in high regard, and in that framework looked for opportunity. The values of the company have always been faith-based, and we honor God as our ultimate Director.
Following our noses to countless bone yards, auction sales, and forgotten oil leases, we started finding used pumps and engines. I never took a personal vacation with my dad without some fascinating side trip down a bumpy field road. Some of the first truckloads of equipment we brought home came from abandoned refineries in places like Ulysses, Kansas and Pampa, TX. Much of the dismantling was done by the two of us in those early days, and as I think about it, that may have been the last time I saw my father in coveralls!
As our inventory began to accumulate, we located a piece of ground north-west of Center, CO, where we could build a shop and office building. It was along the highway (US285) and there was plenty of room to grow. The first structure we completed in 2001 was only 2600 square feet, but worlds better than our garage/rail car combo to the south. Today, the original building makes up the front office of our facility.
It is difficult to buy and sell surplus equipment, and do so in a way that assures the customer he is spending his money on sound product, without offering inspection, repair, and other basic services. We quickly reached the point where we needed to hire some top-rate employees, and thus began an enriching and colorful relationship with the company’s Most Important Asset, our team.
As the team grew, so did our capabilities. We added a 6000-square-foot manufacturing shop in 2003, and started responding to the increasing requests from our customers for complete pump packages. Even though the “as-is” sales made up a large share of our business, we were enthused about the rebuilt equipment we were producing and took pride in the turn-key pumping systems that we completed. One of the major projects we manufactured on in 2004 was a 12’x40’ pumping platform that shipped to Egypt. International sales continued to increase from that time.
Early in the evolution of our procedures, we saw the need to test the finished pump packages as extensively as possible before they left our shop. We buried a 3000 gallon water tank underground and set up an outdoor test loop. This was the first of many different testing stations with various configurations we have assembled through the years. We still agree that the use of a robust test loop is the best way to ensure a pump is ready to run when it heads out to the field…
In 2007, we once again were running low on space for the level of production we had reached. One of our most pressing needs was increased machining capabilities, and more office space. We started another construction project that added 1600 square feet of office area and a 2700 square foot machine shop. We increased the incoming electric power capacity, which allowed us to purchase a second engine lathe, a large horizontal boring mill, and some other small machine tools.
Meanwhile, the inventory was also growing and we opened a second equipment yard a few miles away. We tooled up a better service truck. We purchased more and bigger fork lifts. We added overhead cranes, metal working machines, and a long row of covered pallet racking. In short, we were continually identifying bottlenecks and inefficiencies, and then finding solutions to make our processes flow more smoothly. Innovative ideas and remarkable skill from the team made it all possible.
Most years we were blessed with an abundance of worthwhile projects, fantastic customers, and interesting applications. There were also times when sales were slow, the market was tough, and we had to re-invent how we would respond to changing times. These challenging times gave us opportunities to take a close look at our efficiency, strengthen our capabilities, and organize. We also built pump packages on speculation during the slow times, which enabled us to respond quickly with complete pump packages when the market turned brisk again.
We saw a promising opportunity to rent pump packages from time to time, and focused on building a rental fleet with a wide range of capabilities. It was an excellent way to compliment pump sales, and the rental service we provide has grown to a substantial portion of our business.
The fourth major construction project commenced in 2011, when a row of mechanics bays were added to the east of the main shop. This provided a cleaner, more controlled environment for pump rebuilds to take place, and improved the flow and efficiency of our manufacturing and packaging process. Each bay was fully equipped with an overhead crane, and was designed for productivity and quality control.
Extensive improvements to our safety program were undertaken in 2011. We realized that, even though we held personal safety in high regard, we could do better. Since then, a culture of safety and health has remained our highest priority on the job.
Up to this time, all of the testing was still being done outdoors. In the summer time in Colorado, there is no place we would rather be than out in the fresh air, but in the winter time, it is a different story! Testing with water in sub-zero temperatures posed many challenges, and finally we had had enough. It was time to move the testing process indoors. Not only that, but we were also sandblasting outdoors on a partially-covered concrete pad. And our paint booth was too small, forcing us to paint some of the largest items out on the fabrication floor, which caused contamination problems, over-spray challenges, and a lot of all-night painting projects
Before the 2011 addition was even completed, we broke ground on our biggest construction project ever. The result was what we call the “BPT Facility”. It’s not a very exiting name, but there’s not a day goes by when we aren’t thankful that we can Blast, Paint, and Test in indoor, state-of-the-art conditions. It’s warmer, safer, environmentally friendly, and just more pleasant in every way. It also means the finished products are leaving our facility with top-quality paint coatings and fully monitored and documented test results.
Perhaps the most pivotal event in the history of Power Zone was the formation of the ESOP at the end of 2012. Dad and I were interested in developing a long term exit plan, and several things were very important to us. First we wanted to see the company continue to operate successfully for years to come. We also knew that selling the company to an outside buyer may result in a complete relocation of the operations. This meant our friends and employees would be faced with the painful decision between relocating and losing their jobs. We also felt like it was the team that deserved to benefit from a sale of the business. After much discussion and prayer, we decided to form an Employee Stock Ownership Plan and sell 100% of the company to those we knew would take the best care of it – our Team. This was made official on January 1, 2013, and marked the beginning of a fun and challenging culture change inside the company. The team encouraged each other to think like owners, debated about core values, and grew in understanding about what it means to manage a company. The result is increased productivity and a genuine concern about the outcome of the projects in every corner of the business.
Maybe we needed a big wash bay yet, or maybe it was just time for another construction project. In any case, in 2014 we built a wash bay long enough to park a full semi-truck and trailer inside. It features a closed loop wash water system, so there is zero-discharge into the septic system. All the water is recycled. The building is heated largely by solar energy, too!
Tales could be told of all that has happened in this great company. Amazing projects. Unforgettable events. People who gave 150% of themselves toward Power Zone’s success. Our facility is over 30,000 square feet now, and we still wish for more space! We have over 5000 major equipment items in inventory. Our doors have been open and the lights have been on for well over 4000 working days now, and plenty of nights in between! We have pumps operating in Singapore, Columbia, Nigeria, Madagascar, Turkmenistan, Italy and dozens of other exotic places. We’ve done 25,000 PSI and 4000 HP. We routinely seek and find innovative solutions that are outside the conventional box. The team has never been stronger. And in many ways, we are just getting started. We look forward to a bright and exciting future.