We recently had a Q&A session with an inspiring entrepreneur, Andrew Clark, Founder and President of Keystone Pumps, a North American manufacturer of heavy duty industrial slurry pumps. With over 20-years in the pump industry, Andrew not only designs high quality pumps for tough applications, he was one of the first to create a Slurry Pump Selection App and compile a 150-page hardcover book, titled “The Slurry Pumps Reference Guide”.
Q: How did you get started in the pump industry?
I grew up in a ‘small business’ family. My grandfather was an electrical contractor, my uncle was an electrician, and my father owned his own commercial refrigeration company, so I started working with my father when I was 12 years old. From a very young age, I grew up wiring houses, wiring commercial buildings, installing walk-in coolers, fixing refrigerators and other large pieces of equipment. I went to BCIT for mechanical engineering, and the day I graduated, my grandfather said, “You’re going to come work for me!” So I had a job the day after I graduated (::laughs::) It wasn’t long after that I got a call out of the blue from a pump company – Industrial Pumps & Mixers. The gentleman there asked me to submit my resume and come in for an interview. The day of the interview, he made me an offer to start right away, matching my current salary at that time, and that’s how I got started as an Application Engineer. In school, I had spent an entire semester learning how to select pumps – many schools don’t do this anymore (dedicate entire semesters to pumps), but I had learned a great deal about pumps and fans, so this job at Industrial Pumps & Mixers was a good fit. From there, I got head hunted to another pump distributor, and then moved to Toyo (a pump manufacturer). I worked for Toyo for 5 years doing design work, learning how to design bearing housings, doing hydraulic design, and then worked for Sulzer after that. Then one day, I realized I was an “intrapreneur” internally within that company, helping that company to grow, and I realized that I could start my own company. It was like, one day, I just decided ‘I’m starting my own company’. My upbringing was in an entrepreneurial family, so if they could do it, I could do it. I decided to go back to school, take evening classes at night to get my Bachelors of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management, and it was very natural for me to start my own company. Not to say there haven’t been struggles, but when you see growth happening, it just keeps you going, and that you will win in the end!
Q: What was the motivation for developing the Pump Selection App and compiling the Pump Reference Guide?
I really wanted to get the knowledge out there. The generation that is retiring has so much knowledge but for the most part has not passed on all of the info to the younger generation, and there is a tangible knowledge gap in the industry. When I work with an end user or an engineering firm, I would typically review calculations and help them find the best pumps for their applications, providing that extra support. What I found over the years was that these technical people don’t always have all of the correct information to make good pump selections. So having this guide will help people more properly select a slurry pump for a pumping system. And I’m not reinventing the wheel here – this is info from 5 different books, data given by great pioneers, all these amazing people who’ve spent their life’s work doing this. I’ve just compiled it and repackaged in a way that people can access and use the info – this is why the iPhone App follows the same procedures as in the book. I kept giving my customers all the calculations, so I thought, you know, everyone should really have access to this information. I want to educate people to make the best pump selection possible, and my app doesn’t hide any calculations. If you look at my app, it gives you every little detail to show you how the calculations are being made, so you can check it with manual calculations and confirm it’s correct. What I find in the field is that problems are often system-related. I’m finding that the system wasn’t always calculated properly and pumps were misapplied in the application. So that’s why we came up with the app and the book – to help people perform all the necessary system calculations and make the right pump selection for their system.
Q: What advice would you give to a young or new person entering the pump industry?
Here’s what I would advise to new or young people – Imitate. Emulate. Innovate. When you’re first starting out, you imitate. I was lucky to have a great mentor. Great mentors can be challenging to work with, but if you keep your head down, listen, and ask lots of questions, you learn a lot. Imitate the amazing people and analyze what they do. After that, when you get more experience, and have a better grasp of the basics, you emulate and start to do the work without asking questions. And then when you get more experienced, you innovate. Like now, I’m doing stuff that hasn’t been done before. I’m designing very high quality slurry pumps in much quicker time frames. I use my proprietary pump design program to design impellers, casings, propellers, diffusers, all that, and what used to take me 2 to 3 weeks to design an impeller is now automated and only takes me a few hours. I can design a pump casing in a day when it used to take me a whole week. So my advice would be to encourage innovation. Innovation is important for driving progress forward.
We want to thank you, Andrew, for your contributions to the Pumping Community.