[Supplier Spotlight] Act Two

Features - Business Strategy

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote there are no second acts in American life. Don’t tell that to Cecil Patterson, president of B&G Equipment Company, who has burnished the image of a proud company through a customer-centric approach to equipment design.

November 30, 2012
Jeff Fenner

Legendary management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “Know and understand your customer so well that the product or service sells itself.” This theory summarizes exactly what B&G Equipment has been trying to do for nearly seven decades — develop and sell pest management professionals tools to make their work easier and more effective.

“The inventing is the fun part of the business but it’s not as easy as it looks from the outside,” said Cecil Patterson, president and CEO, B&G Equipment, Jackson, Ga. “A good idea, in and of itself, isn’t enough.”

Patterson, who has been at the helm of one the industry’s oldest and largest equipment manufacturers for more than 15 years, said it requires an entire team of talented people — engineering, marketing and manufacturing — to take a product from the drawing board to a technician’s service vehicle.

The three parameters Patterson and his team work within when developing a new idea from scratch are the concept, the design and the manufacturing process. He said each must work together to create a product that is economically feasible — and that is not always easy.

“Manufacturers can come up with a great idea for a product but not know how to build it, or it may be too expensive to make,” said Patterson. “All the stakeholders in the process have to work together to create a product that is economically feasible, or it just won’t fly.”

Orchestrating this manufacturing symphony of ideas, process and results isn’t new to Patterson. In fact, he virtually grew up with the sound of equipment manufacturing ringing in his ears.

Patterson’s father, Cecil E. Patterson, was instrumental in the development of the current-day B&G Sprayer. The original sprayer was developed by Purdue University students Bill Brehm and Paul Gilmore in the 1940s. Cecil E. Patterson worked as a representative for Spraying Systems, which manufactured the B&G’s spraying components. He created a gun-type design, which was introduced on all B&G sprayers in 1964 (and is still in use today).

Working the Mid-Atlantic region as a representative for Spraying Systems, Patterson’s father knew the Brehm family well and was a frequent caller to B&G Equipment’s original offices outside of Philadelphia, and B&G was the company’s biggest customer at the time. (The company relocated to Jackson in 2003.)

Working with his father throughought high school and college, the mechanically oriented Patterson developed a liking for the manufacturing business and joined Spraying Systems as a technical sales representative.

“Spraying Systems is by far the leader in spray technology in the world and they know how to build good equipment,” said Patterson. “That is where I got all my experience.”

Eventually, Patterson took over his father’s territory and worked it for nearly a dozen years before spending a couple of years pursuing other interests. Then Patterson received a call from the current representative of Spraying Systems — B&G might be looking for new ownership. His gut told him exactly what direction to head.

“I’ve had two jobs in my lifetime: working for Spraying Systems and working for B&G Equipment,” said Patterson.

Vast Market Knowledge. If you talk with successful business executives, most will say experience is the best teacher, and B&G has several well-taught staff members working on its behalf. “We have long-established people with a lot of field experience like Dr. Claude Thomas and Dr. Bill Robinson,” said Patterson. “They’ll take ideas out in the field and get feedback. They don’t sugarcoat it.”

Video Tour of B&G

In the late 1940's, Bill Brehm and George Gilmore got together at Purdue University with one common goal, to design and construct a compressed air sprayer for the professional pest control market. That year they manufactured and sold six. Today, B&G occupies a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Jackson, Ga., with more than 85,000 square feet of manufacturing space. To learn more about B&G’s unique history, as well as its corporate philosophy, visit www.bgequip.com/HTML/about_us.html and take a video tour of the company’s manufacturing facilities.

Adhering to Peter Drucker’s quote on finding out what customers want, the eyes and ears of B&G’s staff, starting with Patterson, are always wide open and listening. “I’m always interested in talking to prospective customers, not just our own people internally,” said Patterson.

He pointed to customer feedback on the new Versaduster (see related story at the end of the article) at last year’s PestWorld convention, and how several suggestions he received on the show floor from PMPs were incorporated into the final design.

Another area Patterson feels strongly about is keeping the price of B&G’s products in line with what the market will pay. That means keeping price in mind from the start of the development and manufacturing process.

Veteran B&G Technical Director Robinson said Patterson’s first considerations when the development ideas start flying are the price of components and the features, which impact the price and affordability of any piece of equipment. “He wants it to work well and make the job of the technician easier but he wants it to be affordable,” added Robinson.

“You can invent anything in the world but if someone isn’t going to pay for it, there’s not much use to making it,” said Patterson. “People buy what they need, not what they want. That’s very, very important to remember.”

When asked what his most significant achievement has been during his 15-year tenure at B&G, Patterson points to fixing some design and quality control issues that were present when he took over. He is also proud of restoring the company’s reputation for building high-quality products.

“The products we put out today are of the highest quality and pest management professionals can rely on them to get the job done,” he said.

Under Patterson’s watch B&G also has diversified its revenue streams and grown globally. When Patterson arrived, 85 percent of the company’s sales were for sprayers and termite control equipment. Today, those two items represent less than 35 percent of the company’s business.

B&G has expanded into selling insect monitors, aerosol systems, dusters and rodent stations among an ever-growing and diverse product line. “We’re much more than just a company that makes compressed air sprayers,” said Patterson.

Diversification has led to success in overseas markets where B&G derives 25 percent of its business. An example of the acceptance of the company’s technology overseas is the Multi-Dose Bait Gun (see related story on page 78). Until its recent reengineering and re-launch in the U.S., 98 percent of sales were overseas, especially Asia and Europe.

“Both those markets saw the economics of a properly calibrated tool that gets everything out of 30-ounce tube of bait gel,” said Robinson, B&G’s technical director for the last 12 years.

In an industry that has seen technicians become increasingly versatile and multi-functional, B&G’s equipment must keep in step with the users of its products. Smaller, more portable and with the ability to track product usage and measure the true cost of a job in regard to materials used, are among the trends B&G and its competitors face.

“Building equipment that is of real value to PMPs is not easy,” said Patterson. “There is a lot of guesswork involved and you have to be a few years ahead of the market. In the past we had some doubters about the products we were introducing to the market, but that’s no longer the case today.”

Equipment Designed With a Purpose

B&G Equipment’s latest equipment and application innovations include a duster, multi-dose bait gun and the AccuSpray, which is a spin-off of its classic 1-gallon compressed air sprayer that fits on a technician’s tool belt. Like all its equipment, B&G has sought to create products that make technicians more efficient and their applications more effective.

PCT visited with Dr. Bill Robinson, technical director for B&G Equipment, to preview the equipment and to see how it will help technicians up their game when it comes to skilled application and problem solving.

Robinson, a former professor of entomology at Virginia Tech University, is also director of the Urban Pest Control Research Center in Christiansburg, Va. His years studying and observing thousands of insecticide applications in the United States and around the globe give Robinson a unique perspective on the needs of the industry’s front-line personnel.

“We want the equipment and application tools to enable the technician to look the customer in the eye and tell them they put the exact right amount of product, in the right spot and that their pest problem will be taken care of,” he said.

Robinson said the confidence in using the latest B&G products goes beyond ensuring exact amounts of products are applied correctly. He says it also gives customers peace of mind that unnecessary or over-application of pesticide was not performed within their home or office.

Robinson’s observations on the new lineup are as follows:

Versaduster: The Versaduster Kit and the Versafoamer Combo Unit (B&G Versafoamer and Portable Aerosol Sprayer) work off the same platform and B&G components, and are interchangeable. “It features a compressed air powered system and there are no moving parts to worry about. It’s always going to work,” said Robinson.

With dust applications making a revival among pest management professionals due to the rise in bed bug treatments, Robinson said the Versaduster helps amplify the message that dusts are still a viable treatment option, and not just for bed bugs. “We hope it will encourage technicians to think laterally and use dusts for other pests such as cockroaches,” he added.

  • The Versafoamer Combo Unit comes with two tanks: one to apply foam and the second to apply an aerosol spray. The Versaduster Kit can be used with this system to apply dust.
  • Technicians performing bed bug treatments only have to carry one unit that holds the tools for aerosol spray, surface spray, crack-and-crevice spray and dust applications.
  • The unit’s 40-foot hose allows the carrying case to stay in the middle of the room and the technician to reach virtually any corner, crack or crevice.
  • The Versaduster is also available as a stand-alone unit with a hand-carry compressor unit and can be used for bed bug and cockroach applications.
  • A 1-second application carries the same amount of dust every time and the dust flow can be regulated at the valve with an adjustment knob.

Accu-Spray Professional: The standard 1-gallon B&G Sprayer was the product that started it all. The Accu-Spray Professional is a smaller but just as effective version that can be carried in a technician’s hand, the firm says.

Robinson said the idea for developing the product had come up often throughout the years as pest management professionals voiced some concern about taking the 1-gallon sprayer into a home or office due to consumer questions over pesticide exposure.

“This started our wheels turning and asking, ‘What can we give them?’” said Robinson. “The design fits well into the reduced pesticide use mindset and is what PMPs have been asking for.”

  • The 16-ounce aluminum bottle fits in a pouch on a technician’s tool belt and offers virtually the same attributes as the standard 1-gallon B&G sprayer.
  • The pressure is the same as in the 1-gallon sprayer and it uses the same no-drip, accurate Extenda-ban valve and nozzle with a coiled hose.
  • Allows for precision treatment in tight spaces since sensitive accounts only may require a few ounces of spray on a surface or in a crack or crevice.
  • Helps the technician maintain a professional image in both residential and commercial accounts.

Multidose Bait Gun: Gel baits are a mainstay of a pest management professional’s ant and cockroach control arsenal — they are reliable, offer high efficacy and can be used in a wide variety of accounts.

One of the keys to a successful baiting program is the consistent delivery of the product. The technician making the application needs to be consistent with every trigger-pull. B&G Equipment’s solution to the baiting challenge is the new and improved Multidose Bait Gun.

A properly calibrated bait gun will save pest control companies money (as much as a $1,000 per technician annually) and improve the effectiveness of their treatments, according to Robinson.

  • Constructed of high-impact plastic and steel, the Multi-Dose Bait Gun is both light (8 ounces vs. the original 13 ounces) and durable. A holster secures the gun on the technician’s belt.
  • A simplified dose setting makes it easier for technicians to match the gel bait product with the delivery setting. Simply set the dial for the size of the bait placement and pull the trigger. Placing bait inside cracks and crevices can be consistent and without waste.
  • Greater accuracy in application is achieved with every pull of the trigger since placements are the same size. The adjustment knob can be set for a range of sizes (0.2, 0.25, 0.4 and 0.5 grams), and remains locked in place regardless of the product used or technician.

The author is a frequent editorial contributor to PCT magazine. He can be reached at jfenner@giemedia.com.