Industry: Built Environment
Products: Faucets, Plumbing Fixtures
Ray Fisher Jr. finds success by bringing green manufacturing and efficient designs to his family’s business of making faucets and plumbing fixtures.
Fisher Manufacturing began business back in 1936 as a brass foundry. In the 1950’s it began providing specialized plumbing fixtures for the food service, swimming pool, and landscape sprinkler industries. By the early 1960’s, the company had developed its own plumbing product line. That led to closing down the foundry in 1971 in order to concentrate on further developing the faucets and plumbing fixtures that have made them a top name in commercial plumbing systems, worldwide.
Ray Fisher Jr. is now the president of the company that was founded by his grandfather and great grandfather. "The pillars of our product extend back to what my family thought was important," says Fisher. "Those revolved around durability, environmental issues, our processes and packaging, efficiency, and the adaptability of our products." Expanding on those ideas, Fisher emphasizes that the quality of the product begins with their casting process. "We have higher wall thickness castings, but we also manufacture and machine our products a little differently than the competition," says Fisher.
Environmental issues are important to the company, not surprising given how Fisher products manage the flow of water. For starters, harmful chemicals are removed in the manufacturing processes. "We test our products using recycled water," says Fisher. "We’re also looking at our packaging, finding ways we can have less of an impact on the environment. For example, we’ve gotten rid of shrink wrap, and gone to corrugated, because the corrugated is recyclable." The company even has preserved a section of undeveloped land they own in Tulare, California in order to promote the seepage of clean rainwater back into the ground.
Fisher explained that they also find efficiencies in the company’s commercial products, not necessarily with faucets that use less water, but creating products that flow faster to save time and money. "If you’re making soup for a thousand people at once with a low-flow aerator, and you’re trying to fill ten kettles that each hold one hundred gallons, it would take five years to fill those kettles. We have product that will flow fifty gallons of water a minute out at 60-PSI, because you need a really high flow of water.
"In other cases, we have a pre-rinse unit that gives 1.15 gallons per minute, and we use a special spray pattern to clean off product, and that means we’re using less water, less hot water, and less energy. In addition, because it cleans fast, the operator doesn’t have to stand there for long." He further points out the company’s specialized faucets designed for using less water for washing hands too.
Being able to meet customers’ needs quickly is important and Fisher Manufacturing maintains that adaptability through a product inventory mix and acumen that allow them to respond to special demands. "We’re setup to do things very fast" says Fisher. "We can assemble them and get those customized products out the door." The product assembly at Fisher is primarily done by hand, as their broad product mixed with relatively low volumes does not justify the initial cost of integrating robotic methods.
Fisher Manufacturing sells to representatives through two divisions, one specializes in the food service industry, and another for more traditional plumbing needs. The company’s distribution network has allowed for relatively easy introduction of new products over the years as the representatives are simply able to provide their clients with more choices from their portfolios.
The company enjoys fairly even demand for its products throughout the year, and has avoided the cash flow problems created by steep peaks and valleys in business. "Our purchasing is very stable, our manpower issues are very stable, and so we don’t really have any issues. We don’t have any outstanding loans. We run the company strictly off cash flow," says Fisher.
Challenges: Meeting government requirements poses challenges for Fisher Manufacturing, as they do for any other business, especially in California. "You would think for a faucet, there wouldn’t be too much government interference, but there is," says Fisher. "You would be surprised at how many codes and standards pertain to faucets, and they’re always changing."
Opportunities: Continued evolution and expansion of its product mix and market spread have allowed Fisher's products to be used in more businesses and industries. Fisher’s products are now found in everything ranging from restaurant sinks to autopsy tables.
Needs: "We need ideas coming in to the company," says Fisher. "Our needs are always going to be finding out what’s the next 'best thing' out there, and how do we manufacture that."
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