SUSSEX – Though some international trade deals are uncertain right now, New Brunswick’s Easy Kleen is optimistic about its future as an exporter.
The industrial pressure washer company was founded in Sussex in 1982 by Fred Howland after he secured a contract to provide pressure washers for Base Gagetown.
“He came up with the name Easy Kleen at the kitchen table,” says Fred’s son and Easy Kleen’s current president Brad Howland. “I remember I was 17 at the time and I remember all the details and helping him build the machines for the first order.”
“We started selling a brand of machine from the U.S. and my father said, ‘well, we should just build them here.’ So we started building one at a time and we’d go out on the road and sell them and we’d come back and build some more. We traveled around the Maritimes and sell them, one at a time, two at a time. We’d just travel the Maritimes in the 80s.”
In 2018, Easy Kleen has over 80,000 square foot facility with around 80 employees, all its pressure washers are manufactured on location.
“We have our own equipment here that processes the metal. We bring raw metal steel into the factory. We buy our steel mostly in Canada, but our pipe we import from Turkey and stainless steel from Asia,” says Howland. “We then cut it and bend it into different shapes and forms and we weld it and we paint it. We have over 300 frames that we build for different applications.”
Howland describes Easy Kleen customers as any business that accumulates dirt, whether it be groceries stores or mining giants.
“Numerous industries use our product. They’re used in cleaning. They’re used to clean heavy equipment, from cars, trucks, big heavy mining equipment,” says Howland.
“They’re used in refineries, mines, aquaculture, food processing plants, farming, basically anybody that has any equipment or business usually has a pressure washer. As long as it generates some sort of dirt, which is most businesses.”
About 40 to 50 per cent of Easy Kleen’s business is through exporting internationally. Much of its global exports are to the United States, but the company also sends machines to China, Australia, Dubi, Israel, Pakistan, Peru, Mexico, Guam and Kenya.
Easy Kleen’s big customers like John Deer, Peterbilt Trucks and big mining companies order from the company direct, but its pressure washers are also available through retail distributors.
“We do a lot of private label work too. We make machines for other companies like Napa [Auto Parts],” says Howland. “We sell through Home Depot, Wal-Mart, you can buy our machine online from those companies.”
The trade conditions between Canada and the United States are up in the air with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) being re-negotiated. But no matter the results, Howland says Easy Kleen still plans to be competitive.
“We’re always prepared for whatever could happen. You have to be in business. You have to be prepared for the sky to fall,” he says.
“NAFTA, from what I’m told, will cost three to four per cent to send our product to the U.S. That will be coming off our bottom line because we’ll have to absorb the cost to be competitive and keep our competitive edge.
“Then again, when they bring products over here to Canada, they will have to pay the same. So we’ll be more competitive in Canada.”
Though politics and international agreements can make things uncertain, Howland is very optimistic about Easy Kleen’s future overall.
“Our factory is here and we have the whole world to sell to. We don’t have a territory or anything that’s hindering us other than when we look in the mirror in the morning. That’s really the only hindrance we have because that’s what makes us go or stop,” he says. “If you’re a manufacturer and you’re competitive and you have a good product, you got the whole world to sell to and that’s what you should be doing.”