Briggs becomes big backup power market player

Briggs & Stratton Corp.

12301 W. Wirth St., Wauwatosa

Industry: Lawn and garden power equipment and related power equipment, backup power generation.

Employees: About 2,200 in Wisconsin, more than 6,000 around the world.

Briggs & Stratton Corp. is one of the Milwaukee area’s biggest manufacturing companies – and its presence in the metro area is hardly unknown. The company is one of the biggest names in lawn and garden equipment – making motors for virtually every brand of lawn mower and snowblower on the market today.

However, Briggs is not nearly as well known in the backup power market, although it has become a significant player. It makes a full line of portable power generation equipment for the residential and contractor markets, and a growing line of permanently installed standby generators for the residential and small commercial markets.

All of Briggs’ permanently installed standby power generators are made in its manufacturing plant at the intersection of North 124th and West Burleigh streets in Wauwatosa. Its product line ranges from models capable of producing between seven and 50 kilowatts per hour – making them capable of supplying enough power for a large home or small commercial business.

“There’s some crossover in large residential and light commercial,” said William Reitman, senior vice president of business development and customer support with the company. “When we look at our (areas of) focus for growth, our experience has been in the residential market and we want to grow our presence in the light commercial market. There are a huge range of commercial applications (our backup generators could fit into).”

Unlike its portable generators that are sold at home improvement retail stores, Briggs’ permanently installed backup generators are sold through a network of dealers, largely because they need to be professionally installed.

Briggs & Stratton is the market leader in portable power generators. It makes generators under its own brand name, as well as the Troybilt, Craftsman and Husky brand names. The company also makes permanent generators under its own brand name, and does some private label manufacturing for GE and Rheem.

Only about two percent of U.S. households have a permanently installed backup generator, Reitman said, and Briggs believes there is significant growth potential in the market.

“We believe in this as a long-term market space,” he said. “With the challenges in home construction, we’ve seen a little stagnation. But at the same time we’ve got new (product) offerings and are growing. We’ve gone from zero to 800 dealers in three years. We expect to see continued growth (in backup power). That’s why we have established ourselves in the market here and in other markets in the world.”

The majority of Briggs’ permanently installed generators are sold in North America. The company has exported a limited number of its units to Latin America, Europe and Australia.

Earlier this year, Briggs launched the new Symphony II, which it makes for GE. Briggs & Stratton holds a patent for the control systems that are part of the generator system.

The standby generator is capable of generating 13 kilowatts per hour, but its intelligent power management system allows it to power a home that would normally need a 20 kilowatt generator, Reitman said.

“This is a smaller item with a smaller footprint,” he said. “It’s more fuel efficient, and has a lowered cost of acquisition and operation.”

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