Totalizing Fluid Meters and Counting Devices

SIC 3824

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing meters for registering or tallying quantities of fluids, motor vehicle measuring instruments, and instruments for counting the frequency of items or events. This category includes establishments that manufacture domestic, commercial, and industrial gas and water meters; meters for measuring speed, distance traveled, and other variables for the motor vehicle industry; and counters and timers for quantifying production rates in industrial processes. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing electricity integrating meters and electronic frequency counters are classified in SIC 3825: Instruments for Measuring and Testing of Electricity and Electrical Signals. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing flow meters for industrial process control and other industrial process instruments are classified in SIC 3823: Industrial Instruments for Measurement, Display, and Control of Process Variables and Related Products.

The U.S. totalizing fluid meter and counting devices manufacturing industry rebounded somewhat in 2010 following the economic downturn of the late 2000s. That year, annual revenues reached $6.0 billion. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. establishments that manufactured totalizing fluid meters and counting devices had shipped only $4.9 billion worth of products in 2009, down from $5.5 billion the previous year. Total industry employment stood at 12,384 in 2009, which also represented a decrease from 2008, when 13,601 people were employed by the industry. Of all employees, about 59 percent were production workers earning a total payroll of almost $300 million.

Totalizing fluid meters measure fluids in quantity terms (such as gallons or cubic feet) and indicate total fluid volume rather than the rates of flow indicated by the flow meters used in industrial process control. The most common type of totalizing fluid meter is the positive displacement meter, which operates by allowing the fluid to enter a chamber where the force of fluid motion causes a diaphragm, disk, vane, or other element to move or rotate. Each cycle of the rotating or moving element generates a signal that is sent to the registering component of the meter, which tallies or indicates the total fluid quantity.

Small positive displacement meters used for registering consumption of water in households or businesses have traditionally been the largest product type in the integrating and totalizing fluid meter segment, followed by meters for registering residential gas consumption. Other significant product groups in this segment include registering or totalizing gas meters for commercial or industrial use, impeller meters and consumption-registering rotary and turbine gas meters, gauges for computing pressure and temperature corrections in industrial processes, and liquid meters used in industrial bulk plants and pipelines.

Fueled by the needs of the process control industry beginning in the 1980s, fluid meter technology began to evolve at a dramatic pace, offering enormous improvements in reliability, accuracy, and range of measurable flow rates. Several important new flow measurement technologies were most likely to have an impact on the totalizing fluid meter industry. These included the use of "nonintrusive" measuring devices that do not change the characteristics of the fluids they measure; improved meter maintenance performance through advanced diagnostic techniques; a trend toward solid state meters with no moving parts; and perhaps even the eventual replacement of the traditional meter itself by pipes that contain their own measuring sensors. In the mid-2000s, meters for gas and liquids accounted for approximately 31 percent ($1.32 billion) of the industry's shipment values.

In the mid- to late 2000s, 60 percent of the industry's shipment values were derived from the motor vehicle instrument sector, which produced speedometers, tachometers, odometers, fuel level gauges, water temperature gauges, ammeters, oil pressure gauges, and other motor vehicle instruments. Most of these products are installed in new vehicles. Customers dealing with this segment of the industry often are large automotive suppliers that provide vehicle manufacturers with subassemblies, such as dashboards complete with instruments, ready for installation. The motor vehicle instruments segment is expected to grow in accordance with the increases in the worldwide demand for vehicles, and with the development of integrated electronic digital controls.

Counters and timers, which accounted for approximately 10 percent of shipment values, are used in a wide variety of manufacturing applications and typically indicate how many items have been fed into a machine, how fast a machine is operating, how many items have been produced, how long it will take to perform a process, or what time a specific event will occur.

The value of imports and exports in this industry did not show the huge gap that many U.S. manufacturing industries had come to know. U.S. imports of totalizing fluid meters and counting devices were worth $442.7 million in 2010, whereas exports totaled $418 million. Imports were received from 66 countries, and exports were shipped to 149 countries.

Firms in six states--California, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas--accounted for 25 percent of the industry's shipment values in the late 2000s. Leading companies in this industry in the early 2010s included Elster American Meter Company; Badger Meter Inc.; and Dresser Inc.

Badger Meter Inc., located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had 2010 sales of $276.6 million and employed about 1,300 people. In 2006, the company enjoyed double-digit increases in sales of their Orion proprietary radio frequency automatic meter reading (AMR) system for the utility residential market. In the early 2010s, water meters represented their largest segment. Located in Nebraska City, Nebraska, Elster American Meter (formerly American Meter), a subsidiary of the Elster Group, was founded in 1836 and manufactured natural gas meters, regulators, shutoff devices, filters, test equipment, and accessories. Another industry leader, Dresser, Inc. of Addison, Texas, makes flow control products (valves, actuators, and the like for oil and gas exploration), measurement systems (gas pumps and point of sale terminals for gas stations and convenience stores), and power systems. With 6,300 employees, revenues for Dresser reached $2.0 billion in 2010. The following year, Dresser was purchased by General Electric for around $3.0 billion.

Other significant companies in the industry included Houston, Texas-based Daniel Measurement and Control, a division of Emerson Electric; Engineering Measurements Company of Irvine, California; the Foxboro Company of Foxboro, Massachusetts; and the Milton Roy Company/Flow Control Division in Warminster, Pennsylvania

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