Don Camp, Jr. is the president of Western Power Products, one of the three businesses owned and operated by the Camp brothers. In addition to Western Power Products, these include farming operations, which is overseen by Edwin Camp, and Kern Machinery, the John Deere dealership group, run by Clayton Camp.
Western Power Products distributes diesel engines manufactured by Deere & Co. across a broad range of industries and applications. It’s an operation that has surprisingly found a significant level of synergy with the Camps’ other businesses.
While the engines are retailed by dealers, today, nearly 80% of the distributor’s sales go to OEMs. In addition to providing diesel engines for marine applications, Western Power also services industries ranging from asphalt and concrete to generator sets. But it’s the agriculture applications where the distributor works in collaboration with the other Camp businesses.
With Kern Machinery’s penchant for product development to solve specific customer challenges (See “Product Development Ties Customers to Kern Machinery”), the engine business fits right in, says Don Camp.
“We’re providing engines for many specialty equipment manufacturers that produce almond and pistachio harvesters, orchard tree toppers and sprayers. Another big business for us is in the ag irrigation segment. We’re building irrigation power units that bring water to crops in a consistent and cost effective manner. We also provide power and water where there are no electric power lines, and with no utility ‘stand-by’ charges,” he says.
“While we run the companies as three separate and independent businesses, there are definitely some synergies and we try to take advantage of them.”
For example, Western Power and Kern Machinery have been working with Wonderful Orchards, one of the dealership’s customers. “We’re working together to provide their specific horsepower and other requirements for their large fleet of sprayers. Specifically, we’re repowering a number of their Air-O-Fan sprayers,” says Don. “We’re using our engineering expertise on the engine side, and Kern Machinery is providing all of the follow up in parts and service. We find this is good way to do business, especially with the dealership’s bigger customers because we can have better communication and focus on their specific needs.”
Where do Edwin and the Camp’s farming operations fit in? “Edwin on the farm always keeps us honest,” says Don. “He’ll say things like, hey guys, we really need to be lower to get under those tree branches, or we need to be narrower, or you really need more horsepower in this particular size. He’s good about always giving us the honest truth if we’re not quite hitting the mark with a solution.
“So I think our partnership between the three of us works well because we don’t pull any punches,” Don says. “We try to tell each other the way we see it and if it’s not right, it’s better to just face it than to say, ‘Oh yeah, everything’s fine’ and walk away. The partnership has been good and we’re working on additional projects, like telematics now, too.”