Thanks to Badger Meter, the neighborhood meter reader has gone the way of the iceman. The Milwaukee-based company was the first to introduce automatic meter reading (AMR) by putting radios on water meters in 1988. Badger Meter, which generated revenues of $268 million in 2008, has installed more AMR systems in North America than any other company, accounting for fully one-quarter of all such systems.
Revenues: $279.5 million
Ticker: BMI (NYSE)
What It Does: Makes commercial and residential water meters that can be read off premises; also makes similar products for industrial applications
That’s not all that makes the 104-year-old company unique. “Badger is the only independent water meter company in North America,” says president and CEO Rich Meeusen. “All of our competitors are either subsidiaries of larger companies or owned by private equity firms, and every one of our competitors has changed hands in the last eight years. Our products cost a little more, but they last longer, the quality’s better, and the technology’s better.”
Under Meeusen’s leadership, Badger Meter manufactures flow measurement and control products for water utilities, municipalities, and industrial customers worldwide. Badger’s major manufacturing facilities are in Milwaukee and Oklahoma; it also has plants in Germany, Mexico, and the Czech Republic, as well as sales offices in Singapore, Slovakia, and Mexico City.
Badger Meter’s meters are used to measure water consumption for residential and commercial use. This market comprises 85 percent of its output. It also produces flow measurement and control technology for a variety of industrial niche markets.
When Meeusen joined Badger Meter as vice president of finance in 1995, the company primarily resold another firm’s AMR system. Determined to minimize the company’s dependence others, Meeusen reinvented Badger Meter as a designer, developer, and marketer of its own AMR products.
In 2003, Badger Meter, working with a German company, introduced the Orion radio-frequency AMR technology. Badger Meter has the rights to North America; its partner has the European rights. Today, the Orion is the most widely distributed product of its kind in the utility industry.
Last year, Badger introduced the Galaxy metering system. “This network metering technology will allow us to sell water meters that don’t require you to drive by in order to read them,” Meeusen says.