supply chain

“It’s like Disney World for engineers and contractors,” said one visitor on the tour. The Mechanical Hub team made a quick visit to Apple Valley, Minn., to visit Uponor North America as the company celebrated the grand opening of its newly constructed Uponor Experience Center with a “pipe-cutting” ceremony. The team was treated to a Read more

“It’s like Disney World for engineers and contractors,” said one visitor on the tour. The Mechanical Hub team made a quick visit to Apple Valley, Minn., to visit Uponor North America as the company celebrated the grand opening of its newly constructed Uponor Experience Center with a “pipe-cutting” ceremony.

Uponor, Uponor Experience Center, plumbing, piping, PEX piping, supply chain, contractors, engineers, plumbing contractors

Andres Caballero (fifth from left) performs the pipe cutting for the new Uponor Experience Center.

The team was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the new 4,500-sq.-ft. customer experience center, which features hands-on displays, full-scale residential and commercial training areas, and cutting-edge innovation showcases, and a place to bring MEP students from the area to get a taste of the trades. The new Uponor Experience Center is a flexible education and discovery space designed to advance the technical skills of current and potential customers. In addition, it will help foster innovation within the plumbing and HVAC industry and provide an immersive experience for employees and visitors alike.

Uponor, Uponor Experience Center, plumbing, piping, PEX piping, supply chain, contractors, engineers, plumbing contractors

Some displays mimicked true applications.

The new Uponor Experience Center occupies the company’s previous customer training area, which was originally built in 2000 and renovated in 2010. It is at the center of the North American headquarters campus, surrounded by corporate offices, an R&D facility, and manufacturing space.

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Andres Caballero thanks his staff for all of the hard work and dedication that went into planning and constructing the experience center.

“The opening of our new Uponor Experience Center signifies the importance we place on keeping the needs of our customers, employees, and key stakeholders top of mind as we continue our mission of becoming the global leader in sustainable water and energy solutions,” says Uponor North America President Andres Caballero. “The ‘X’, as our employees have begun to call it, is a culmination of our rich history and decades of innovation coming together to generate awareness and create enthusiasm for moving water more efficiently, effectively, and sustainably.”

With original concepts beginning back in 2020, the Uponor Experience Center was several years in the making. The thoughtful design, which takes into consideration the company’s rich Finnish roots, resulted from many months of internal team collaboration, as well as feedback from customers, partners, and industry influencers.

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Mechanical Hub took the opportunity to record parts of the Appetite for Construction podcast with Des Clancy, director of training, Uponor, and the “architect” for the new center.

As guests move through the front doors toward the back of the space, they first experience displays depicting who Uponor is as a company along with the customers served and the unique value provided to key audiences and the industry.

Uponor, Uponor Experience Center, plumbing, piping, PEX piping, supply chain, contractors, engineers, plumbing contractors

Experience center visitors will get the full hands-on treatment as seen here with one of its gracious partners Milwaukee Tool and its PEX Expander.

Then, there are product showcases and interactive displays for plumbing, fire safety, radiant heating/cooling, hydronic piping, and pre-insulated piping system solutions for residential and commercial markets. Finally, there is an oversized training area, featuring both wood and steel structures, where professionals will learn proper hands-on installation techniques as well as how Uponor’s emphasis on problem-solving and productivity delivers results for their businesses.

Uponor, Uponor Experience Center, plumbing, piping, PEX piping, supply chain, contractors, engineers, plumbing contractors

Doug Vetter, center, and Brian Spjut, left, from Vetter Plumbing, came all the way from Seattle to get a first glimpse of the space. (Pictured right is Uponor’s Dan Hubbard.)

“We wanted the Uponor Experience Center to extend beyond simply training customers on our products and systems,” says Vice President of Sales Matt Bahr. “As a result, we’ve created a holistic experience that spans a broad spectrum of who we are as a company, showcasing the depth and breadth of our product portfolio and sustainable solutions as well as providing access to the best trainers in the industry.”

With the focus not only on customers but also employees and those in the community, Director of Training Des Clancy says the planning team was very thoughtful about creating an elevated experience for everyone.

“At any given time, we will have contractors, builders, engineers, owners, students, employees, civic leaders, and other guests coming through the doors,” he says. “From tours and training, to onboarding and education sessions, the Uponor Experience Center offers something for everyone, and we are proud to showcase all we are offering to the industry and our community.”

Uponor, Uponor Experience Center, plumbing, piping, PEX piping, supply chain, contractors, engineers, plumbing contractors

Mechanical Hub’s John Mesenbrink (l) and Tim Ward (r) complete the “Uponor sandwich” as they also toured Uponor’s Distribution Center in Lakeville, Minn., with tour guide and director of logistics and warehousing, Nate McIntosh.

In today’s fast-paced world, leveraging the power of online resources is essential for the success of any plumbing contractor. Ferguson.com is that resource. As a busy service contractor, time is of the essence. When I plan out my busy week schedule, resource efficiencies are at a premium, and that includes stocking my truck adequately. Moreover Read more

In today’s fast-paced world, leveraging the power of online resources is essential for the success of any plumbing contractor. Ferguson.com is that resource.

As a busy service contractor, time is of the essence. When I plan out my busy week schedule, resource efficiencies are at a premium, and that includes stocking my truck adequately. Moreover, running a successful plumbing business requires access to quality products, reliable suppliers, and expert advice. In today’s digital age, having a robust online platform can significantly streamline your operations and contribute to your business’s growth.

In today’s post-COVID world, especially dealing with disruptive supply chain issues, it almost goes without saying; you can never have too much inventory on the truck or back at the shop. That’s why I rely on Ferguson.com, a comprehensive website that has plumbing contractor-specific resources available, all of which are literally just a click away. And that click provides real-time stock and pricing of more than 200,000 HVAC and plumbing products; I can see what’s in stock and my contract pricing.

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My plumbing business relies on my wholesaler to carry a vast range of top-quality products from leading brands, and I trust Ferguson to provide those trusted, reliable, and durable solutions. Whether I’m looking for pipes, fittings, valves, fixtures, boiler parts or specialty items, I look to Ferguson.com.

Some really helpful features include “My Lists.” I am able to customize the order process with just a few clicks, instead of individually searching for the products I purchase regularly and organizing lists of the products I want. This ultimately has saved me time and has helped to streamline my ordering process. Ferguson.com even gives me the ability to share those lists I’ve created and keeps products I purchase under the “Bought Often” tab, which is automatically updated monthly.

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The Quick Tools feature is a shortcut that makes it easy for trade professionals to quickly access other popular site features. It gives me the quick ability to order, reorder, find an order, or turn existing quotes into orders, all in one place. In some cases, I can even order online and have the order ready in an hour with Pro Pick-Up 1 Hour (at locations where Pro Pick-Up 1 Hour is available).

While traditional brick-and-mortar purchasing is still a viable wholesale solution, with Ferguson.com, I can gain access to a seamless and convenient online ordering system. This allows me to browse through products, check availability, compare prices, and place orders anytime, from anywhere. By simplifying the procurement process, Ferguson.com saves valuable time and effort, enabling me to focus on serving my customers better.

Ferguson, wholesale, wholesaling, Internet, online ordering, supply house, plumbing, supply chain, HVAC, heatingFurthermore, as a plumbing contractor, staying up to date with the latest industry trends and techniques is crucial. Ferguson.com offers a wealth of resources and expert advice to help me stay ahead of the curve. From informative articles and how-to guides to videos and product demonstrations, the website serves as a knowledge hub for plumbing professionals. Leveraging this wealth of information can enhance one’s expertise, expand a skill set, and ultimately elevate one’s business.

Sometimes I need to know what was on an order or the last time I bought a certain product. I’m able to find all of that online and end any confusion about my orders. If I need to see the status of an order, I can see it on my Ferguson Dashboard or Orders, and even get the proof of delivery. (Proof of delivery may not be available depending on how the order shipped or if it was signed for.)

Forward Thinking

Ferguson understands the importance of competitive pricing for plumbing contractors. By signing up for a Ferguson.com account, one can unlock access to exclusive contractor pricing on a wide range of products. This ensures that I can offer my customers competitive rates while maintaining healthy profit margins for my business. The savings one can achieve through Ferguson.com can significantly impact your bottom line and give you a competitive edge in the market.

It’s pretty simple, really. Creating an account on Ferguson.com provides plumbing contractors with a range of powerful tools to manage their business efficiently. By logging in, one can track his or her order history, access invoices, and manage one’s account settings, all in one centralized location. This streamlined account management feature eliminates the need for tedious paperwork and enables one to stay organized and in control.

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What’s also cool about the site is that I can enroll for the free PRO Plus™ program. After I enrolled in this program, I now earn one point for every dollar I spent online. I can then redeem those points for cool prizes and earn Bonus Points faster by purchasing featured products. PRO Plus™ customers are also eligible for discounts with select businesses.

Ferguson.com boasts an extensive inventory of plumbing products, tools, and supplies, as well as expert advice and efficient account management, making it a one-stop solution for all of my business needs. By utilizing the features and capabilities of Ferguson.com, I can streamline my operations, relieve operational stress, and propel my business toward greater success. Sign up today and unlock a world of opportunities for your plumbing contracting business with Ferguson.com.

https://youtu.be/46yc2caCGzo A quick Hub on the Road takes us to Grasser’s Plumbing & Heating in McNabb, Ill., to visit with Tim Kuhlman to talk about the company, its new showroom, inventory and supply, and a plumbing truck tip Read more

A quick Hub on the Road takes us to Grasser’s Plumbing & Heating in McNabb, Ill., to visit with Tim Kuhlman to talk about the company, its new showroom, inventory and supply, and a plumbing truck tip.

In our continuing Industry Forecast series, we talk with John Reutter, Interim President, Vice President, Finance, Uponor North America, on topics such as the short-term economy, supply chain issues, and lessons learned over the course of the pandemic. Here is our exclusive Q & A with   MH: Do you project a turnaround soon or Read more

John Reutter Interim President Vice President Finance Uponor North America, Uponor, Economic Forecast, inflation, supply chain, 2022 Economy

In our continuing Industry Forecast series, we talk with John Reutter, Interim President, Vice President, Finance, Uponor North America, on topics such as the short-term economy, supply chain issues, and lessons learned over the course of the pandemic. Here is our exclusive Q & A with

 


MH: Do you project a turnaround soon or within the next 6-12 months for certain materials that relate to your specific company?

Reutter: Signs are pointing towards some positive change with the supply chain, but there’s far too much unknown to say for certain that these constraints will improve in the next year. What we are focused on is securing secondary supply routes for our most important resources to help meet demand—and being a good partner for our customers by ensuring open and transparent communications.

MH: We are in the midst of some of the highest inflation rates since the early ‘80s. Do you think that higher inflation becomes a “newer normal”? Explain.

Reutter: No one ever wants to settle on higher inflation as a normal means of doing business. That said, I do believe we are near a peak inflationary environment with relief on its way. Unfortunately, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will put a strain on the energy sector which will most likely cause the descent of inflation at a slower pace than we saw the ramp up. The best we can do is focus on what we can control and make sure our teams have the tools and resources they need to be successful move through the new year.

John Reutter Interim President Vice President Finance Uponor North America, Uponor, Economic Forecast, inflation, supply chain, 2022 Economy

MH: In general, how do you see the economy short-term? Give a few examples of how you draw that conclusion.

Reutter: While there are certainly inflationary challenges, retail spending is up, and employment recovery continues along with wage growth. Couple that with declining COVID-19 cases and a general desire to move to an endemic environment, I believe we will see an uptick in the hospitality and travel sectors along with small business growth. These segments generally fuel short term economic recovery.

MH: Where are you seeing signs of positivity, if any?

Reutter: Residential and commercial demand for polymer piping is stronger than it has ever been. Contractors, builders, and designers continue to explore ways to integrate a complete polymer solution into their projects. We are working to deliver premium products that enrich the lives of our customers around the world, while conserving the scarce resources we are given.

MH: How do you as manufacturers work with customers who are dealing with longer lead times and/or higher prices? Is it a matter of open lines of communication?

Reutter: Everything starts with transparent communication. We are constantly maintaining open lines of communication with our customers through our factory sales team, rep agents, and distributors to ensure they have the most up-to-date information about Uponor. While we have had to make several price adjustments during the pandemic, it has been our open and transparent messaging that has maintained good standing with our customers.

MH: It seems that in today’s employment landscape, it’s hard to find good labor, whether it’s truck drivers, waiters at restaurants, etc. In our industry, how do we continue the fight to highlight the trades as a great career choice?

Reutter: The need for skilled labor continues to grow. Increased wages and expanded career opportunities are a direct reflection of that demand. Uponor partners with several schools and universities to celebrate the opportunities available to students and workers looking to make a career change.

The fight to find talent starts with meeting the candidates on their terms – whether that’s through social media posts, job fairs, school visits, or community partnerships. We offer great wages, competitive benefits packages, and an award-winning culture that has been recognized as a top workplace for nearly a decade.

MH: In spite of COVID, people must move on. How has your company evolved—or continued to march forward—over the past two years, and talk about any new initiatives, expansions, etc.

Reutter: While our production team has been going strong throughout the pandemic, our office workforce has taken on the challenges in a productive, efficient way. We recently introduced our Flexible First program, a reimagined take on the traditional office space. With three unique employee personas – Resident, Hybrid, and Remote – our employees can perform in an environment that works best for them. We’re in the process of redesigning our corporate offices and will hold Flexible First as our standard moving forward.

You can learn more about Flexible First by reading this release from earlier in the year.

In our continuing Industry Forecast series, we talk with Peter Orler, Strategy Director, Viega, on topics such as the short-term economy, supply chain issues, and lessons learned over the course of the pandemic. Here is our exclusive Q & A with Viega. MH: We’ve all experienced supply chain shortages recently in one form or another Read more

In our continuing Industry Forecast series, we talk with Peter Orler, Strategy Director, Viega, on topics such as the short-term economy, supply chain issues, and lessons learned over the course of the pandemic. Here is our exclusive Q & A with Viega.

Viega Assembly, Warehousing and Distribution—McPherson, Kan.

MH: We’ve all experienced supply chain shortages recently in one form or another. Do you project a turnaround soon or within the next 6-12 months for certain materials that relate to your specific company?

Orler: We’ve started to see some recovery in raw material availability early in 2022, but we expect to see shortages continue to pop up over the medium term. Labor availability is a huge driver of this—even where raw materials are available, it’s difficult to staff a complete workforce to fill production lines. The situation has really forced us and other manufacturers to adapt and become more flexible with our operations.

Peter Orler, Strategy Director, Viega, supply chain, 2022 economy, Viega, plumbing, HVAC, 2022 Industry Forecast

Viega Training Center, Broomfield, Colo.

MH: We are in the midst of some of the highest inflation rates since the early ’80s. Do you think that higher inflation becomes a “newer normal”? Explain.

Orler: Inflation may settle at higher rates than we’ve seen over the past two decades or so, but we don’t believe the current level of inflation represents a semi-permanent new normal. The economic situation over the past two years has been out of the ordinary for a number of reasons (e.g., COVID, supply chain disruptions, labor policies). In the past (e.g., late 70s) when we saw inflation reach these rates in the US, it has been for a period of 2-3 years before settling at a lower level. Monetary policy levers could bring it down faster as the Fed has signaled that quantitative easing will be phased out and interest rate increases are likely on the way. 

MH: In general, how do you see the economy short-term? Give a few examples of how you draw that conclusion?

Orler: We focus mostly on commercial, multifamily, and institutional construction starts as our markets. 2021 saw a remarkable year-over-year increase (18% per Dodge) that brought us back to near 2019 levels. We’re seeing things even out to near normal (4% to 10% year-over-year increase in 2022 starts forecasted, depending on segment). Given our focus on pipes, valves, and fittings at Viega, we’re also paying particular attention to the impact of public investment funding on water infrastructure.

Peter Orler, Strategy Director, Viega, supply chain, 2022 economy, Viega, plumbing, HVAC, 2022 Industry Forecast

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MH: Where are you seeing signs of positivity, if any?

Orler: We continue to see strong construction project volume, particularly focused in mid-size metropolitan areas. A few sectors stand out – healthcare starts have been impressive, warehousing and logistics facilities continue to grow as e-commerce demand remains high, and retail and office continue to work their way back from lows during the early part of the pandemic.

MH: How do you as manufacturers work with customers who are dealing with longer lead times and/or higher prices? Is it a matter of open lines of communication?

Orler: We’ve been as transparent as possible with our customers. One thing that we’ve found through this is that our customers care a lot more about reliability than speed. It’s been critical that, once we set an anticipated date and quantity, we deliver on that promise. Our customers have been understanding on both longer lead times and price increases as long as we clearly explain the drivers behind why it’s happening and deliver to what we promise.

Peter Orler, Strategy Director, Viega, supply chain, 2022 economy, Viega, plumbing, HVAC, 2022 Industry ForecastMH: It seems that in today’s employment landscape, it’s hard to find good labor, whether it’s truck drivers, waiters at restaurants, etc. In our industry, how do we continue the fight to highlight the trades as a great career choice?

Orler: It starts early—we need to ensure that students know that the trades are a strong option for their future. Our plumbers and mechanical contractors solve complex problems, deliver excellent customer service, and leave their mark on their communities. We partner closely with a network of trade schools to help promote the trades as a career and ensure these benefits are well known. We then work with plumbers and contractors throughout their careers—from apprentice to master—to meet their professional goals and become models to the next generation for what’s possible in the trades. 

MH: In spite of COVID, people must move on. How has your company evolved—or continued to march forward—over the past two years, and talk about any new initiatives, expansions, etc.

Orler: COVID has helped us rethink how we engage our customers. A prime example of this is how we train customers to use our products – early in the pandemic, we designed the concept for ViegaWorks sessions which are remote engagements led by one of our very talented technical consultants. This started as a way to be there for our customers even when we couldn’t be on-site, but it has evolved into a tool that we’ll continue to use to deliver remote support even as we engage with more customers in-person.

We’ve also evolved our approach to customer outreach. In the past, we were able to rely on our boots-on-the-ground to reach every job site and contractor in their area. As job sites closed off and engagement moved remote, we found that marketing and inside sales could be a valuable approach to make sure we’re reaching every customer that would benefit from Viega press technology even with job sites closed to us. We’ve ramped up our promotions, including working with RIDGID and Milwaukee to offer press tools to contractors to introduce them to pressing.

As we’ve started coming back to in-person engagements, we’ve really tried to maximize our touchpoints with our customers. We were excited to see everyone at AHR and took the occasion to launch our new Viega valve lines live and in-person.