NORTH ANDOVER, MASS. — Watts Water Technologies Inc. cut the ribbon in late June on a multimillion dollar, 30,000-sq.ft. foundry that will be dedicated to making low-lead brass plumbing products. The new foundry is an expansion to the Franklin, N.H., facility of one of its operating subsidiaries, which produces products for many of its brands. New Hampshire state and local dignitaries, including Gov. Maggie Hassan and Franklin Mayor Kenneth Merrifield, joined officials from Watts to celebrate the occasion.
A shaker tables removes debris from the castings.
The new lead free brass foundry reflects the company’s commitment to proactively meet the requirements of the “Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act,” which goes into effect in January 2014. The law establishes new limits on the lead content in every pipe, fixture, and fitting used to convey water for human consumption. The company’s new foundry will produce lead free products exclusively.
Working with molten brass in the old portion of the foundry.
While plumbing manufacturers have made great progress preparing for the law, its implementation will not be seamless. http://bit.ly/12mmfyW.
“This is a great day for our company and its employees, our industry, and the Franklin community,” said Watts Water Technologies CEO and President David Coghlan, who noted that the new foundry will produce lead-free versions of products already produced in Franklin, and additional products, as well. “It will enable us to be the ‘safe choice’ for lead-free products, since we can eliminate the possibility of cross contamination of materials. It will also enable us to provide efficient and timely availability of products.”
Pouring molten brass into a ladle for castings.
Through the new foundry, the company is also supporting jobs in manufacturing. “In locating our lead-free foundry in Franklin, we are supporting New Hampshire and U.S. jobs,” said Coghlan. “We are also recognizing our Franklin team, which has continually demonstrated their commitment to manufacturing excellence and innovation. We look forward to continuing to invest in Franklin and expanding this facility.”
The casting area in the new lead-free foundry looks much different than the old.
The foundry expansion will help Watts meet demand for lead-free brass products after the law takes effect on Jan. 4, 2014. The law requires that the wetted surfaces of plumbing products conveying drinking water contain no more than 0.25% lead. The law excludes applications such as manufacturing, fire protection or irrigation. It specifically excludes toilets, bidets, urinals, shower valves, fill valves, flushometers, tub fillers, service saddles, and water distribution main gate valves that are 2-in. in diameter or larger.
The foundry produces commercial temperature and pressure relief valves, backflow preventers, pressure reducing valves and tempering valves.
New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan commended the company for the types of products produced, which contribute to public health and safety, and for the company’s educational efforts around the lead-free initiative. She also complimented the Franklin workforce, noting that the work effort here is “extraordinary.” She added that the company is emblematic of the ingenuity found across the Granite State. “We can make great things here,” she said, “and share them across the world.”
Debris is shaken from the castings in the new lead-free brass part of the foundry.
Franklin Mayor Kenneth Merrifield noted how rare it is to have a manufacturing facility that lasts 50 years, such as the Watts Water Franklin Facility, and how quickly the new foundry came into being. He referred to meeting the development challenge as a “remarkable accomplishment” and added “congratulations to an absolutely fabulous company.”
Watts Regulator Co. was founded in 1874 and supplied steam and water pressure regulators valves to textile mills in Lawrence, Mass. Retired CEO Tim Horne (whom the factory workers greeted with cheers and a standing ovation) said in his remarks that his grandfather had purchased the business from the Watts family in 1918 for $10,000. Watts is headquartered in West Andover, Mass.
Watt Water’s Franklin, N.H., facility, which opened in 1959, has undergone 16 expansions since that time and has more than tripled in square footage. From about 30 employees in 1959, the Franklin workforce has since grown to more than 500 employees today. The Franklin plant manufactures and distributes products that go to U.S. retailers, OEMs, and wholesale distributors, and it is currently the company’s largest manufacturing facility in North America.
The plant produces both leaded brass products and lead-free products for the Watts, Powers and FEBCO brands. Watts employees who led tours of both sides of the foundry said that the old foundry could be converted to producing a lead free product if that’s the direction the market goes in the years ahead. The plant has been ISO certified since 1994 and is currently implementing continuous improvement measures such as Lean, Six Sigma and Kaizen principles.