WORCESTER, MASS. — Fiscal Cliffs, economic turns and lead-free transitions: sounds like a not-so-amusing ride at the local carnival. As businesses try to push forward to seek out this “new normal,” particularly in this down time in American economic history, it has been a struggle for many.
A Webstone installation.
And here we sit at the edge of the cliff, feet dangling into the unknown of the New Year, with some of the same economic uncertainty and cautiousness we have seen over the past couple of years. Yet through the haze of uncertainty, exemplifying persistence and preparation, Webstone Company Inc., webstonevalves.com, has been a visionary company, dating back to its formation in 1954 as a valve company. The company has navigated through this craggy period with caution and a firm strategic marketing plan; one that helps it move forward. The company has evolved over the years to include many plumbing specialties. In 1999, Michael Reck bought the company and Fernando Mireles joined him shortly thereafter as managing partner and vice president of sales and marketing. Together they created a new vision for Webstone and became industry innovators of valves and hydronic components. Through that vision and leadership, the company is positioned for future success.
Webstone remains very optimistic for 2013, and it has seen its business grow through the fourth quarter of 2012.
“Economic indicators are promising, but we face the still-unknown repercussions of overall tax changes and many other pitfalls,” said Mireles. “Every manufacturer needs to approach their goals with aggressive tendencies and cautious optimism. This economy presents us with challenges and forces us look at things differently, but offers many opportunities for those who keep their ear to the ground. A complex economy forces us to all think differently than in the past, make adjustments and continually fine tune our master plan. Since we are all competing for a smaller piece of the pie, we need to outthink the competition.”
Part of that plan is introducing innovative products to the market. In fact, at this year’s AHR Show in Dallas, Webstone had expanded its Hydro-Core program, which was introduced last year as a premier choice for mod-con boiler installations. This year, Webstone is featuring the Hydro-Core Flex, a simple approach — which leaves contractors a lot of options — that truly simplifies almost all mod-con boiler installations. The complete near boiler installation kit with insulated flex piping for boilers with integral pumps gives contractors less to carry on their truck and shortens installation time, giving them more flexibility in their workday.
Listening to contractors
Many of Webstone’s unique, patented items stem from discussion and feedback with contractors.
“Just because we don’t invoice the contractor directly doesn’t mean they are any less of a customer,” said Mireles. “We view each and every one of them as our most crucial piece in the overall puzzle; we listen to their needs and they tell us what would make their job easier. Contractors provide Webstone with invaluable field input that couldn’t be found anywhere else.”
In its approach to product innovation and leadership in being a one-stop shop for valve offerings, Webstone’s Valve Innovation diagram is a perfect example of how contractors can have a complete heating/radiant installation. This diagram is available in many forms, including an interactive online version on webstonevalves.com. It illustrates an average piping system where many common valves are used. When using Webstone-designed valves, the contractor eliminates more than 160 leak paths and saves more than 24 hours in labor.
“This is an incredible feat for any manufacturer, and it just confirms our commitment to the contractor and the ways in which we strive to make his job easier and more efficient,” said Mireles.
Webstone has taken the necessary steps to move toward lead free. The company has completely transitioned to lead-free inventory, accommodating those who choose to transition to lead free sooner rather than later.
“On the other hand, there are those who haven’t really given much thought about the new legislation, so we are forced to react to the needs of our customers so inventory levels remain quite high during the current phase,” said Mireles. “Trying to force a more expensive lead free product on someone who intends to sell the cheaper leaded product until the last minute is really not an option in most cases, especially with commodity items.”
The wholesaler connection
Exceeding wholesaler expectations is Webstone’s objective, and staying one step ahead of their needs is key.
“Having same day shipping and the only lifetime warranty in the industry isn’t enough,” continued Mireles. “Training, tools and support for their employees, as well as their customers, is very important. We strive for that close communication bond with our sales rep and management team."
The constant struggle for a contractor, however, becomes finding particular Webstone products stocked locally. “They want to see more full line Webstone distributors, and obviously so do we. The loyalty factor with many contractors throughout North America is nothing short of amazing,” continues Mireles.
But in the end, it is Webstone’s dedication to research and development, engineering and quality control that sets itself apart from its competition. Webstone remains true to its full circle approach to valve innovation: Design products that a wholesaler can make decent margins on and realize quick turns; save the contractor time and provide for ease of installation; and make the whole system more functional and service friendly for the end user.