Featured

It’s a question I hear a lot in this trade. Perhaps not really a question, but more of a career statement. Why does one put up with the hours, the hard work, the late nights, the early mornings and on-call weekends, holidays, the heat, the cold, the crawl spaces, the dirty jobs, etc.? Tradesmen realize Read More

It’s a question I hear a lot in this trade. Perhaps not really a question, but more of a career statement. Why does one put up with the hours, the hard work, the late nights, the early mornings and on-call weekends, holidays, the heat, the cold, the crawl spaces, the dirty jobs, etc.? Tradesmen realize that it’s all part of the job, but in the end, what’s it all about?

DSC_0130
For some, it’s collecting a check every two weeks to help them pay the bills and get by until the next pay period. For others, it’s about paying into health insurance and a retirement fund. It could also be the experience of encountering new situation every day, compared to the monotony of sitting behind a desk for the 9-to-5 grind.

For most, let’s hope, it is working with their hands to create something, providing a solution to a problem, and applying the knowledge obtained and transferring it to a job that will either help your customer in a time of need or increase his/her overall comfort. Ultimately, sharing what you have learned through experiences and passing that knowledge to someone else in the trade, as well, should be a satiating goal.

Screen Shot 2018-01-30 at 8.59.33 AMYet, big picture, larger than the Xs and Os of the financial security of having a job, most would say that they do this to enjoy their families, free time and/or hobbies. I notice this most on social media where a tradesman shares a pic of a newborn or share in the excitement of buying a new home, for example. It makes them realize the importance of the trade and has them striving for something bigger—going out on their own and starting their own company, perhaps.

Fact is, this trade affords those who invest their time in it, the ability to eventually build a family, a nest egg, the ability to make a great living, and it allows for time needed for some leisurely activities, whether it is time on the lake in their boat, for example, taking a hunting trip or just cracking open a few beers to unwind during the weekend.

Sure, hard work is part of the package, but the ability to make a living and enjoy the fruits of your labor is perhaps the one of the most satisfying aspects about the trades.

So let me ask you: What’s it all about for you? Why do you do what you do?

Franklin Park, Ill. — Recognized for his longstanding contributions to the industry, the Plumbing Contractors Association (PCA) inducted Sloan Executive Chairman, Charles (Chuck) S. Allen, into the Chicago Area Plumbing Industry Hall of Fame at a gala held on January 26, 2018. A third generation descendant of William Elvis Sloan, Allen joins the company’s founder Read More

Franklin Park, Ill. — Recognized for his longstanding contributions to the industry, the Plumbing Contractors Association (PCA) inducted Sloan Executive Chairman, Charles (Chuck) S. Allen, into the Chicago Area Plumbing Industry Hall of Fame at a gala held on January 26, 2018.

A third generation descendant of William Elvis Sloan, Allen joins the company’s founder on the distinguished list of hall of fame awardees, after a career devoted to the global manufacturing of smart, sustainable commercial plumbing products.

“On behalf of the entire company, I am so honored to join the elite fraternity of accomplished professionals in the Plumbing Contractors Association Hall of Fame,” said Allen. “And on a personal level, to stand alongside William Elvis Sloan on that list is all the more gratifying. I could not have achieved this accolade without the help of those before me and all the bright minds walking the halls at Sloan today.”

Allen started his Sloan career in 1972 on the shop floor running machines. After earning an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, he returned to the company as a sales representative in New York, working directly with wholesalers and contractors. For years, he applied his talents in the sales and marketing departments and was instrumental in Sloan’s partnership with the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) and Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA). He served as president and CEO of Sloan from 1977 to 2008.

From l to r: Graham Allen, Charles S. Allen, Jim Allen and Kirk Allen.

He assumed the title of executive chairman in 2008. While his three sons—Kirk, Jim and Graham—currently serve as co-president and CEO, Allen has remained an integral part of the company, contributing and helping to define Sloan’s strategic direction.

Under Allen’s guidance, Sloan has become a global brand synonymous with innovative, smart, sustainable and water efficient products. He was a pioneer who ushered in electronic plumbing technology such as battery operated sensor flushometers and faucets, at a time when manual flushometers and faucets were the industry norm. Chuck’s vision and persistence regarding electronic sensor technology heralded a whole new industry segment, that today is embraced by plumbing manufactures, contractors and end users.

“Water Connects Us® is more than just Sloan’s tagline,” Allen said. “Every day, around the world, Sloan products connect the systems that manage our planet’s most precious resource. We want to preserve the environment and continue to be the global leader for smart, sustainable restroom solutions that are as beautiful as they are innovative. We strive to elevate the total commercial restroom experience.”

Nathan Harwood is no stranger to challenges in high-leverage management environments. With a background in the automotive and aviation industries, and with Greenlee the past four years, newly appointed Vice President and General Manager, Mechanical, Harwood is now responsible for growing the mechanical segment of the business, developing a strategic pathway, and developing products for Read More

Nathan Harwood is no stranger to challenges in high-leverage management environments. With a background in the automotive and aviation industries, and with Greenlee the past four years, newly appointed Vice President and General Manager, Mechanical, Harwood is now responsible for growing the mechanical segment of the business, developing a strategic pathway, and developing products for the marketplace.

Harwood has been tasked with taking the firmly and reputably established electrical and utility company and creating a mechanical division, which will feature high-end tools for the end user. “We’ve established ourselves over many years as a leader in professional tools and we’ve leveraged our engineering expertise to establish ourselves as the go-to brand for the high-end professional products for electricians. I think a lot of the same products and expertise translate into the mechanical space,” says Harwood.

For 155 years now, Greenlee has been designing, engineering and manufacturing tools for professionals largely here in the United States. The company has recently kicked off its “Building America” campaign to highlight more than a century of designing, building and packaging products in the United States. The Rockford, Ill.-based company supports its local manufacturing workforce, as well as, five other manufacturing facilities and one distribution facility across the nation. Since 1862, Greenlee has utilized a combination of traditional hand craftsmanship and state-of-the-art equipment to produce high-quality tools. Rockford is the company’s home for manufacturing knockout punches, dies, auger bits and other tools for professionals in the electrical and mechanical trades.

DSC_0007

Dale Speggen, product manager, Greenlee, checks the diagnostics on the Gorilla pressing tool. hese new pressing tools utilize intelligence for accurate pressing and are designed with Autostop technology, which automatically stops the piston when the optimal force is reached, sealing the fitting properly.

Leveraging this moving forward is key. “With several factories and a solid manufacturing footprint in the U.S., we can introduce products that are very specific to mechanical tradespeople,” says Harwood.

Greenlee is dedicated to bringing products that are focused on solving problems faced by contractors. “We can bring high-end type products to market that maybe others don’t because it won’t sell hundreds of thousands of units,” says Harwood.

Greenlee has a full line of professional hand tools and are now adding in the specialty tools (See Product Sidebar). “We have specialty products that we are working on; we are reimagining them and taking it [the product] to the next level by putting it through our engineering pipeline. That pipeline includes more higher value-type specialized products that the market has not seen too much of that are going to help primarily in larger industrial and commercial-type applications,” says Harwood.

Harwood admits that with some strong players in the marketplace, competition will be a challenge. While mechanical contractors have heard of Greenlee in the electrical space, says Harwood, the company needs to earn its way into the plumbing and mechanical market. “We want to make sure our message is clear. We are going to try to bring high-quality, reliable tools that are very specific to the mechanical trade. We are Professional. Nothing less.”

IMG_1119

Greenlee’s “learning lab,” equipped with the latest products, hosts contractor training classes throughout the year.

Greenlee’s parent company acquired Klauke in 1996, for example, has brought high quality and impeccable reputation to the hydraulics space. “We are leveraging Klauke’s engineering expertise in battery-powered hydraulics as it relates the specific needs of the North American market,” says Harwood. Klauke helps introduce next-generation products, which integrate connectivity and smart tool technology that bring good value to the end user, says Harwood. “For instance, the Gorilla™ Press tool includes a pressure monitoring feature that ensures a proper press fitting is made. Once the tool reaches optimal pressure, the piston is automatically returned to the starting position. If the force is below specifications, the operator is alerted in real time by both an audible and visual que on the tool.”

Ergonomics is a key part of the Greenlee message, as well. Focused on weights and balances, and every ergonomic aspect of a specific tool, Greenlee employs a classically trained ergonomics specialist that puts every one of its products through a rigorous testing process to make sure that the design is giving the end user the best possible chance at keeping their bodies healthy. Bottom line: Working with a more ergonomic tool means that the end user is less likely to have life-long ailments such as musculoskeletal disorders—carpal tunnel syndrome, degenerative disc disease, etc. “Greenlee’s investment in ergonomics is an investment in the professional,” says Harwood.

Relationship Building

Convincing distributors to put Greenlee products on their walls is also challenging, but with a dedicated, 100% full-time mechanical sales team in place, Harwood is confident in the value of the products and the Greenlee brand through strong relationship building.

This is where the strength of Greenlee’s Professional Tool Specialist program plays a significant role in the relationship in the field. Launched in 2012, Greenlee’s PTS program brings former trade professionals and end users together by having Greenlee specialists travel the country in trucks decked out in with the complete Greenlee tool portfolio. “With 14 PTS professionals across the country, we are able to show end users how our products can and should be used in the field, and the benefits to them.”

DSC_0015

Professional Tool Specialist (PTS) Brian Kester readies his truck for a day in southern Wisconsin. Brian meets with multiple clients per day, offering training and customer service, and allows clients an up close look at the latest Greenlee tools.

Admittedly, primarily known on the electrical side, “we’re still leveraging quite a bit on our mechanical side, as well,” says Harwood. “Industry experts driving our tool-filled trucks can go to a jobsite and can demonstrate the tools and their ergonomic value. This brings an added dimension to our brand recognition.”

Friendly Neighbors

It doesn’t hurt that Greenlee’s corporate headquarters near Rockford, Ill., is situated right next to a Local UA apprentice training center. It’s a win-win for both as having them next door to gives Greenlee great feedback, and it gives the UA new products.

“You’ve got some really experienced tradespeople there doing the training, setting our products up and being able to see it and use it, and train on it with an apprentice. The students see and experience the Greenlee brand inside of their Local UA, these are products they may need as mechanical contractors moving forward,” says Harwood.

DSC_0002

Greenlee product engineers have teamed up with in-house ergonomics specialists to design tools that alleviate some of the underlying causes of common injuries. Greenlee’s Gorilla Press tools, for example, require less gripping force than the tools of competitors, thereby reducing strain on necks, arms and shoulders.

“What are the real problems and the real challenges that end users face everyday and how can we help solve that?” asks Harwood. “Greenlee is going to bring the more than 155 years of experience to the marketplace. We’re going to continue to focus on the mechanical space by bringing top quality products that we expect will differentiate the way contractors do work and keep them safer while they do it,” says Harwood.

PRODUCT SIDEBAR

Gorilla Pressing Tool

gorillapresspistolGreenlee Textron Inc. has launched a new line of Gorilla pressing tools designed for joining pipe safely by eliminating the need for an open flame and a hot work permit on the jobsite.

The new Gorilla pressing tool line features two separate tool platforms: the inline battery pressing tool (INLNPRESS-TOOL19kN) and the pistol grip battery powered pressing tool (PSTLPRESS-TOOL32KN). Both tools quickly press watertight connections in three to four seconds. The tools can be used while a system is still wet, unlike with soldering, so the contractor does not have to drain the system and wait for it to dry before pressing. The inline pressing tool has a fitting capacity of 1-1/2” (38.1mm) on PEX and 1-1/4” (31.8mm) on copper and stainless steel, and the pistol grip pressing tool has a fitting capacity of 2” (50.8mm) on PEX and 4” (101.6mm) on copper and stainless steel. The tools have a patented twist and release pin, making jaw exchange even easier. The kits come with four jaws for the inline and six for the pistol grip.

These new pressing tools utilize intelligence for accurate pressing and are designed with Autostop technology, which automatically stops the piston when the optimal force is reached, sealing the fitting properly. Precise pressure monitoring and diagnostics ensure appropriate specifications for each fitting. The Quickstop feature built into both tools elicits an immediate stop to the piston once the trigger is released safeguarding the user’s hands from pinch points. The lightweight design, 350-degree rotating head, and LED work light allow for both products to be used in dark tight spaces.

For more info, www.greenlee.com.

Next Generation Tool Bags

These bags are engineered to reduce strain on the user and withstand wear and tear. In addition, the two backpacks allow for customization with a personalized name patch.

“Greenlee is committed to producing ergonomic tools and products that reduce injury and increase productivity to support the professionals who use them daily,” said Dale Speggen, product manager at Greenlee. “Our network of professional contractors helped to test the Next Generation tool bags and provided valuable feedback. We are confident these durable, long-lasting and lightweight bags will help get the job done.”

Professional-Tool-Backpack-with-Tools

Engineered to be rugged, the Next Generation tool bags can manage heavy loads and harsh work environments. Next Generation bags are constructed from a poly and nylon Ripstop fabric. This construction contains any tear that should ensue, maintaining the durability and utilization of the bag. Critical seams that receive stress from weight are reinforced with double and triple stitching to prevent separation. Next Generation bags are lined with a light green interior to increase visibility of bag contents. A durable, hard plastic bottom keeps dirt and water out and allows the bag to stand in an upright position for easy access.

For more info, www.greenlee.com.

“Can you believe some of the things that young man was saying?” was the question I overheard during a lunch conversation among a group of plumbing and heating business owners. “He’s going to tell me how to run my business?” That guy was a millennial guest speaker—at a recent industry function—addressing the importance of Millennials Read More

“Can you believe some of the things that young man was saying?” was the question I overheard during a lunch conversation among a group of plumbing and heating business owners. “He’s going to tell me how to run my business?”

That guy was a millennial guest speaker—at a recent industry function—addressing the importance of Millennials in the workplace. “Instead of working 9 to 5, give us a flexible work schedule. If I can get my work done before 5 pm, let me hit the gym for my workout or let me come in later so I can finish my paddle ball tournament,” said the speaker talking on behalf of Millennials.

You should have heard the ghastly groans from those business owners having heard this. Change in corporate policy? No way!

What about a change in corporate culture, then? Instead of giving Millennials an end-of-the-year bonus, how about paying for their monthly Netflix or gym membership? How about donating to the employee’s charity of choice? Is it a matter of placating them? Maybe, to some extent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials are now the largest generation in today’s workforce, and instead of an “us vs. them” mentality, employers need to recognize that worn work philosophies need to be sharpened, and employers should try to work with this younger generation to get the most out of them.

The Survey Says …

The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey conveys that within the workplace itself, flexible working continues to be a feature of most Millennials’ working lives and is linked to improved organizational performance, personal benefit and loyalty. This year, Deloitte also observed the solid foundation of trust that enables organizations to increasingly offer and operate flexible working arrangements.

Interestingly, the survey also states that it is in the workplace where Millennials feel most influential and, in turn, accountable. This is an important point for businesses to acknowledge as it offers a platform from which to build each employee’s sense of purpose and, ultimately, a more engaged workforce.

MILLENNIALS_01b

Globally, two-thirds of Millennials surveyed say their employers have adopted flexible arrangements. Source: The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey

Where workplace opportunities are offered, the Deloitte survey reports, Millennials are significantly more likely to say they can influence social equality, the environment, the behavior of big businesses, and even the overall directions of their countries. Regardless of whether Millennials, as individuals, can make a tangible difference on such large issue, the key point is that employers can provide a sense of empowerment and, hence, create a far more positive mindset.

I think this is where employers, and older coworkers, need to perhaps change the mindset of the corporate culture within their companies. A recent article in Forbes magazine says that Millennials are known for speaking their mind, so all we really need to do is listen to their ideas. Listening and being more engaged with the younger generation can only be beneficial to the company’s success.

In the world of net zero, younger voices, filled with enthusiasm and exuberance relating to environmental issues and sustainable building, should and need to be heard. Gone are the days of “well, they are wet behind the ears so what can they really offer?” The answer is, if I ventured a guess, would be more than you would think. Better communication and understanding of the younger generation is simply a necessity in today’s workplace.

The Deloitte survey reveals that employees, who feel their jobs have meaning, or that they are able to make a difference, exhibit greater levels of loyalty. My best answer in understanding Millennials and what motivates them to be more productive and ultimately stay with a company—average tenure at a company is two years—is not to paint with a broad brush but rather get to know them as individuals.

 

 

 

Mechanical hub is proud to support and sponsor another apprentice in the annual PHCC CONNECT national plumbing apprenticeship contest in Milwaukee, Wis. Just weeks away from testing for his Journeyman’s license, apprentice plumber Joe Pilachowski has worked four years at Midwestern Mechanical, Inc., Sioux Falls, S.D., a commercial plumbing and heating, fire protection, HVAC and Read More

Mechanical hub is proud to support and sponsor another apprentice in the annual PHCC CONNECT national plumbing apprenticeship contest in Milwaukee, Wis. Just weeks away from testing for his Journeyman’s license, apprentice plumber Joe Pilachowski has worked four years at Midwestern Mechanical, Inc., Sioux Falls, S.D., a commercial plumbing and heating, fire protection, HVAC and service company with four locations that spans two states: Sioux Falls, S.D.; Rapid City, S.D.; Spencer, Iowa; and Sioux City, Iowa.


After high school Joe was working two jobs, one in a hospital kitchen, and also as a loader for UPS. It just so happened that Midwestern Mechanical had in-house plumbers at the hospital; he talked with a few of them about their job and the kind of training needed to become successful.

Pilachowski contemplated the idea and then talked to a co-worker at UPS, who happened to be the daughter of then VP of Midwestern Mechanical, and decided to apply. “I chose plumbing because I always knew I would end up working a manual labor job, and I had been hunting for one for quite awhile before I applied. I looked into trade schools that I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford, and when I found out I could be paid to learn the trade rather than paying for it, I jumped right in,” says Pilachowski.

Pilachowski enjoys learning new things and the challenge of the plumbing trade, as well as the rapidly changing workplace. “I go to work in the morning knowing that I’ll have to figure out solutions to problems, and that those problems will not be the same everyday. I’m fortunate enough to work on smaller more specialized projects for Midwest Mechanical. It keeps me sharp and always allows me to experience and learn new things everyday,” says Pilachowski.

Entering the national apprenticeship contest in Milwaukee is important to Pilachowski to prove he hasn’t wasted the past four years of his life learning a trade, and winning the state PHCC competition proved that. Moving onto the national PHCC creates validation and helps not only prove to his foreman and his company, but to himself that he hasn’t wasted anyone’s time.

“I’ve worked hard these four years going to classes—even the extra training that was not required—to be the best at my trade that I could be. I applied myself to make myself better at a career I enjoy and now I can try my skills against others like me who strive to have excellence in all the work they do,” says Pilachowski.

Oh yeah, the only downside of the trade that Pilachowski sees? As any fellow plumber can attest—the smells and waste. “I don’t have a weak stomach, but no one likes having to cut into a live sewer line, or replace a used sewage ejection pump. It’s gross,” says Pilachowski.

But for those who are willing to put the time in to be successful in plumbing, Pilachowski says go for it. That’s been his mantra for anyone considering the trades, “Just jump into it, listen to the ones teaching you, and work hard at learning everything you can.”