Go big or go home.

Uponor held is biannual convention March 30-April 1 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and the PEX pipe manufacturer noted it was the largest in company history. Entitled Connections 2016, the Uponor convention brought together more than 1,000 customers including engineers, contractors, reps and more.

Connections 2016 also had the largest product expo hall in Uponor convention history. Uponor noted there was 13,000 sq. ft. of displays featuring current Uponor products and previews of future ones that spanned its commercial, residential and fire sprinkler lines. Uponor convention partners Milwaukee Tool, Taco, Grundfos, HOLDRITE, Rinnai and more also set up booths for attendees to see, touch and learn about products.

The convention began with Uponor North America President Bill Gray emceeing a general session. Jyri Luomakoski, Uponor Corp.’s president and CEO, addressed the gathered crowd about the two major changes he sees coming in the industry/business world. The first is the continued globalization of the business and, secondly, a greater focus on digitization.

Luomakoski noted global CO2 emissions have remained flat for back-to-back years after years of growth (the only year that was lower was 2009 due to the great recession). Luomakoski said he expects Uponor to be at the forefront of energy efficiency.

“We’re constantly encouraging the team to think outside of the box,” he said.

Gray, who has been in his role since 2012, said Uponor looks totally different than it did when he spoke at his first convention. “We’ve transformed to a commercially-focused company,” he noted.

The rest of the general sessions included speeches from Milwaukee Tool President Steve Richman, who spoke about the company’s incredible growth (more than 500 new employees since 2005 with more on the way). Uponor’s “Mr. Mostly Sunny” Dale Stroud (back in his popular sun outfit from the 2014 event) noted construction starts will be strong to the tune of 20% growth over the next couple years.

The featured speaker of the general session was former Harley-Davidson executive Ken Schmidt.

Schmidt, who had the audience laughing uproariously throughout his 45-minute presentation, discussed how Harley-Davidson was able to rebound during a significant down period in the 1990s to record profits today simply by selling its image and story. Schmidt implored attendees to make sure their customers are telling their company’s stories out in the world and, most importantly, to other potential customers.

“What do you want your customers to say? And what are you willing to do to get them to say it?” Schmidt said.

Breakout sessions were prepared for the convention’s second day that spanned the reach of Uponor and what the company can do for its customers. The session tracks included business topics, commercial hydronic piping, commercial plumbing, commercial radiant, emerging opportunities and residential.

During the “Dare to Compare: PEX for Hydronic Piping Applications” sessions, Uponor Commercial Sales Manager Stuart Lorton told a full room of attendees about www.uponorengineering.com. The comprehensive website features BIM/CAD product specifications, codes and standards, and Uponor catalogs for an engineer to browse when designing a plumbing system. “The resources are there for you,” he said.

On the residential and emerging opportunities track, Jeff Butler, president of Mission Viejo, Calif.-based Re-pipe Specialists, discussed the growing market of whole-house (including multifamily units) repiping jobs. The major aspects that cause a need for a repipe are regional factors, types of pipes originally installed, codes and standards, and water quality, he noted.

“There is no market that can’t be penetrated for a repipe,” Butler said.

The next Uponor convention is expected to be held in 2018.

This article was originally titled “A major payoff” in the May 2016 print edition of PM Engineer.