From celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2018 to investing another $6 million to its joint venture company, Phyn, in 2019 to the release of the Phyn Plus Pro Edition at the 2020 International Builders Show, Uponor has certainly been busy the past few years. pme had the chance recently to catch up with Bill Gray, president of Uponor North America, about what’s next for the company.
pme: Where do you see Uponor in today’s competitive marketplace?
BG: Uponor North America is a leading supplier of PEX-a pipe in the marketplace and our premium positioning has allowed us to pursue innovation and strategic partnerships. Last month, we announced a partnership with Pestan North America that will make us the leading polymer solutions provider for commercial plumbing and HVAC piping. We are focused on solving our customer’s toughest problems.
pme: What would you point to as the biggest change, addition or shift the company has made in recent years?
BG: In 2017, we reoriented our strategy to focus on enhancing the customer experience. We are laser-focused on the residential and commercial segments, which will allow us to prioritize our innovation efforts toward products and services that will help our customers win.
pme: With the constant change occurring in this industry, how is Uponor embracing that change and helping plumbing contractors do the same?
BG: By segmenting, we can start to see the world through our customer’s eyes. We can get to the root of the issues that challenge them daily. Contractors are faced with a shortage of skilled labor, lower productivity and rising costs. If we focus on solutions to attack these problems, we will be helping our contractors and the industry. Digitalization in construction will naturally allow more prefabricated solutions, which will change the way contractors work and the way construction is done.
pme: How is Uponor best connecting with its contractor customers?
BG: We have multiple points of contact with customers, be it through traditional sales calls, counter days and site visits, or, now increasingly through our design services and chat functions on our websites. We want direct and unfiltered feedback from which ideas for new products and services can be gathered and considered.
pme: How is Uponor best connecting with its distributor customers?
BG: With the rise of the internet and e-commerce, distribution has faced significant challenges to its traditional business models. Additionally, we’ve seen consolidation and retail expansion into the professional channel, both of which have shaken the smaller players out and flattened geographic trading areas. Despite these trends and unlike other manufacturers in this industry, we believe professional wholesale distribution remains our most important link to our contractor customers. As such, we have increased resources to engage these vital players in our chain.
pme: How important is Uponor’s joint venture with Belkin to create Phyn Plus?
BG: Phyn is the joint vision of Belkin/FIT and Uponor. Our strategy is to lead in the emerging smart water category and Phyn is the industry acknowledged leader in this nascent space. Our Phyn Plus device starts with protection (leak detection) followed by conservation (awareness of where water is consumed) and finally enhancement, meaning that through the smartphone app, one can gain a true understanding and appreciation of how water, our most precious resource, can be optimized.
pme: Why is sustainability so important to Uponor’s mission and values?
BG: Sustainability defines who we are as an organization. We must continue to grow our business sustainably so that we can be around for the next 100 years. But we also need to make sure there is a world to do business in 100 years from now. And that means keeping our commitments to conserve water, reduce waste, improve energy efficiency and empower labor.
pme: Where do you see Uponor headed in the next 100 years, following its 100-year anniversary?
BG: Considering where the world has come from in the last 100 years and the ever-increasing rate of change powered by technological advances, it’s tough to predict. What I do know is that if we stay true to our values, embracing change while balancing the need for profitable growth with respect for our planet and our people, we will remain a leader in our chosen industry.