Water Online Radio: GF Piping ‘On The Move' With New Products, Acquisitions
Brian LaBelle of GF Piping Systems tells Water Online Radio about the various entities that have come together under the GF umbrella, and how that expansion has enhanced the company’s range of piping and automation solutions.
Todd Schnick: We’re coming to you live from Dallas, Texas. This is day two of AWWA ACE 2012 and Water Online Radio. I’m your host, Todd Schnick, joined by my friend and colleague, Todd Youngblood. Todd, day two is off and running.
Todd Youngblood: Can you believe how many people are in this hall already?
Todd Schnick: This place is packed!
Todd Youngblood: I’m really surprised. I thought it was full yesterday, but they just came streaming in when they opened up the doors this morning.
Todd Schnick: Yes, this is going to be a lot of fun today, but what’s going to be more fun is this next guest. It’s a regular on Water Online Radio.
Todd Youngblood: A regular. I was going to stay return performance, but yes, regular is a better way to put it.
Todd Schnick: Yes. Let’s welcome back Brian LaBelle, who is the Director of Marketing for GF Piping Systems. Welcome back, Brian.
Brian: Thank you very much, Todd. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Todd Schnick: Well, it’s great to have you. Before we get into it, Brian, take a second and tell us a little bit about you and your background, as well as GF Piping Systems.
Brian: Well, sure. Thank you. I am Director of Marketing for GF Piping Systems currently, also responsible for helping develop business for GF in the municipal water and wastewater treatment markets, as well as in energy.
That’s not to say these are entirely new areas of interest for GF. We got our start some 210 years ago in 1802 as a malleable iron fittings manufacturer — as a metals foundry producing plumbing parts.
Since the early 1950s, we’ve been a pioneer in plastics and an innovator of corrosion-resistant piping systems and many different materials of a wide variety of applications in water and gas utilities, industrial systems, and building technology.
Todd Schnick: GF has been a regular here at AWWA. What is it about the water and wastewater treatment markets that are so attracted to what you guys are doing?
Brian: Previously, I mentioned water and gas utilities, industrial systems, and building technology. These are actually the names of the three business groups within GF Piping Systems. Focus on these three broad sectors provides a healthy diversification for our business.
All are ultimately tied to water, which of course is a limited resource, and indispensable for all life. As a source of sustainable demand for a global company committed to long-term growth, it follows that all market segments and applications related to the general water cycle are of strategic interest to GF Piping Systems.
Whether for environmental protection or mediation, or for agricultural or residential, commercial, and industrial uses — wherever there are large populations or businesses in need of clean water — GF’s there.
Todd Schnick: Brian, I get it that the whole water industry’s very attractive. That makes all kinds of sense to me, particularly for the reasons that you just talked about, but why come to a show like this?
Brian: Well, there sure is a lot more to focus on than just meeting a lot of the attendees that are here visiting AWWA in Dallas. We’ve got new products that we want to introduce to the marketplace. There are media types walking around, like Water Online, taking note of new products and capabilities in the exhibitor booths.
Certainly, GF Piping Systems is on the move. Among the new products we’re showcasing here at AWWA are FM-approved design flow HDPE pipefittings and accessories, including new and innovative bolt rings. We’re exhibiting brand new metering ball valves and vent and check valves, plus an all-new double containment piping system called Double-See.
This system is quick and easy to install and includes patented closure couplings, which enable practical compliance with ASME B31.3. We also have a unique valve and valve design, which maintains full pressure rating of the containment piping, unlike valve boxes would do.
We have a new instrument platform, the Signet Model 9900 SmartPro Transmitter, which is a single-channel, multiparameter platform for flow, pH, ORP conductivity, pressure and temperature level, turbidity, chlorine, and more. Its universal input and modular design make it the most versatile and adaptable instrument on the market.
We’re also introducing an optical dissolved oxygen sensor at this show, plus expanded ranges for our free chlorine monitoring system. Per usual, there’s definitely a lot to see and discuss around the GF booths at AWWA this year.
Todd Schnick: Well holy smokes, Brian.
Brian: Did you get all that, Todd?
Todd Schnick: Yes, I got it all down. Some interesting stuff. Pretty cool. But I have to ask you, what the heck do you mean when you say GF Piping Systems are on the move?
Brian: Okay. Well, certainly GF is on the move in the sense of new product introductions, and new focus on specific markets. Perhaps the most exciting are the great companies joining the GF family, strengthening our presence in the core markets we discussed.
Just last month, we announced the acquisition of Independent Pipe Products. Better by design, they're leaders in HDPE pipe extrusion through 65 inches, plus fabricated fittings, and a whole lot more. Earlier this year, we acquired Harvel Plastics, the quality line of PVC and CPVC pipe and bar stock products.
We’re proud of our recent and legacy acquisitions in the U.S., such as Signet Scientific back in the late-’80s, inventors of the paddle wheel flow sensor, and so much more — now GF Signet; R&G Sloane in the mid-’90s, makers of PVC and CPVC pipe and fittings, Fuseal Corrosive Waste Systems, Contain-It, Double Containment, and more — now GF Sloane; Central Plastics in 2008, market leaders in polyethylene electro-fusion fittings, mainly for water and gas utility applications, plus meter sets and risers for natural gas utilities — now GF Central Plastics; Alpha Plastics, up in Canada, now the GF Piping Systems sales entity in Canada.
Harvel Plastics earlier this year are now GF Harvel, and Independent Pipe Products last month is now a division of GF Central Plastics. This is the motion and activity I was referring to.
Todd Schnick: On the move? That is a very apt phrase to describe it. It is really great to hear about acquisitions. That’s about the clearest signal of a healthy company that’s providing real, live value to its customers. I applaud you for that. As long as we’re talking about acquisitions, what’s on the docket? If you can talk about it?
Brian: Well, of course, with respect to future acquisitions, I couldn’t say — assuming that I even knew. But our portfolio consists of piping systems and automation —that’s pipefittings, manual and actuated valves, plus sensors and instrumentation for measurement and control. We’ll be looking to grow in all of those areas organically and by other means. All I can say really is stay tuned, because GF is definitely on the move.
Todd Schnick: Well, Brian, let’s shift focus for a sec. Let’s go up to 10,000 feet and look down at the industry. What trends do you see coming down the pike the next 3 to 5 years?
Brian: Well, a couple come immediately to mind. These aren’t anything particularly new. I would expect that some of your other guests — and you probably would mention the same sort of things — but for GF Piping Systems business, we see a trend toward larger and larger pipe sizes for delivering larger quantities of clean water to the various users. Diameters of piping are getting bigger, the demand for clean water is growing.
As the workforce ages and we’re finding a lot of people retiring from the workforce, we’re seeing a transition from a lot of manual recording of water quality levels and a variety of operations within the treatment plants themselves are being automated. GF Piping Systems, again, portfolio consists of pipe and fittings and valves and instrumentation for automation. Those are some of the biggest trends that we see in the market today.
Todd Youngblood: You’ve got me scratching my head here, Brian, because you talked about folks retiring that have a lot of information and knowledge about this industry and the products.
You went through a laundry list of new innovations, new products, new services that you guys are providing. How do you help your customers figure all this out? There’s so many different moving pieces. So much complexity. How does GF Piping help their folks figure out what’s important?
Brian: Yes, that’s a great question. The way we go to market in the United States is through a network of stocking distribution partners. These partners have a wide variety of products and services and capabilities available for the markets that they serve.
Through our innovations in pipe and fittings and automation equipment, together with our distributor partners, we’re really able to meet a vast, diverse and growing set of needs within the operations and maintenance outfits of water and wastewater treatment facilities.
Todd Schnick: Brian, I hate to say it, but we’re out of time. Before I let you go, where can people get in touch with you, and where can they learn more about GF Piping Systems?
Brian: Thanks, Todd. We certainly welcome all visitors to our booths here at the show, and we have three this year. You’ll find our industrial portfolio at GF Piping Systems, Booth 2124, and our utilities portfolio at GF Central Plastics and at Independent Pipe Products — these are back-to-back booths — 1032 and 932. After the show, the best place to start for additional information is the website at www.gfpiping.com.
Todd Schnick: Three booths?
Brian: Three booths.
Todd Schnick: Three booths.
Brian: On the move, baby.
Todd Youngblood: I guess they know how to do a tradeshow.
Todd Schnick: I guess they do. All right, well, Brian Labelle, Director of Marketing, GF Piping Systems. It was great to have you. Thanks so much for joining us.
Brian: Thanks, guys.
Todd Schnick: All right. That wraps this segment. On behalf of our guest, Brian Labelle, my co-host, Todd Youngblood, all of us at Water Online, I’m Todd Schnick, we’ll be right back with our next guest.