Brian LaBelle of GF Piping Systems talks to Water Online Radio about the evolution of the company, its new product offerings, and the focus GF places on customer service.
Todd Schnick: Good afternoon and welcome back to Water Online Radio, coming to you live from WEFTEC here in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am Todd Schnick joined by my friend and colleague Todd Youngblood. Todd, we've been looking forward to this guy since we saw him in Dallas.
Todd Youngblood: That's an old friend. Don't you feel like we've known this guy for 100 years?
Todd Schnick: I think so. Say hello to Brian LaBelle. He is the Director of Business Development for Water Treatment and Energy with GF Piping Systems. Welcome back Brian.
Brian: Thank you Todd and Todd. It's great to be back. Water Online Radio and Water Online magazine are picking up new listeners and new readers all the time so I'm happy to reintroduce myself and GF Piping Systems.
Todd Schnick: It's great to have you. Thanks for making time to join us.
Todd Youngblood: Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and then tell us about GF Piping Systems.
Brian: Sure, thanks. My name is Brian LaBelle. I'm currently responsible for helping GF develop business in the water and wastewater treatment markets as well as in energy.
These have been areas of interest for GF for a long time. We got our start in 1802, some 210 years ago, as a malleable iron fittings manufacture. that's a metals foundry producing plumbing parts. In fact, the pluses in the GF logo are symbolic of the iron four-way cross fittings among our original products.
And since the early 1950s we've been a pioneer in plastics and an innovator of corrosion-resistant piping systems in many different materials for a wide variety of applications in water and gas utilities, industrial systems and building technology.
So with this long history and market diversification, it's a safe bet GF will always be there for populations and businesses in need of clean water.
Todd Youngblood: You guys are actually beginning to appear like a permanent fixture here at WEFTEC. Clearly, the municipal market is a really important market for you guys. What's new this year?
Brian: Per usual, GF Piping Systems is indeed on the move with new products and integration activities, welcoming recent acquisitions into the GF family and leveraging new strengths in the market.
We're exhibiting brand new metering ball valves, 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.
The system also features a unique double containment valve which maintains full pressure rating of the containment piping, making it better and more compact than a valve box.
We have a new instrument platform, the Signet model 9900 SmartPro transmitter, which is a single channel, multi-parameter device for monitoring and controlling flow, pH, ORP, conductivity, pressure, temperature, level, turbidity, chlorine, dissolved oxygen and more.
We're also introducing an optical dissolved oxygen sensor at this show plus expanded ranges for our free chlorine monitoring system. So there is definitely a lot to see and discuss around the GF booth at WEFTEC this year.
Todd Schnick: GF has such a wide range of products and it's just growing all the time. How do you reach your customers and how do you provide them with information that they need to stay current and up-to-date?
Brian: I appreciate this question very much. The first part of the answer is definitely the website, www.gfpiping.com.
This certainly is a great tool for all kinds of information in a variety of formats, product catalogs, datasheets, instruction manuals, engineering handbooks, product and material selection criteria, chemical compatibility tables, videos, magazine articles plus contact detail for our sales people in the United States and for our sales offices and manufacturing facilities in more than 30 countries around the world.
All this information is extremely easy to find on the website. One click gets you into our Resource Center which is organized by intuitive categories and is also keyword searchable, a very useful tool. We've received a lot of compliments on it because it absolutely does streamline navigation to a lot of high value content.
But when it comes to actually reaching customers this is what really sets GF Piping Systems apart. We have local Area Sales Managers covering every square inch of the country for Automation, that's measurement and control products, for Engineered Piping systems and for our Vinyl Piping system portfolios.
These are trained technical sales engineers with responsibility to understand the needs of our customers, to make sure they get the technical support necessary for specifying products with confidence and also to make sure product availability and delivery performance match the requirements on the ground.
Of course we also have, on the inside, great Product Management, Technical Service and Sales support teams providing assistance to the field, which includes a vast network of stocking distributors.
So it is through all of these means; the website, www.gfpiping.com, local Area Sales Managers, Product Managers, Technical Service, Inside Sales and stocking distributors. That's what we provide to our customers. The piping systems and automation equipment they need to run their businesses safely, reliably and efficiently.
Todd Youngblood: Brian, this is probably a superfluous question, but are we going to see you and GF in Chicago next year?
Brian: Yes, yes indeed. We will be back. One of the things you can count on from GF is long-term commitment especially to a market so centrally routed in the water cycle and so core to our strategy of serving the clean water needs of municipal, commercial and industrial customers around the world.
Todd Schnick: What have you enjoyed the most so far from this WEFTEC?
Brian: You know, this is a very well attended show. We're happy that WEFTEC is going to be bouncing back and forth between New Orleans and Chicago. At least that's our understanding. New Orleans is a great city to come to.
Obviously, there's a lot of entertainment and lots of great food but it is very well attended here and this venue attracts a lot of people. WEFTEC as a tradeshow I think is just growing and growing.
What we've enjoyed most is just all the great conversations that we've had with people from the water industry, from the OEMs that we serve. I've seen a lot of old, familiar faces and also a lot of new prospects for developing our business in this marketplace.
Todd Youngblood: Brian, you're an old hand at working a tradeshow like this. What kind of advice would you give to somebody new to the industry just trying to break in? How do they get the most out of a show like this?
Brian: That's a great question. I mean you get out of a show what you put into it. It really pays to plan ahead, think ahead, what is it that you do want to get out of a tradeshow? I'm much more of a hunter, I think, than a farmer or even a fisherman.
So rather than standing around in your booth waiting for people to walk by and hoping that you might make eye contact with them and dragging them into your booth, get on out there. Identify some customers. Pull them away from your competitors.
Work those aisles and work the show actively rather than just sitting back and, in between phone calls to the regular business, hoping that you might find someone with some interest in your business walking by.
I would say just be active and get out there and aggressively promote your business, promote yourself and let customers and prospects know how you can help them out.
Todd Schnick: Amen to that. Brian, we're out of time. Before we let you go, how can people get in touch with you and where can they learn more about GF Piping Systems?
Brian: The simple answer to that is the website, www.gfpiping.com. As I mentioned before, it's a great source of high-value content and all kinds of our contact information there for our sales people and for those of us back in the office ready to help you with a phone call or an email.
Todd Schnick: All right. Brian LaBelle, Director of Business Development for Water Treatment and Energy with GF Piping Systems. It was great to have you. Thanks for making the time to join us.
Brian: Thanks very much. It's been a pleasure again.
Todd Schnick: That wraps this segment of Water Online Radio live from WEFTEC in New Orleans. We’ll be right back.