Valve Alternatives For A Lead-Free Future

Todd Evans

Todd Evans of Matco-Norca discusses the impact of upcoming “lead-free” regulations, and speaks to the alternatives available – cost, material, and otherwise – when considering valves and fittings.

Todd Schnick: We’re coming to you live from Dallas, Texas. This is day three of AWWA ACE 2012 and Water Online Radio. I’m your host, Todd Schnick, joined by my colleague, Todd Youngblood. Todd, there is a vortex in the universe, because our guest is also named Todd.

Todd Youngblood: I’ll tell you…the Todd density here is just so gratifying, I can’t tell you. I’ve never seen so many in all my life.

Todd Schnick: Todds must dominate the water industry, because there’s just an awful lot of them in this building. This is great.

Todd Youngblood: Well, we dominate quite a few industries when you look around.

Todd Schnick: Right. Todd, are you ready for day three?

Todd Youngblood: Absolutely, I’ve been ready for day three. I was born ready, baby.

Todd Schnick: All right. Well, we’re off and running and we welcome our guest. His name is Todd Evans. He is the National Market Manager for the Waterworks Products for Matco-Norca. Welcome to the show, Todd.

Todd Evans: Good morning. Thank you.

Todd Youngblood: Well, before we get into it, Todd, do take a second and tell us a little bit about you and your background.

Todd Evans: I’ve come up through the industry; I’ve been with Matco-Norca for about 12 years now, working primarily through the plumbing wholesale channel originally, and then getting more diverse and covering just a specific industry like waterworks in the last 2½ to 3 years.

Todd Schnick: Do us a favor and tell us all about Matco-Norca. What are you guys all about?

Todd Evans: Matco is a privately held company, been around for 60 years, since 1952. We’re a global sourcing unit. We bring in products from all over the world, from different factories in both the Asia base and the European market as well. So we’ve been doing that for 60 years, thereabouts. Things are going well for us.

In this industry these days, everybody’s looking for a cost alternative type option to look at. We like it when people keep the manufacturing and things in the United States as well, but everybody’s looking for a way to save a dollar. That’s where we fit into the market.

Todd Schnick: Todd, what’s your primary focus, specifically for the waterworks world?

Todd Evans: Our primary focus is probably the valve portion of the market, although we’re never going to be anybody’s spec valve, we’re never going to be the shelf valve. Many of the manufacturers you see around the show today are the guys that are on everybody’s shelf.

We’re the guy – in private situations, or in cost alternative situations, a municipality is really struggling with how much budget they have to spend on a project – we’re the guy that comes in and saves them a little bit of money. And they can value engineer the project at that point. 

Todd Schnick: You’ve used the phrase “cost alternative” twice now.

Todd Evans: Yes.

Todd Schnick: In our interview. Tell us exactly what you mean by that.

Todd Evans: Primarily in this market, with everybody at this show, they understand who the valve manufacturers are. They're all primarily going to be selling the same product for the same price. It doesn’t matter which manufacturer you're looking at. We’re giving you an alternative to look at doing something different.

It’s not an option for everybody at every point in time, but what it is, is when there’s those one or two things that come across somebody’s table in your privately held jobs, things like in a  rural market, something like that, where they don’t have the budget to spend like the city of Dallas, per se.

Todd Schnick: Got you. Todd, talk about some of the specific products that Matco-Norca’s supplying. And what are the advantages for wholesalers?

Todd Evans: One of the primary advantages that we do have is that we do sell a lot of the ancillary products that go in and around the systems that are being displayed at the show here this time around. So what you’re going to see is, you're going to see a lot of things like meter couplings, and meter flanges, and cleanouts, and brass groove fittings.

And it’s all the inner workings. What we can do or what we’re effective, working through the wholesale channel is, you can bundle those products. So you're not necessarily talking about using three or four different vendors. You can buy five or six different things from us, all at one point in time. It saves you on freight, it saves you on cutting POs. It saves you all the value of process and the paperwork along the way.

Todd Schnick: We’ve got this lead-free legislation staring us in the face.

Todd Evans: Yes.

Todd Schnick: What's your thought on that? Is that scary? Is it something you embrace, you're ready for?

Todd Evans: Well, I’ve lived through it. I was actually the Regional Manager for Matco-Norca in 2010, where it went into effect in California. So I’ve been there, done that once already. It’s a little daunting and a little scary for most folks. Primarily having done it once, I can tell you that the people who are best equipped with it are the people that come to the party early.

They make plans, they sit down, they talk amongst themselves as a company and see what’s going to work best for them. They sit down with a calendar. It’s legislation almost everywhere. In 2014, Louisiana actually comes online next month. So our neighbors to the east are already looking at making some adjustments and changes in how they do their procurement, and complying with the law.

Todd Schnick: Aren’t there going to be some pricing issues when you look at the lead-free products versus the standard ones?

Todd Evans: Yeah. And especially on the brass side of it with the lead-free. Because of the chemical composition of the product, what’s happening is it’s a lot more difficult product to manufacture than the standard brass that we’re used to seeing in the marketplace. Because the lead was the malleable portion of the product.

So what’s happening is you're taking the one workable element out of the brass fitting or the brass ball valve, and you're making it more difficult to manufacture. So there’s a lot of porosity problems. So guys are having more of a failure rate where they’ll run at say, a 90-degree elbow.

With a standard brass product that they're manufacturing right now, the failure rate may be 2½ to 3 percent. With the new platform and the new chemical composition, you're talking about 14 to 15 percent, as far as having to go back in and melt it down and get it redone again. It’s a lot harder on the machinery, a lot harder on the equipment; it’s harder to thread the material. So the machinery wears out faster, the dyes wear out faster. And therefore, you’ll find if you talk to almost anybody in that market, you're looking at about a 20 to 25 percent increase in the price.

Unfortunately, most people in the United States honestly think that when the United States changes as a whole that there’ll be more of a demand, there’ll be more product, and the price will go down. Unfortunately, it’s a simple manufacturing problem. It’s just that much more difficult to make.

Todd Schnick: Let’s shift focus real quickly, Todd, and go up to 10,000 feet, look down on the water industry. What do you see as the big trend that’s coming down the pike in the next three to five years?

Todd Evans: There’s a lot of time in there, a lot of time and effort being spent looking at cost alternatives to the lead-free products. A lot of people are talking about stainless steel products, as an example. Not real sure where that’s going to go or how it’s going to work out. But any time you throw that kind of demand into a new product, you're automatically going to drive up the price of it right from the start.

So what I see when I cover the whole United States is there’s a huge variance in the way things are done, depending upon where you are in the country. In the southeast, things are geared more towards CPVC and PVC. If you go out west, everything is still a copper-based product. So it’s unique unto the actual region of the United States that you're looking at.

Todd Schnick: Todd, we’re out of time, which I hate to say. Before I let you go, how can people get in touch with you, and where can they learn more about Matco-Norca?

Todd Evans: We have a website, www.Matco-Norca.com. Everything that you’ll need is on the website, including the list of specifications, price lists, all that kind of stuff. All the good information about lead-free that we have to offer. And anybody can contact me through the website.

Todd Schnick: Outstanding. So Todd Evans, National Market Manager for the Waterworks Products with Matco-Norca, it was great to have you. Thanks so much for joining us.

Todd Evans: All right. Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

Todd Schnick: All right. Well that wraps this segment. On behalf of our guest, Todd, my co-host, Todd, all of us at Water Online, I am also Todd. We’ll be right back with our next guest.