The customer is still always right
In 1900, J.A. Zurn set out to eliminate wastewater back up in homes and buildings. To do so, he started Zurn Industries and manufactured his first patented product, a cast iron backwater valve. A global engineered water solutions provider with multiple channels and trusted brands, the company has made its mark in non-residential building markets in ways that Zurn may not have been able to imagine 115 years ago. Celebration is in order.
Craig Wehr, president of The Zurn Group, shared with Plumbing Engineer how the company has been reflecting on its success and preparing for what is to come.
PE: Could you give our readers a look inside Zurn as a company today?
CW: Zurn manufactures the broadest portfolio of specification grade products in North America, serving customer channels within Plumbing, Waterworks, Fire, Irrigation, Industrial and Concrete markets. We manufacture products through various plants in North America: Zurn Specification Drain, in Erie, Pa.; Zurn Pex, in Harbor Creek, Pa.; Zurn Commercial Brass and Fixtures, in Sanford, N.C.; Zurn Wilkins operations, in Paso Robles, Calif.; and Filimat Composites Inc., in Toronto, Ont.
Zurn owns six service centers in Philadelphia, Pa.; Atlanta, Ga.; Elkhart, Ind.; Dallas, Texas, Ontario, Calif.; and Mississauga, Ont. These service centers stock all products and perform late point fabrication and assembly to compress lead times for customers and to quickly replenish rep inventory for our representatives.
We also operate legal entities within Canada and Australia that serve local wholesaler markets with Zurn products. The Zurn Group’s businesses in the U.S. are managed with functional leaders that focus on the critical parts of the business, and work with talented cross-functional teams to deliver results. Our senior leadership has solid track records in diversified industries. The team includes Chad Koenig, VP of Finance, who has been with us for three years and previously worked at Rexnord Corporation, which purchased Zurn in 2007; Sean Martin, VP of Sales, who has been here 21 years; Michele Meierhofer, director of Marketing who joined us this year; Scott Burnett, VP of Operations who has been here for three years and also previously worked at Rexnord; Glen Trickle, VP of Product Management and Engineering, who joined us this year; Doug Ford, VP of Business Development, who also joined this year; and Stephanie Wiggins, VP of Human Resources, who has been here for three years. In total, Zurn has about 1,000 associates.
Also, Zurn belongs to several industry groups and associations, which have benefited our company. MCAA, ASPE, AIA and ASA are key organizations that we have been extensively involved with over the years in providing continued education opportunities and sharing of ideas with one another.
PE: What are Zurn's best-known products?
CW: Our best known products are cast iron drains and carrier systems, grease and oil separators, backflow preventers, pressure reducing valves, flushometers, commercial faucets, commercial vitreous fixtures and PEX piping systems.
Zurn recently launched a series of water efficient fixtures including the Omni-Flo urinal, a single SKU for multi-flow rates, and our Z5615 water closet system, with flow rates from 1.1 to 1.6 gpf. We also recently launched a new line of AquaFit sensor faucets and EZ Carry low flow carrier systems that improve building operations.
PE: Who are you all’s customers and in what unique ways do you assist them?
CW: Building owners, architects, engineers and contractors have the most influence over the buying decisions for Zurn products, and are an important part of our commercial strategy. We sell our products through wholesale distribution. Zurn provides market leading innovations and a broad array of high-quality products that are easily specified and installed. We simplify the bid-to-shipment process for our customers, and provide a high level of service. Our operations team conducts customer satisfaction surveys quarterly, and solicits field VOC to continually improve Zurn’s value to customers.
The interaction between Zurn and the design community helps us to develop new technologies and advance the thinking of our product management teams. We will continue to find new product solutions that reduce labor costs for contractors, and produce lower life cycle costs for building owners.
Mechanical contractors and installers are also extremely important to Zurn. They have the responsibility of installing products properly and assuring performance for the building owner. We spend time sharing ideas with them and providing education on our latest product solutions.
In honor of our 115 years of innovation, “Earn with Zurn” was recently launched to our customers. We recognize that it is our customers who drive Zurn to be the best in the industry. This program is our opportunity to show our gratitude for their loyalty over the years.
PE: What investments did Zurn make recently, and are there more to come in 2016?
CW: Zurn made substantial investments over the last three years to transform a multi-business platform with varied processes to a “One Zurn” business model based on direct feedback from our customers. They asked us to take the complexity out of our business and simplify the customer experience. It was a tremendous amount of work by all associates to make it happen. We now have a One Zurn business model that operates from a single enterprise platform, a new customer care organization to transact all Zurn products on a single invoice, improved factory and supply chain operations, and regional service centers that are more intuitive to their local reps and customers. This transformation has reshaped our business and enabled us to better support customer growth and satisfaction.
We recently announced that we are establishing a new global corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, Wis. The new LEED Gold three-story, 52,000-square-foot building is located in the Reed Street Yards Water Technology Park, adjacent to Rexnord Corporate. The building will be completed the fall of 2016, and house 120 of our employees.
PE: What are Zurn’s goals as it relates to technology?
CW: Zurn continues to gain strength through the technologies we employ. From online specification tools to state-of-the-art enterprise resource planning, our goal is to serve the customer. Specifiers benefit from ongoing social media outreach to just-in-time, easy-to-find technical data, such as BIM models on our website. Zurn understands the need to adapt to this ever-changing environment. Looking ahead, customers can expect to find an enhanced experience at www.zurn.com, including robust specification tools and an increased library of online training.
PE: Looking toward the future, what will Zurn be doing to differentiate itself in the marketplace?
CW: The U.S. non-residential building markets have improved steadily over the last couple of years, and we see the trend continuing over the next 18 to 24 months. We will continue to scale for growth, and focus on new technologies and improved service levels to create further differentiation in the marketplace. Zurn has a portfolio of products that deliver water control, water safety, and conservation with low costs of installation and repair. We will develop product systems that further eliminate wasted labor for contractors and installers, and perform as integrated systems within water conservation applications.
Zurn will also continue to differentiate itself through the use of Rexnord Business Systems (RBS), which is a continual improvement process for all business functions. It has changed our business model over the last eight years and helped our teams to develop better go-to-market strategies and lean operations that deliver higher service levels and customer value.