PMI Fall Conference brings the plumbing industry together

In October, member of Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) met in Rosemont, Ill., for the PMI 2014 Fall Conference. As always, the event was filled with high-impact presentations, top notch speakers and great opportunities for networking and discussion. Plumbing Engineer was proud to be a sponsor of this year’s event and enjoyed engaging with attendees during the exhibit breaks.

The conference started out strong with an engaging panel discussion featuring a collection of CEOs from the industry. On the panel were Michael Sipek, CEO of Bradley; Jai Shah, president of Delta Faucet Co.; Chris Baldwin, president, Global Faucets at Kohler; David Lingafelter, president of Moen Inc.; Tim O’Keefe, CEO of Symmons Industries, Inc.; and Bill Strang, president of TOTA USA, Inc.

As if the panel wasn’t impressive enough on its own, this year’s PMI Executive Panel Discussion was moderated by legendary journalist and broadcaster, Bill Kurtis. The former anchor of CBS Morning News, Kurtis is perhaps best known today as the narrator of the Anchorman films and the announcer on the NPR radio program, Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me. 

Kurtis was able to bring a unique combination of insight, gravitas and wit to the Executive Panel Discussion. The panel hit on many important topics, including the drought in the Southwestern U.S. and the importance of replacing old, outdated and water-intensive toilets, showerheads, faucets and urinals with new WaterSense plumbing products. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), replacement alone could save up to three billion gallons of water per day.

The CEOs discussed an array of challenges and opportunities facing both the plumbing industry and the nation as a whole. And, while the impacts of the housing market collapse and recession are still being felt, each of the panelists expressed optimism about the state of the plumbing industry and a healing economy that will continue to drive business into 2015 and beyond.

The conference program featured numerous other speakers and topics, spanning three days. The Government Affairs Committee updated the group on legislative actions going on at the state and federal level. Jörg Rudolph, vice president and head of product management at NEOPERL, delivered a presentation comparing different sustainability programs from around the world. More global perspective was provided by Yvonne Orgill, CEO of the UK’s Bathroom Manufacturer’s Association (BMA). 

BMA’s technical director, Christian Taylor-Hamlin, joined Jennifer Altee, technical liaison for the Health Product Declaration Collaborative, to discuss health certifications in plumbing. Hampton Newsome, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection, talked about environmental labeling and Internet sales of non-compliance products. John Tompkins, managing director of Waterwise, spoke on water-energy rebate programs.

Along with the Executive Panel, there were two other discussions in the PMI Conference program. I had the great honor of moderating the panel on life-cycle assessment (LCA). I was able to share the stage with an excellent panel, featuring Tad Radzinksi, PE, LEED AP, president of Sustainable Solutions Corp.; Dave Hartter, senior sustainability analyst for EarthShift; Sarah Mandlebaum, life-cycle analyst with Quantis; William Paddock, founder and director of WAP Sustainability Consulting; and Steve Baer, senior consultant at PE International. 

The panel engaged in a fascinating conversation of what the true benefits of LCA are, as well as what kinds of time and resource investments are required from companies and manufacturers pursuing them. It was an excellent breakdown of what an LCA truly is. 

Many perceive an LCA as an end, in and of itself, or a product grade of some sort. In reality, LCAs enable manufacturers to better understand their own processes and products and often result in efficiencies they may not have considered before. Most importantly, the raw results of an LCA are nothing without proper analysis and presentation. Better understanding of LCAs can only help manufacturers and end users better use the power of the data they provide.

The other panel discussion was titled “The Future of Water Revisited.” The panel featured Mary Ann Dickinson, president and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency; Danielle Gallet, infrastructure strategist and water supply program manager at the Center for Neighborhood Technology; Ed Lichner, president of Hydrodyne; John Baethke, president of John Baethke and Son Plumbing; and Mike Ramsey, water superintendent for the Village of Westmont, Ill.

In addition to the program of speakers and panel discussions, there were committee updates on the technical and outreach sides of the association, as well as an exhibit and numerous networking and social events. As always, this PMI event was a great place to get a pulse on what’s happening out in the industry and what issues, challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

Traditionally, PMI hosts two conferences each year; one in the spring and one in the fall. This year marks a transition to a once-per-year event for PMI, starting in 2015. The next PMI Convention will take place in San Antonio, Texas, on October 26-29, 2015.

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