By Sal Gattone, PMI Board of Directors President, LIXIL
The PMI Board of Directors brings a laser-like focus to its mission of influencing the strategic future of our industry, and I’m proud to have served as the 2023 president. Every PMI president preceding me, and most certainly those who have held the helm in the past five years or so, has faced unenviable challenges and circumstances. Whether navigating longtime retirements, dodging the impact of COVID-19, or leading the association in a new strategic direction, each of them has done so with great finesse and even sharper instincts.
For me, these past 12 months have flown by fast. Whether fueling the strategic plans for the association’s future or wrangling the hundreds of decisions—small and large—essential to the association’s success, I have benefited from the support, guidance and sound advice provided by a wonderful team of volunteer leaders at the committee, task group, and board levels.
At the beginning of 2024, I will turn over the responsibilities of PMI Board of Directors president to Chip Way and will continue to serve as PMI’s immediate past president. We have an amazing array of forward-looking initiatives to address in 2024. I am excited about the experiences to come.
While others talk about being the voice of our industry, PMI delivers on that promise at the city, county, state and federal levels across the issues that matter most to you, your colleagues, and your company. Some talk the talk. PMI walks the walk by building industry consensus and delivering critical results.
This year’s PMI Annual Report, Upstream/Downstream (tinyurl.com/242uhrez), outlines all the amazing ways PMI member companies are contributing to the health, safety and sustainability of the communities they serve, both locally and globally.
Every year, the value of PMI membership grows because we recognize the importance of working both in “front of the wall” and “behind the wall” for today’s commercial, government and residential marketplaces. In 2024, when we celebrate PMI’s 70th anniversary serving plumbing fixture and fitting manufacturers, we will celebrate the successes and recognize the important and unique complexities of manufacturing not found in other plumbing industry channels.
As our member value continues to grow, we anticipate greater and continued diversity within PMI membership, as well. For those of you who are already engaged, we’re so glad you’re here. If you have colleagues and friends at other companies in our industry, I encourage you to introduce them to PMI, and when it makes sense, introduce the PMI team to your friends. We’ll take it from there.
There is no better organization addressing the needs or interests of manufacturers in the plumbing products industry. We look forward to supporting your work and welcoming new companies as members.
I thank my team and colleagues at LIXIL for their unwavering support while I was otherwise engaged with PMI business this past year. I am grateful to them and so many of you who, even with hectic hybrid work schedules, still found time to share your thinking, your ideas, and your advice with me.
We will continue our tradition of encouraging you to share your ideas in 2024. They say the best way to have good ideas is to have a lot of ideas, so I hope you will jump in as a volunteer leader, active participant, or stalwart catalyst to share your insights with us. Your participation will make our laser-like focus even sharper.
By Kerry Stackpole, FASAE, CAE, PMI CEO/Executive Director
Where do I start? What a great year 2023 turned out to be!
Over this past year, the PMI team brought the Rethink Water initiative into the limelight. Bringing this initiative to light required a good deal of effort:
- We created the Rethink Water logo, website content, and several videos that explain the initiative’s purpose and goals, which include legacy product replacement.
- We developed “Saving Water Quickly Through Legacy Product Replacement,” which estimates how much water can be saved by replacing legacy toilets statewide in California. This report also summarizes the results of the PMI-commissioned 2022 California Market Penetration of Water-Efficient Plumbing Products Study, which found the residential market penetration of water-efficient 1.28 or less gallons-per-flush toilets to range from 22.0% to 25.9% in the five state regions surveyed.
- We listed legacy product replacement programs implemented across the nation on our website.
- We attended the National Conference of State Legislatures conference to explain to attendees how they could save water in their districts by implementing rebates, legacy product replacement, and tax-free holidays.
- We updated PMI’s guide to state, county and local appliance water-efficiency standards. The guide now includes summaries of non-compliance penalties that can be levied against manufacturers and others.
- After providing opportunities for PMI member input, the PMI Board of Directors approved a new PMI policy on water efficiency developed by PMI committee participants. The policy outlines water-efficiency principles and recommendations and can be used as state and local governments and their stakeholders discuss potential policies that promote the adoption of safe, water-efficient technologies and practices.
This work has PMI well positioned to advocate at the state and federal government levels for the robust replacement, installation and rebate programs that will be required to assure safe, clean water for future generations in the face of water shortages.
In addition, we held our annual Power Break gathering at KBIS 2023, hosting a broad array of international and domestic guests who enjoyed both networking and a briefing on industry legislative and regulatory challenges. The PMI board explored strategic issues including extended producer responsibility, generative artificial intelligence, and skills development for those working in the plumbing-related trades. And we continued to facilitate the technical and advocacy/government affairs collaboration, professional development programming, and timely communications you’ve come to expect from PMI.
I have the immense joy of leading a team that refuses to sit still. Our team is led by PMI staff members Jodi Stuhrberg, Kyle Thompson, and Ann Geier. Our business partners include our communications team led by Ray Valek and including writer Judy Wohlt and graphic designer Maureen Baird; the financial acumen brought by CPA Marc Paquette and Lisa Buchanan; legal counsel Pam Taylor; and our fearless federal and California advocates Stephanie Salmon and Jerry Desmond. This entire team keeps PMI moving – fast forward – everyday. And I thank them for all they have done for you, and for all they will do for you, our members, in the year to come.
As we look forward to 2024 and beyond, we see the plumbing manufacturing industry existing within a uniquely complex environment. The strategic and operational differences between manufacturers and other industry channels are enormous; yet, somehow, we bridge those complexities to deliver the benefits of safe, responsible plumbing.
It’s really the thing I love most about this work – the complexity and consistent demand for new ideas and solutions that make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. That’s the work.
I look forward to working with each of you in the coming year to gather those ideas and do what matters for our communities and our customers. You are all ambassadors for your companies; you play an enormously valuable role by spreading the word about PMI and by helping us make certain the critical information developed by PMI goes to the right person at the right time.
Together, let’s make 2024 another great year for you, your company, and PMI!
By Judy Wohlt, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
Perseverance, the name of the 2020 Mars rover, perfectly described the abundant challenges Moogega Cooper’s team overcame to launch the spacecraft – and how she pursued her dream to follow in Carl Sagan’s footsteps.
She shared her story of the many lessons learned working on the Mars rover mission to help plumbing manufacturers build and support successful teams during her keynote address “Limitless” at the PMI23 Manufacturing Success Conference.
“When you see that launch happening, you don’t see the thousands of failures that we had to persevere through to get to that place,” said Cooper, who has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and is planetary protection engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Your success in life, both personally and professionally, largely depends on how you handle failures.”
A rocket-fueled path to success
After watching Sagan’s “Cosmos” for the first time as a child, Dr. Cooper said she knew she wanted to study space exploration. The Sagan series taught her that she’s part of a bigger cosmic picture and fueled her journey to become a real-life guardian of the galaxy.
She graduated from high school at age 16, studied physics as an undergraduate, received a master’s degree, and went on to earn a Ph.D. at 24 years old with a dissertation on sterilizing spacecraft materials.
Dr. Cooper and her team analyze samples from the surface of spacecraft for bacteria before the launch to Mars – to ensure all spacecraft carry a low probability of contaminating the red planet, she said. Letting earthly bacteria slip through could threaten the team’s mission to discover whether or not any life exists on Mars.
She explained how intense the pressure is to succeed. Her team must wait every two years for the orbits of Earth and Mars to align. “If you miss the launch window, you have to wait another two years and pay about a billion dollars to keep the spacecraft up and running,” she added.
Tips translate from Mars missions to plumbing manufacturing
Dr. Cooper explained how maintaining a childlike curiosity, supporting a diverse team, and sharing a common team goal are as important when working on Mars rover missions as they are when creating plumbing manufacturing innovations.
She described a meeting where someone suggested that it would “be cool” to add commercial off-the-shelf cameras on the Mars rover’s descent and landing system. Her gut response told her the idea had zero scientific value. All she could think about were the camera parts that would crash and spread infectious spores all over Mars’ surface.
“But I had to remember my childlike curiosity,” she said. “We added the cameras and got images we’ve never had before.” The images revealed the way dust flowed as the rover landed, helping engineers validate many of their models, and adding great scientific and engineering value, Dr. Cooper stated.
NASA also understands that building diverse teams is essential to being successful – no matter what your endeavor. “We often need to look past degrees and certificates to see who will really provide the best solutions for the problems we have,” she said.
For example, Dr. Cooper explained how NASA recruited a Vietnamese seamstress to create thermal blankets for spacecraft because she was the best person for the job. NASA also hired experienced motorcycle and airplane mechanics having the skills needed to work on certain spacecraft.
She shared a couple of other lessons learned: always focus on a common goal to keep your team focused and keep an eye on the details. “No matter what your industry is, the devil is in the details. Almost every space mission that has failed was caused by human error,” she said.
PMI members can view Dr. Cooper’s and other PMI23 presentation slides here: tinyurl.com/2pzfk9jf.
By Ray Valek, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
Plumbing Manufacturers International members elected Chip Way as president of the 2024 PMI Board of Directors during PMI’s 69th Annual Meeting of the Membership. The director of OEM sales at Lavelle Industries, Way succeeds Sal Gattone, leader of research and development projects, fixtures, at LIXIL. Gattone will remain on the board as immediate past president. The meeting was held during the PMI23 Manufacturing Success Conference in Seattle.
In addition to Way and Gattone, elected to the 2024 board are board vice president Belinda Wise, Kerox, Ltd.; board secretary/treasurer Daniel Gleiberman, Sloan; and at-large directors Kevin Campbell, Moen; Lowell Lampen, Kohler Co.; Bob Neff, Delta Faucet Co.; and Paige Riddle.
“As your president, I will be mindful of the need to keep moving,” Way stated. “That in a nutshell is my charge for 2024. To keep PMI moving forward to deliver added resources and ideas to you. To bring attention to the critical issues impacting our companies and industry and to deliver the meaningful consensus-based solutions that are the root strength of PMI.”
Way recognized Gattone for his contributions as the 2023 PMI board president. He also announced that the 70th Annual Meeting of the Membership will be held as part of the PMI24 Manufacturing Success Conference from Oct. 21-24, 2024, at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead.
In remarks summing up 2023, Gattone recognized new PMI manufacturing member BLANCO America, as well as Hansgrohe reaching the 25-year milestone as a PMI member. He presented the PMI President’s Award to Ralph Suppa, president of the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH), and also recognized frequent guest speaker Gary Stanley’s 40 years of service to the Department of Commerce.
Suppa thanked PMI members for always embracing him and his wife, Susie, with hospitality and respect. He gave his take on the meaning of PMI’s conference name – manufacturing success. “For me, it’s bringing a group of people together for a common cause, and you wonderful folks produce products that ensure the health and safety for consumers in both Canada and United States. We should never lose focus of that.” He asked his successor as CIPH CEO, Satinder Chera, to stand up and be recognized. During his retirement, Suppa’s goal is to “give back to society with what I’ve learned in terms of paying forward, giving back.”
Stanley said he was “absolutely, completely overwhelmed at this honor, particularly because I know the people in this room, and I know how extremely hard you work to do what you do.” Having served for every U.S. president from Ronald Reagan to Joe Biden, Stanley said he was drawn to federal service “with the appreciation that federal service is a privilege… One of the great thrills of carrying out my position at the Department of Commerce for nearly 40 and a half years is to be able to be your voice and to build genuine friendships beyond just the professional relationships… When I came to this particular PMI, knowing that this would be my final attendance here, all I could think of was the joy that it has been to be able to be your voice to not only the policymakers, but those in the positions of authority all the way up to the White House.”
During his state of the association report, PMI CEO/Executive Director Kerry Stackpole recognized the contributions of the PMI board, committee leaders, staff, and business support team. He named Chris McDonald, principal reliability and compliance engineer, Moen, as the recipient of the PMI Ambassador Award, given each year to an employee of a PMI member company. In introducing McDonald as the award recipient, Stackpole said “I’ve had the opportunity to meet ambassadors, American and foreign, and the beauty of those individuals is that they’re positive, they’re smart, they’re cheerleaders for their people, and they’re industrious, and they bring that excitement to the people around them. This year’s PMI Ambassador Award goes to an individual who I think fits that description wonderfully.”
The Oct. 23-26 PMI23 meeting earlier featured the PMI Inspiring Leaders Program at Seattle’s Museum of Flight; the inaugural PMI Women’s Breakfast, a celebration of the contributions of women to the plumbing manufacturing industry; and the presentation of the Paul Patton PMI23 Manufacturing Success Award to Denise Dougherty, global regulatory manager, Sloan.
By Judy Wohlt, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
Andrea Quinn, certified life and business coach and international best-selling author, shared helpful personal development strategies with attendees of the first Plumbing Manufacturers International Women’s Breakfast and her subsequent PMI23 keynote address.
Breakfast attendees learn how to ‘receive’ more
Women who work on their ability to receive and who have a solid sense of their best traits will find a better balance in life.
“When we’re balanced, we’re unstoppable,” Quinn said. “Your true power as a woman comes from your ability to bring things to you, so that you can create more.” She shared these and many other insights at the breakfast.
“It’s so exciting to spend time together, honoring and celebrating each other – women in plumbing – at this special PMI event,” said PMI Board of Directors Secretary-Treasurer Belinda Wise, of Kerox Ltd., during her introduction of Quinn.
Quinn gave participants a copy of her book, “The Quinn Essentials for Women – 9 Transformational Tools to Accomplish Anything,” with tips to achieve respect and career success while remaining true to personal values. She discussed how women can find better ways to ask for help while overcoming fear.
Focus on what makes you great
Be clear about your outstanding qualities and quit focusing on where you’re lacking, Quinn suggested.
“If you don’t work on yourself and understand the value of your self-acceptance and where you’re great, that voice of where you’re not great is loud,” she said.
Knowing who you are at the “soul level” takes time and work, she added.
Work through the discomfort
“Take the help even though it might make you feel uncomfortable at first,” Quinn said. “Keep asking: what could I receive right now?”
For example, she suggested reframing questions. “Instead of asking what you need to do to get ahead in your company, ask ‘Who could I receive assistance from to mentor me to move me forward?’ What a powerful question, which focuses on receiving a solution,” she said.
Receiving can be challenging. “You might get to the end of the day and realize you didn’t receive one time. That’s okay. You’re at least beginning a conversation with yourself that maybe tomorrow, you’ll allow yourself to receive one thing,” Quinn stated.
How to pivot successfully
In her keynote presentation, “Tools to Reinvent Yourself in the New World of Business,” Quinn discussed how the American corporate structure has changed, requiring everyone to pivot. “You need to be able to recreate yourself at any time in business,” she said.
Recent corporate changes are a result of many events, such as the COVID pandemic’s effect on how teams work both remotely and in-office, a focus on more diversity and inclusion, and economic challenges, Quinn explained.
Emphasize what’s working and collaborate
Many companies and teams keep asking what they’re doing wrong and what they need to fix, Quinn said. She suggests flipping the script to look at what’s working – in your organization, team and job.
“Understand how each person contributes to your team and company growth. Acknowledging those contributions and knowing what you do right is the secret to expanding,” she said. “The solutions come to the problems when you don’t focus on the problem.”
Connecting with others and being transparent are valuable traits that will help anyone become empowered and create positive experiences in business and life, Quinn explained. However, some people equate being transparent with weakness.
It’s okay to say “I don’t have all the answers. Let’s figure this out together,” she said. “That brings people in. The more vulnerable and open you are, the more powerful you are. The more you deflect, the less power you have.”
Listen to your own voice
When people listen to their own voices and look inward, they will thrive and find that their careers and lives flow easier. “We survive from the inside out, not the outside in,” Quinn said.
People often live in fear, which causes anger and judgment – outside forces that are damaging corporate America, she said. These forces also cause people to struggle and work harder.
Quinn suggested asking yourself daily: Was I angry? Was I in resistance? How judgmental was I? It might feel difficult to answer honestly, but you’ll begin moving in the right direction, she noted.
“This is actual survival. You might not want to hear the answers, but that’s where we can begin. It’s kind of like monsters under the bed. Just flip the light on. They’re just dust bunnies,” Quinn said.
By Ray Valek, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
Eager to achieve growth within the North American market, BLANCO has become Plumbing Manufacturers International’s newest member.
For more than 95 years, BLANCO’s passionate kitchen experts have perfected the water place with German engineering. Their solution-oriented approach to design offers customers the BLANCO UNIT, the seamless, fully customizable combination of kitchen sink, faucet, accessories and organization systems. Founded in Oberderdingen, Germany, in 1925, the company has marketed its granite composite and stainless steel sinks, faucets and other products in the United States for the past 35 years and in Canada for 33 years. The company has additional presences in more than 100 countries around the world.
BLANCO’s main contact with PMI will be Lars Christensen, vice president, strategic portfolio development & market intelligence for BLANCO North America, who first engaged with PMI in 2002. Starting with BLANCO in April, he said he has retained his PMI engagement as he held positions among various PMI member companies over the years. Christensen said being a part of PMI helps him build relationships with PMI’s allied members that are product certifiers.
“We are delighted to welcome BLANCO North America to PMI and look forward to having their active involvement and global perspective in the critical issues and challenges facing our industry,” said PMI CEO and Executive Director Kerry Stackpole.
Christensen added that he values the legislative and regulatory insights he gains through the work of Jerry Desmond, PMI’s governmental affairs consultant in California, and Stephanie Salmon, PMI’s government affairs consultant in Washington, D.C. “It’s very important to know about the legislation and regulatory actions being proposed and considered. PMI has its finger on the pulse, having all the information we need,” Christensen stated.
Responsible for all product development for BLANCO North America, Christensen will be helping the company “spread its wings a bit over the next couple years,” he explained. “Instead of being only a sink company, we want to serve as a kitchen solution for residential homes with the BLANCO UNIT. We want to be involved in all components of the kitchen water hub. We want to be what’s in the sink, what’s around the sink, what’s on top of the sink, what’s under the sink. Our goal is to develop all of these areas.”
By Judy Wohlt, PMI Communications Team, Valek and Co.
The leaders of Plumbing Manufacturers International’s peer associations came together at the PMI23 Manufacturing Success Conference for a lively exchange of ideas on key industry issues and trends.
Moderated by PMI CEO/Executive Director Kerry Stackpole, the “Global Plumbing Industry Roundtable Discussion” included Satinder Chera, the incoming CEO of the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating; Tom Reynolds, CEO of the United Kingdom’s Bathroom Manufacturers Association; Billy Smith, CEO/executive director, American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE); and Ralph Suppa, president and general manager, CIPH.
The group discussed trends that will shape the global plumbing manufacturing industry in 2024 and beyond, identifying climate change, regulatory challenges, and labor issues, as well as opportunities for innovation. They also reflected on how the COVID pandemic produced unforeseen challenges, such as the need to quickly switch to working remotely while fostering resilience and camaraderie among industry groups.
Managing regulatory uncertainty with strong government ties
The group of leaders shared their strategies for dealing with regulatory uncertainty and concerns about labor shortages, sustainability issues, and the effects of climate change on water resources.
All leaders weighed in on the importance of maintaining open communication and strong connections with governmental entities – as legislators continue to propose regulations that affect plumbing manufacturers.
Suppa mentioned that Natural Resources Canada, a department of the Canadian government, is seeking to change the national model codes to mandate lower flow rates for showerheads, faucets and toilets. He warned of the issues this change would cause for plumbing manufacturers and noted how CIPH will remain engaged with the government on the matter.
He also suggested including Mexico in the current efforts between Canada and the United States to harmonize plumbing standards – to make it easier for plumbing manufacturers to certify their products in all three countries.
The BMA accelerated its engagement with the U.K. government by sharing with it a manifesto to encourage investment in public toilet infrastructure, Reynolds said. The manifesto includes seven steps to help the government achieve its water efficiency goals.
He called out the ongoing regulatory uncertainty caused by domestic government turmoil and geopolitical risks in Europe, such as the war in Ukraine. “These are things we have to observe and help our members understand the implications,” Reynolds said.
Sustainability is another issue on everyone’s minds today, especially reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Stackpole noted. For example, he discussed how the California governor signed a law requiring large manufacturers to begin reporting their emissions and those of their supply chain. PMI members have been boosting their efforts to address environmental, social and governance issues, such as GHG emissions.
Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. are all facing labor shortages in part because of retirements and low interest in plumbing careers. Finding enough plumbing engineers has been a challenge, as well.
“We’re seeing a huge demographic shift within our industry with retirements over the next five to seven years. We need to make sure our members are prepared with proper succession plans,” Suppa said.
The average age of a plumber in the U.K. is 50, Reynolds stated. The country also is dealing with training and recruiting issues that will eventually become a “choke on our market and on the people installing products,” he added.
Smith noted the hurdles many firms are jumping to find enough qualified engineers – even offering large bonuses for staff members who bring in a qualified candidate.
Doors opening for innovation
The challenging events of the past few years, including the pandemic and changing customer needs, have primed the plumbing manufacturing industry for more innovations.
As the new CEO of CIPH, Chera brings fresh eyes to the industry, Stackpole noted. Chera said he sees plenty of opportunities to use technology, such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence, to make peoples’ lives easier.
He’s an avid tech user, too. “I think I’ve got every conceivable app on my iPhone, so I can program my home lighting, heating and more. The coolest thing I saw recently was if I get an underground sprinkler system, I can monitor water use, flow rates, and so forth,” he said. “There are huge outcomes in this area for our industry and I’m excited about them.”
Chera also noted that the collective plumbing manufacturing and engineering industry is critical to maintaining everyday health and safety for everyone. “That’s a story I’m excited to help share with the outside world,” he added.
Reynolds identified antimicrobial-resistant products as an area requiring more innovation. “Sanitation and the things we do with our products can play a big role in assisting with antimicrobial resistance by preventing infection in the first place,” he said.
Stories of resilience and unity
The group discussed their share of challenges during the COVID pandemic, which set a path for quick thinking and learning and new ways of communicating with members. The leaders also shared stories of resilience and camaraderie.
All agreed public health and safety was the number-one priority when the pandemic struck. Stackpole and his PMI team successfully lobbied in the U.S. for plumbing manufacturers to be declared essential. Suppa said his team did the same in Canada. “Can you imagine hospitals not having hot water to sanitize their tools and perform operations?” he asked.
“I was still pretty fresh in the job, and it was really heartening to see how an industry full of competing companies was able to galvanize and act as a support group for one another,” Reynolds said.
One of Smith’s biggest challenges was to resolve how to keep all the ASPE engineering members credentialed when in-person meetings weren’t allowed. Staff members were able to quickly switch to virtual monthly meetings for 67 association chapters across North America, where engineering members could earn their continuing education units to maintain their credentials.
“Our members were completely resilient with getting the products out of the warehouse and to the job site. Let’s give ourselves a shout-out for playing a key role. And I think COVID just elevated the importance of plumbing right across the country,” Suppa said.