Specified Fittings is about to get “crazy.” That’s according to Executive Vice President, Kevin Hawkins. The “crazy” Hawkins is referring to is the good kind of crazy that every company longs for: a success-driven crazy that results in growth and expansion.
Specified Fittings is a leader in the pipe fittings industry and based out of the Pacific Northwest. With headquarters in Bellingham, Washington, and a second location in Stevensville, Montana – the company has a long history and a global customer base. Since the company launched in 1996, they have seen their fair share of changes. They have grown, added locations, built warehouses, changed management, and changed back again. Today, one of their original founders, Tom Franzen, is back in the driver’s seat and the company is on its way to big growth and exciting new developments.
“In the history of our company, we’ve been known to jump on new products…and on new materials,” said Technical Director and industry expert Brad Sukolsky. “We’re innovative in a way that I think is pretty special. We don’t shy away from new methods or product designs.” The company’s willingness to explore new technologies, products and processes in their infancy is largely what has fueled them to the success Specified Fittings has already realized over the last 20-plus years.
“When they created this company, they were geniuses who could think outside the box,” Hawkins said.
The problems the company solves are all related to flow. They solve water flow problems, sewer flow problems, oil flow problems, or any flow problem that requires a pipe to fix. While many of their competitors can offer solutions to a flow problem, Specified Fittings is unique in the products that they can offer. While most pipe fitting companies specialize in a specific material, this company has diversified in a way no one else has.
“We’re the only manufacturer in North America that does both PVC and HDPE solutions,” Hawkins added.
After working with PVC piping for 8-10 years, the company saw that HDPE was the future. Ever since they tackled piping with the new material, there has been continuous growth on both sides of the company. As demand for Specified Fittings solutions has grown over the last two decades, the company has been able to open warehouses all over the country. With their main plants still located in the Pacific Northwest, they are about to make a big leap and open an East Coast plant outside of Charleston, S.C. in the first quarter of 2018. “Specified Fittings has been known to be everywhere, but we’ve always been stuck up here in the northwest. But it hurts our bottom line when we’re shipping across the country,” acknowledged Hawkins. The new location comes at a time the company is seeing infrastructure projects take off across the nation.
“Our industry goes hand in hand with the flux of infrastructure investments,” said Marketing Director, Mary-Claire Maffei. “What we offer can be considered more environmentally friendly than the corrosive metal pipes traditionally used. It lasts longer and doesn’t corrode at all.” With Specified Fittings, “we don’t have to worry about another Flint, Michigan scenario happening again,” Maffei added. “That’s one main reason we’re going east,” Hawkins said. “Billions of gallons of water are being leaked into the ground. They can’t replace the piping fast enough. Slowly but surely, it will be replaced with plastic. That’s what we’re investing in for the long run.”
As the company continues to grow, they continue to snap up market share, and they are not shy about it. “I believe in drive, drive, drive,” Hawkins said. “As we take over a larger share of the total piping market, our initiative is to out compete.” With the right leadership in place, the company is unified, and on a forward-moving path that does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. “We have management now that is very young and very aggressive,” stated Hawkins. Taking a full-speed-ahead approach has Specified Fittings gaining confidence. “We’re very excited about it and I think our competitors are very worried about it,” Hawkins added. “Having an east coast and west coast facility will change us. We’re looking at acquisitions too, and our equity firm that’s behind us is very excited about everything that is happening right now.” In short, Hawkins said, “the vibe out there is ‘watch out, here they come.”
Specified Fittings has more to be proud of than their successful past and optimistic future. They are the second-largest employer in the Bitterroot Valley, where their plant is located in Stevensville, Montana. Across all of their warehouses and both plants, they employ more than 150 people. In addition, the company has gone through great lengths to build a culture where their employees want to work, and are incentivized to stay. “When quality employees come through, we integrated them into this family business atmosphere. The core employees all the way down to the guys doing the actual manufacturing have been here for decades,” Hawkins said.
When it comes to getting involved with the community, the company gets creative and donates what they know – pipes.
“We donate large pieces of pipe to various mud runs and community events,” Maffei said. “We donate pipe to different high schools around the area for science projects. There was even a music department that needed pipe to make drums, and we donated to that.” Recognizing the need for manufacturing education, Specified Fittings also opens its doors to college students asking about careers in the industry. They offer tours and make their engineers available to help field questions for students who are on the brink of making career-decisions.
When it comes to getting “crazy,” Specified Fittings is doing it on purpose. They’re growing, expanding, exploring new technologies, tackling new products and processes, and doing it like they always have – like geniuses.