Watts recently held a grand-opening event for its new Watts Works Learning Center in St. Pauls, North Carolina. This is the third Watts Works Learning Center, joining locations in North Andover, Massachusetts and Woodland, California.
The St. Pauls center is located within the 210,000-sqaure-foot Watts St. Pauls manufacturing facility. During the event, BNP Media Plumbing Group Editorial Director Mike Miazga spoke with Watts Vice President and General Manager Mark Hamilton about the purpose of the learning center and how it fits the brand’s mission.
PM: How does this learning center take Watts to the next level?
MH: I think what enables us to do, Mike, is get much closer to our customer. So, the whole focus around this was to interact with our customers, learn from them as much as they learn from us. And so, it's a great venue for that, and they get value because they learn about different ... Not just out products but new applications, and we get feedback from them as well on new ideas in terms of different things we can bring to the market.
PM: So, if I'm a contractor, a distributor, or an engineer, and I'm walking in here, what can I expect?
MH: So, what you can expect is a brand new curriculum, primarily focused on hands-on activities. So, we want to spend as little time in front of PowerPoint, but actually in our lab getting our hands dirty working with products. They can expect to meet with subject matter experts. So, we have people that are trained in different applications. They can also expect a varied curriculum. So, we've developed it for people that are brand new to the industry to give them the basics, all the way up to advanced level courses, where people can really get into in-depth, technical discussions. So, we have a broad breadth of products, as well as curriculum at different levels. And we've tailored it too for contractors, have a little different focus versus engineers and wholesalers. So, we've also tailored it to those audiences as well.
PM: And with this facility, you have all the five Watts' core disciplines under one roof?
MH: Yeah, so the primary focus here is drains, so a little more emphasis here on that. But all of Watts' products are available for training here, both hands-on in the lab, and also in the factory. So, that's another difference for us here, is to have that available.
PM: So, how does this facility differ from the ones that you've opened in California, and up in Massachusetts, your corporate headquarters in the last couple of years?
MH: They all have a very similar look and feel. So, we want to make sure they have the similar Watts message. But here, because we've got Mueller Steam, Watts Radiant, Orion, and Rain Cycle, there's a little bit more emphasis on that, but we also have the other product categories. So, it's a little smaller than [North Andover 00:02:15], a little bigger than the Woodlands facility. The other thing, we're very close to [Pinehurst 00:02:21], so that's another draw, especially for folks that enjoy golfing, that's nearby as well.
PM: And a year from now, where do you see this facility fitting in, in the whole Watts operation?
MH: We've invested here to drive the growth of our business. And so, not only do we want to bring in our existing customers, but also new customers in this facility. And we also want to help with the training of new people to get into the business. So, we're talking with local trades officials, and things like that, to help train people in how to get into this industry. So, we're going to work with local associations to develop that, and hopefully become a hub for that kind of training, not just to learn about our products, but to learn about the industry as well.
To view Hamilton’s entire interview talking about the new St. Pauls learning center, visit www.supplyht.com/Hamilton-watts.
This article was originally titled “Investing in learning” in the August 2018 print edition of Plumbing & Mechanical.