PVC pipe and fittings manufacturer wants to get closer to contractors. 

Fabricio Rubine, general manager of Tigre USA. Photo credit: Tigre USA

Plumbing & Mechanical recently interviewedFabricio Rubine, general manager ofTigre USA, in Janesville, Wis., which is where the company has been based since 2007. Tigre USA, whose corporate parent Tigre Group is located in Brazil, produces PVC plastic pipe and fittings primarily for the residential plumbing and waterworks markets. The company employs 7,000 people worldwide and manufactures 15,000 products in seven product lines.

Rubine has been with the Tigre Group for 13 years. Before moving to Janesville in 2006 to help establish Tigre USA and being named general manager in 2009, he held production, sales, trader and international business development roles.

PM: Has Tigre USA seen signs of a recovery in the construction industry? If so, in what market segments?
FR:We have seen a slight recovery in the plumbing and waterworks segments. The activity relates to the housing market so the recovery on the plumbing side is stronger than on the waterworks side. We’ve seen builders putting up houses faster than the waterworks have developed. We’re also seeing more activity in the replacement market, which is another reason plumbing is growing faster than waterworks.

PM: From your viewpoint, what is the biggest challenge that plumbing and piping contractors face today?
FR:In 2005 and 2006, 2 million new houses were built. In 2008 that number dropped down to less than 500,000. The biggest challenge for contractors has been to adapt their business to that shrinking market and move forward. Their business model needs to change. That involves selling differently and servicing differently.

PM: What can Tigre USA do to help them meet this challenge?
FR:The Tigre Group worldwide has best practices to help the industry through extensive training. In 2011, we trained more than 141,000 professionals - new contractors and seasoned professionals as well. We have the same commitment in the U.S. We are younger and smaller than our parent company, but our values are consistent. We recognize that contractors may have smaller staffs and encourage cross-training among their employees. We’re committed to training to help the industry to perform better. We provide high-quality products that minimize callbacks, thus help manage time and costs.

PM: What opportunities does sustainable development offer to plumbing and piping contractors?
FR:Tigre develops sustainable solutions to help improve the quality of life where we do business. We must also never forget that all contractors contribute to better health and sanitation. So sustainable development is a very important subject. For example, in the United States, we lose a huge amount of water every single day to leaks due to older piping that needs to be replaced. We’re proud that plumbers and contractors play a critical role in updating and upgrading aging infrastructures.

PM: What can Tigre USA do to support contractors’ green building efforts?
FR:The Tigre Group is studying and developing “green PVC” products. In Brazil, Tigre was the first company in its sector to use the green plastic extracted from sugar cane.

PM: How is Tigre USA connecting with U.S. contractors today?
FR:We’re establishing a relationship program, an online interactive tool to get to know our contractors. Initially it will establish two-way communication to share Tigre USA news and invite feedback. Longer term it will evolve to track and reward sales, recognize training initiatives, even celebrate career milestones. Each of us in the field and in the office has a responsibility to improve our communications, and our relationship program is designed to help.

PM: What do you see as Tigre USA’s greatest most distinguishing feature?
FR:Tigre USA combines proven leadership in the North American plumbing industry with the global resources of our parent group. We have big company thinking and small company execution. Our biggest asset is our people who think outside the box. I can say that with no hesitation. We create an environment where we allow our people to think differently and look for new opportunities. We like to listen. We’re a family. It’s a big family due to the size of our company but still a family.

PM: Are contractors doing a good job of making sure the right piping material is being installed in the right application?
FR:Yes, I think contractors are applying the right solutions most of the time, installing the best products and following local standards. We want to make sure they are choosing the right product in all applications.

PM: What can contractors expect to see from Tigre USA in the next 12 months?
FR:Contractors can expect to see and hear much more about Tigre USA. We are the new kid on the block, but we have made a long-term commitment to the U.S. to bring in new products and to constantly invest in our operations. But we are not just producing PVC products. We also are developing sophisticated tools that will bring us closer to our customers.

PM: If you had one message to give to plumbing and piping contractors, what would it be?
FR:We want to earn your business. For Tigre to be successful, you have to be successful. What you tell us is where we want to go. We are very good listeners. Let’s start a dialogue.