Scott Delany, president and CEO of Delany Products, recently sat down with Plumbing & Mechanical to answer questions about issues facing the plumbing industry. In 2009, he joined his brothers, Peter and Biff Delany, as CFO of their family-owned business, Coyne & Delany Co., in Charlottesville, Va. In 2011, he became president and CEO of newly renamed and restructured Delany Products. His previous work experience was both in the United States and Japan for financial firms such e*Trade, TIR Securities and MHS Capital Partners, which he cofounded.
PM: How is Delany Products different today from when you became president and CEO?
SD:The company is extremely different. The changes we’ve made have been dramatic from a structural, product and even an attitude standpoint. On the structural side, we changed our business model completely from direct manufacturing to an outsourcing model. Now outside suppliers send components to Charlottesville, where we do 100% of the assembly and all the quality control. To my knowledge, we’re still the only company that flush-tests every single valve and product before it leaves the building. We’ve also changed all our systems from accounting to Web design in order to modernize the company. Our accounting went to a cloud-based system in 2010.
Our product lineup has completely changed as well, starting with our first product introduction as Delany Products, the Saber. The Saber flush valve was launched in September 2012. We followed that by introducing the Flushboy Ultra in 2013. In 2014, we introduced the Empire, which is our company’s first piston-operated flush valve. We also introduced the Pulsar and the Infinite Series, which is our faucet line. We revamped the product line to the point where everything on display in our booth last fall at the ASPE trade show was new from 2012 on. Not a single product from the old Coyne & Delany Co. was on display.
From an attitude standpoint, what we are working on every day is to live up to our tagline that we created in 2009: “Changing for the Better, Working to be the Best.” In our industry, our competition is not sitting still and neither can we.
PM: Is interest in green plumbing products driving sales for your company and customers?
SD: The biggest single thing driving sales on our side of the industry is LEED, whose point system is forcing engineers to go to lower and lower flows when they design a plumbing system. Delany works very hard to create products that work at those lower flows. I feel we’re one of the best in the industry in this regard. An example is the Saber, which is our high-end valve designed specifically for today’s high-efficiency toilets and urinals. It is the most consistent in delivering a 1.28-gallon flush over the widest range of water pressures. It can operate consistently as low as 20 psi or in excess of 125 psi. We’ve already started to design the Saber to go down to 1.1 gpf and 1-gpf on a water closet.
Beyond LEED, our products are green because we use recycled materials. We either use recycled materials when we construct our products or we use materials that can be recycled in the future when the product is at the end of its life. We call that concept our Go Green Series. We use it in our faucet line and will migrate that concept over to as many of our other products as possible. We’re staying ahead of the curve of where the fixture industry will go next. We’re also the only company that can do a dual-flush product on a 1.28-gpf water closet.
PM: In what nonresidential construction sectors do you see business opportunities for plumbing contractors in 2015?
SD: We feel 2015 will be a good year. The economy will continue to rebound and grow. I’ve met many engineers in the last two years, and most are very positive about what is going on. Almost all of them are busy, and some of them say they’re busier than in 2008. That bodes very well for the future. The growth in each region of the country will be very different.
For example, New York City will see significant growth in the hospitality sector. Texas, which has had the shale oil boom and low taxes that have brought a number of companies into the state, will continue to see growth in schools as the population continues to expand as well as office buildings. Universal to all of this will be health care and senior citizen living, which will play out across the whole country.
PM: How will Delany Products help contractors take advantage of business opportunities?
SD: We make a great product for all these market sectors and provide a great solution for pretty much anything an engineer is trying to do. Schools generally use a manual type of valve. Office buildings are where the Saber comes in on the manual side or the Pulsar, our battery-powered hands-free valve, is a great solution on the electronic side. We build high-quality products that are reliable and inexpensive to work with in order to meet customers’ needs. That’s the core of what we call the Delany Differences, which flows from our belief in “simplicity in design.”
An example of this design philosophy within our product line is the Pulsar. As interest in hygiene continues to grow in restaurants and other buildings, this is driving the demand for electronic flush valves. Our hands-free, battery-powered product is the Pulsar with the SmartChoice Technology. First of all, the electronics are all self-contained in one head that has two-piece solid construction. This results in easier and faster installations that are 40% faster than the leading competitor’s product in testing done by an independent contractor. It also uses just one lithium battery, which means less contact points and less chance of moisture affecting it.
Another reason we use lithium is because it is the longest life battery in the industry with a 10-year shelf life. When we upgraded the Pulsar, we switched to a U.S.-manufactured solenoid, which has been tested up to 4 million operations. In our lab, we’ve achieved 375,000 flushes on a single battery. If you were to flush the average valve 20 times a day, every day of the year, that’s 7,300 flushes in a year. Divide that into 375,000 and you have the potential for 51 years of operation. The reality is though that in most cases, the battery will die in 10 years.
But for installations such as the St. Louis Gateway Arch, for which our Impulse and now Pulsar are the dominant products within that facility, they can achieve that type of usage. The St. Louis Arch is a national monument that gets upwards of 4 million visitors a year. They don’t want to be constantly changing out batteries. Building products that are reliable and inexpensive to deal with in the aftermarket, that’s exactly what we’re trying to build.
PM: What can plumbing contractors expect to see from Delany Products in 2015?
SD: We will spend more time communicating with contractors. We’ve been building the success we’ve had for five years now, with 2013 being our best year since the late 1990s. Most of that growth has come in our core markets. Now it’s time to take the word of our success and spread it to other the markets, which aren’t nearly as strong for Delany.
One of the products we introduced in 2014 is the Pulsar Version 2.0 flush valve. With it, we introduced our SmartChoice Technology. The v2.0 is an automatic dual-flush version of our hands-free, battery-powered Pulsar. That software will be migrated across our Sensor-Flush line in the second half of 2015.
PM: In what new ways is Delany Products connecting with contractors?
SD: A big focus for us this year will be to get more contractors into our plant in Charlottesville where we can take them into our lab. They can see one of our valves set up on the test bench where we can reduce the water pressure to 20 psi. Their eyes pop when they see how well it works. It’s the next best thing to seeing the product work in the field and far more effective than me telling them how well it works from across a conference room table. It’s a real eye-opening experience.
One other point is I’m very big on testimonials. Our website (www.delanyproducts.com) has several testimonials from our customers about our products and the Delany Differences. The true testament of anyone’s products is not what the company says but what feedback from the field says about them.
PM: Why did you change the company name to Delany Products?
SD: Changing the name was very important. When I came in, the company practically was on its deathbed and the name had been tarnished. In addition, the Coyne family had not been a part of the business since 1910 when Thomas Coyne, the co-founder, passed away. I’m fourth generation and grew up with my father running the company and not knowing a single Coyne.
We wanted to create a single brand image that everyone could focus on. When I came in, people knew us as Delany Flush Valves, Coyne & Delany, C&D and other names that were out in the marketplace. I wanted to wipe that slate clean and create a single unified image of Delany Products. We unveiled the new name and logo in August 2009. Our marketing reflects our story of change. I am part of the change as well as the company name. I want to make sure everyone hears our story.
PM: Is Delany Products’ story of change still being written?
SD: Yes, every day. It’s part of our belief in changing every day. To get better every day. To work to be the best. It is a story still being written because we are nowhere near where we can be.
PM: Of your company’s new products, what innovation excites you the most?
SD: Our SmartChoice Technology on the electronic side. We believe a valve should be adjustable in the field. In the real world, you’re going to run into situations where fixtures aren’t functioning quite the same or the building has different water pressures on different floors. Years ago, we had 4.5 gallons per flush, which then went to 3.5 gpf, both of which use a lot of water that can mask problems.
In the mid-1990s, we went to 1.6 gpf and immediately we could see differences in the quality of fixtures where some worked and some didn’t. Today, we’re at 1.28 gpf and we have started to move even lower. If a problem shows up in the field, the SmartChoice Technology allows the flush to be fine-tuned. Because the ability to change the flush timing can help a fixture work that otherwise was not clearing the trap. Often, if you can give that fixture just a little more water, you can make it work in the field.
The SmartChoice Technology controls nine different switch settings within the head of the Pulsar unit, which is designed to provide gradations between the major flushing lines of 1.6, 1.28 and 1 gpf. This technology aligned with our nonlatching U.S.-manufactured solenoid is truly a step forward for the industry.
PM: What was the attitude inside your company in 2012 when you introduced the Saber flush valve, which was your first new product in more than 20 years?
SD: Our people were totally excited. For them to come out with a new product, wow, they thought it was great. It gave everyone in the company the sense that things really are changing. We’ve changed the company structurally; the company has a new name; and now we have all new products coming out. This was something they hadn’t seen since 1988 when the Impulse, our last new product, came out.
PM: Why is it important for Delany Products to get involved in industry organizations such as ASPE?
SD: Delany Products is a big supporter and an affiliated firm of ASPE. We’re very proud to be one of only eight charter exhibitors of ASPE’s trade show. ASPE gives us access to plumbing engineers to show our products and the features and benefits that our products have. ASPE gives us the chance to have our voice heard within the industry and to keep us abreast of industry issues. We connect with ASPE not just every other year at the trade show but also through local chapters with advertising and the physical presence of our reps or myself whenever possible. We generally have tabletops at the chapter meetings where we show and promote our products.
PM: What is Delany Products’ most distinguishing feature?
SD: The signature feature for all of our products is field adjustability. On the manual side, it is our regulating screw. In the Saber, it is the upper chamber regulating screw. On the electronic side, it’s our SmartChoice Technology. The ability to change the valve’s flush timing slightly to match the variables in the environment is critical.
All this is about saving water in the real world. Reducing a flush to 1.28 gpf and lower is not much water. We give installers the ability in the field to make that fixture work. In the scenario where the trap is not clearing for whatever reason, the SmartChoice Technology or the regulating screw can give the fixture just a little more water to clear the trap. The flush volume has gone from 1.6 gpf down to 1.28 gpf. What happens in the real world is the end user will flush the fixture twice, thus creating 2.56 gallons of water per flush. This is wasting water and is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.
We feel we offer a game-changer to the industry in this scenario. By adjusting the flush timing slightly through adjusting the screw, we get the fixture to work. We are still staying under a 1.6-gpf discharge, thus saving water while ending the chances of a double flush or reverting back to a 1.6- gpf setup or any other water-wasting trick that a plumber may try in the real world. With our Saber valve we have found that the screw can be adjusted down to save more water in situations where the right fixture was selected and where there is good water pressure present in the building.
From a corporate culture standpoint, what distinguishes us is our attitude that every day we are trying to get better and become No. 1. We never want to have an attitude of being arrogant. We’re a family business, and we want customers to feel they are getting the attention and callbacks they expect. If there’s an issue with a product, we handle the problem immediately to make sure the customer is 100% satisfied.
PM: As a businessman, if you had one piece of advice to give to plumbing contractors, what would it be?
SD: First, I want to thank all the contractors who have been working with us as we’ve turned things around. They’re an important part of the process. My advice to contractors would be to sift through all the noise and rhetoric of what the group mentality is thinking and to be open to looking at products that provide features and benefits that are value-add and not just a copy of somebody else’s product.