Sherwin-Williams: Making Its Mark in Trenchless
Cleveland, Ohio-based paints & coatings manufacturer has carved out a large piece of the trenchless rehab pie, with its lineup of epoxies and coatings.
The Sherwin-Williams name is globally synonymous with paint products, a recognition that goes back more than 150 years. The company’s history with trenchless technology doesn’t date back as far, but Sherwin-Williams is recognized in the trenchless marketplace for its lineup of epoxies and other coatings that make underground infrastructure better and stronger.
Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, the Sherwin-Williams Protective & Marine (S-W P&M) division has built itself as a premier manufacturer and supplier of the epoxies, polyurethanes and coatings that rehabilitate and provide corrosion protection for underground water and wastewater assets around the globe.
S-W P&M, which employs nearly 800 people, is one of eight divisions in the Performance Coatings Group of publicly traded Sherwin-Williams. Around the globe, the company’s number of employees totals in the tens of thousands. The global paints and coatings company as a whole generates an estimated $20 billion in annual revenue; within S-W P&M, trenchless work accounts for nearly 10 percent of the division’s earnings, with future revenue projected even higher.
S-W P&M focuses on a number of industrial market segments, such as water and wastewater and oil and gas, supplying a wide range of solutions for construction, industrial, packaging and transportation markets. For its trenchless offerings, the company centers on sewer collection and water transmission, as well as corrosion protection for the oil and gas market.
Sherwin-Williams got its first real taste of manhole rehabilitation in 2008, when it began an extensive, multi-year rehab program with the City of Chicago that utilized its 100 percent solids epoxy with microsilica mortar. The success of that program proved to be the catalyst that launched the company further into the trenchless technology space and today stands as a leader in manhole rehab and corrosion protection.
“We focus on water and wastewater and everything that goes into water such as storage, process and transmission. Our group is also involved in other infrastructure opportunities, such as semiconductor manufacturing, petrochemical facilities, as well as biopharmaceutical and food processing. Our focus in the trenchless business is really that manhole space, and that business has continued to grow significantly over the last several years,” says Paul Trautmann, S-W P&M market director for water infrastructure. “The growth has been spectacular and the strength of our team has only continued to grow. We see our future being very bright going forward.”
Working in a global economy is demanding and challenging. The Sherwin-Williams philosophy is not. To paraphrase a phrase that came up more than once in our conversations for this story: We’re a global company with local flair.
“We believe in a global reach with very localized support. Our core philosophy is that we run the business as a global business but provide that customer intimacy on the local level,” Trautmann says.
Where to start when talking about Sherwin-Williams? The company was founded in 1866 in Cleveland when Henry Sherwin invested in a paint distributorship. Three years later, he and Edward Williams went on to create the Sherwin-Williams we know today: a paints and coatings leader. Along the way, the company has established locations in more than 120 countries, with more than 61,000 employees. Currently, Sherwin-Williams is in the midst of an extensive, $600 million construction project that, once complete, will include a new, expanded corporate headquarters in Cleveland, as well as a 600,000-sq-ft, state-of-the-art research and development facility that consolidates two of its current locations.
With the company known to general consumers for its paints, how did trenchless technology find its way into the Sherwin-Williams map of markets? Sherwin-Williams renamed its Industrial & Marine Coatings division as S-W Protective & Marine in 2009. The division had just recently realized the potential of the trenchless marketplace and how its expertise in paints and coatings could succeed in this space. S-W P&M focuses on water and wastewater infrastructure with its lineup of liquid and fusion-bonded epoxies, polyurethanes and other protective coatings, used for rehabilitation and corrosion protection.
The company’s first steps in trenchless were actually during the mid-1990s when it dipped its toes into horizontal directional drilling (HDD), with the development of an abrasion-resistant overcoat for pipeline protection from abrasion and impact. Today, Sherwin-Williams’ exterior pipe coatings are designed to not only mitigate corrosion potential but to also withstand the rigors of HDD installs.
While HDD represented the company’s introduction to trenchless technology, the sewer collection sector, in particular manhole rehabilitation and water transmission, is where Sherwin-Williams is really making its mark.
The plethora of products that Sherwin-Williams brings to the trenchless marketplace is extensive. For rehabilitating manholes, the key offerings are Dura-Plate 6000, Dura-Plate 6100 and Poly-Cote 115. The company also has multiple partnerships to provide the other necessary solutions for stopping inflow and infiltration, as well as resurfacing deteriorated concrete. For the HDD segment, a slew of corrosion protection coatings include the Pipeclad line of coatings (Pipeclad 2000, Pipeclad 2040, Pipeclad 2060 MRO, Pipeclad 8000 Series, Pipeclad 5000, Sherplate PW, and FastClad ER Epoxy).
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When it comes to the trenchless rehab market, the number of companies, products and solutions can seem endless. Standing above the competition is no easy feat. What sets Sherwin-Williams apart from its competitors when it comes to innovation and technology? When posed, this question generated a lot of reflection and discussion. The team was quick to point to its people, as well as the grit, determination and expertise they bring to the industry each day, along with a diverse product portfolio to meet the needs of the marketplace.
“We have, in my opinion, some of the most creative, innovative and talented people who understand what the industry needs,” says Brian Huffman, S-W P&M business development manager for water infrastructure. “We use that innovation in product development to come out with the next generation of products that fit the niches that may not have been recognized in the market yet. This results in a diverse product line that meets the needs of the industry from all touch points, whether they are engineers, owners, contractors or our certified applicators.”
Having the extensive toolbox of Sherwin-Williams expertise, including a dedicated team of water and wastewater professionals, is also a significant difference, they say, allowing everyone, from engineers to certified applicators to sales representatives, to tap into the expertise the company has at every level of production.
“Many smaller companies have a lot of positives, but they are narrowed in focus, which can limit them in their range of offerings,” says Gino Sincovich, S-W P&M market manager for water transmission. “When we work with our customers, engineers and end-users, we are not limited. We’re not trying to steer them into a direction where we are strong here but not here. S-W P&M wants to dig into the details of a specific project and deliver what is the best technology and lining solution for that project. We have a large menu of coating solutions to choose from.”
Dr. Jeff Rogozinski, PhD, has more than 30 years of experience in coatings and academia. He is global product director for the fusion-bonded epoxy product line for S-W P&M — in short, he is an expert in epoxies and coatings. He concurs with both Sincovich’s and Huffman’s insights. He adds that it is the expertise and connection to customer needs that Sherwin-Williams brings to the marketplace that gives them the edge — and he is passionate about the relationship between company and customer, as well as every molecule that goes into their products.
“It’s our level of customer intimacy that sets us apart. We understand our customers and understand what they are doing,” says Rogozinski. “We can come to them with things that provide value to their processes and allow them to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. A unique aspect of Sherwin-Williams is that we understand the molecule. We go down to the molecular level, understanding what the paint does and understanding that structure/property relationship vs. someone who just mixes ingredients and sells it to the market space.”
One of bonuses of being a part of a large, global company such Sherwin-Williams are the experts and resources everyone has access to in order to solve any problem or any customer question. “No matter where a team member is around the globe, they have direct and unfettered access to leading industry experts within the company,” says Sincovich. “As knowledgeable and skilled as they are, we don’t expect every team member to be an expert. However, they do have access to experts when needed.”
To that point, S-W P&M recently rolled out its certified applicator program for its sewer collection interests, such manholes. Under development for nearly two years, the objective of the certified applicator program is to strengthen the customer relationships with local product applicators. Those approved for the program have been carefully vetted and most have been involved with the S-W P&M products for many years.
“Our goal is to have someone in every location in the continental United States,” Huffman explains. “The feedback we were getting from owners and engineers was that they wanted a vetted, trusted applicator source who can do the work and know the product.”
The trenchless industry continues to push forward. Innovation is critical to meeting the needs to tomorrow’s challenges. Products and technology to address these growing needs are critical. Sherwin-Williams, as it has since it entered the trenchless sector, continues to be a part of that evolution. Creating new and upgrading existing products drives the team.
The S-W P&M team is excited and motivated for what is to come for the trenchless marketplace. The proverbial crystal ball is showing them a strong and vibrant future for trenchless work as more and more cities look for rehab solutions vs. replacement to address their aging systems, many that are well exceeding 100 years old.
“There is more and more emphasis on extending the lifecycle of the existing assets vs. going to the expense of replacing item,” Trautmann says. “It’s taken a shift in mentality to preserve, restore and recondition an asset, combined with capabilities of the industry, whether it’s equipment, commitment from contractors and applicators to meet those goals.”
Trautmann adds that for manholes, the technologies and materials used to address their condition have improved exponentially over the last two decades, especially the chemical-resistant characteristics to handle H2S and methane gasses. Coatings have also evolved. “The amount of free water making it in and through a manhole has reduced tremendously,” he says. “As a result, the H2S levels in our manholes and in the transmission of our sewage has continued to increase. Coating materials have had to improve to meet the demand of the more corrosive environments.”
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Making the Industry Better
Sherwin-Williams’ commitment to excellence goes beyond making a good product and generating revenue — team members want to contribute and raise the bar on how products and technologies are used in each application. That is why many team members actively participate in water-, wastewater- and corrosion protection-related organizations, focusing their efforts on shoring up industry standards to ensure the best technologies and techniques are available.
For example, team members are involved with AWWA committees and subcommittees that work to better the water industry, along with providing input on innovative guidance documents in the support of emerging water pipe rehabilitation trends. Other industry organizations that S-W P&M is actively involved in include NASSCO, NACE, WEF, as well those in Canada and other international standards groups.
Working in collaboration with experts from across the industry is a source of pride for S-W P&M, knowing the company’s efforts are making the industry better and stronger — as well as making the division better and stronger. “We want to drive the performance to higher and higher levels,” Rogozinski says, adding, “That is good for the industry. We want to improve the long-term asset protection and reduce long-term owner costs.”
Rogozinski goes on to explain that ensuring that industry standards are as up-to-date as possible has never been more important as underground infrastructure continues to deteriorate and be stretched and stressed beyond its capacity.
“In the last five years, more population has gone essentially from rural communities to urban,” he says. “The stress on the infrastructure is much higher and is only going to get higher. You have to repair that because over time, everything is going to fall apart. In order to repair, you want the least amount of impact and disruption. That is why trenchless technology is the way to go now and in the future.”
The challenges ahead for the trenchless market are consistent with other construction markets, with shortages of labor and materials combined with rising costs making the work more complicated. The S-W P&M team believes it is up to the challenge, as is the trenchless market.
“The municipal infrastructure in the United States and around the globe is in a constant state of disrepair,” says Trautmann. “The opportunity to improve that infrastructure is ongoing and will never stop. It will continue to be, for us, a very important space in the market and we will continue to stay focused on it. There is no slowing down of this business.”