Bradford White Keeps Focus on Customers

Water heater, boiler manufacturer keeps open communication with professionals to improve products and training

Bradford White Keeps Focus on Customers

A Bradford White employee affixes warning labels to nearly completed water heaters. (Photos courtesy of Bradford White Water Heaters)

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Starting as a boiler manufacturer in the late 1800s, Bradford White didn’t sway too far from that in its 130-plus year history.

The company, based in Pennsylvania, has grown significantly since those early days and now has 1,900-plus employees spread across several facilities throughout the U.S. and one in Canada. Bradford White is still manufacturing boilers but has also added water heaters and storage tanks to its offerings.

While they’ve added products, one thing hasn’t changed — its continued support of the professionals in the plumbing industry.

Matt Kozak, vice president of sales for Bradford White Water Heaters, says the company has always reached out to industry professionals to find ways to improve products and now reaches out to them in different ways — virtually — to help them with training opportunities.

Plumber: Can you tell me a little about the history of Bradford White?

Kozak: Bradford White began as the Pennsylvania Range Boiler Co. back in 1881. In 1968, Pennsylvania-Bradford merged with White Products of Middleville, Michigan, to form a new company, the Bradford White Corp. In 1992, under the direction of A. Robert Carnevale, CEO, and Richard Milock, chief operating officer, a new employee-owned Bradford White emerged as a company dedicated to wholesale distribution and professional installation, a philosophy that continues today. 

Bradford White currently employs 1,900 people across its subsidiaries, which include Bradford White Water Heaters, manufactured in Middleville; Niles Steel Tank, with its manufacturing facilities for both carbon and stainless steel storage tanks located in Niles, Michigan; and LAARS Heating Systems, located in Rochester, New Hampshire, where we manufacture boilers and volume water heaters. The corporation’s headquarters is in Ambler, Pennsylvania, and we have a Canadian sales and distribution operation, Bradford White - Canada, located in Halton Hills, Ontario.

Plumber: Water heaters have changed a lot during the past 20-plus years, with new technologies and options available to customers. What has Bradford White done to stay on top of these changes?

Kozak: Fundamentally, we are always steadily engaged with end users and installers to understand their needs while also remaining heavily involved in the industry at large and closely following regulatory matters affecting water- and space-heating products and trends. All of these in combination have allowed Bradford White to continuously develop new products and improve existing products to meet a very wide variety of residential and commercial customer demands.

Plumber: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry in the past five years?

Kozak: Technological advancements with regard to products have always been a part of our industry, but some of the most significant changes as of late relate more to distribution and how people in our industry are doing business. For example, big-box stores such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s have done a reasonably good job of blurring the lines between traditional plumbing and HVAC wholesalers and retail, drawing more pros to their buying ranks. E-commerce has also come into play to a greater degree, with many of our wholesaler customers now more heavily engaged in business-to-business e-commerce distribution to help offset the digitals encroachment of the box stores.

Plumber: When should a plumber be looking at a tankless model compared to a regular tank water heater, or vice versa?

Kozak: This is where a contractor’s technological expertise and customer understanding can really shine, as every situation is different. First, the contractor has to understand the customer’s budgetary considerations in both the short and long term. And second, the contractor has to understand, based on the entire system and potential cost of the job, what the most practical solution is. There are some key questions to address: Will the tank or tankless product better support the current and future hot-water demand of the household? Are there any construction projects in the near term that would affect the decision? Will the product, installation and operational costs be recovered over the life of the product? Will the home’s existing fuel (gas/oil/electric) delivery systems best accommodate a tank or tankless product? By taking this consultative approach, the contractor will build trust, gain credibility and likely ensure a return customer.

Plumber: On your company’s website, there is a Contractor Financing Program mentioned, can you explain that program a little bit and how it helps plumbers/other contractors?

Kozak: Professional installers can offer financing to their customers to cover the costs associated with Bradford White residential water heater and boiler installations, as well as other HVAC and plumbing services. Fortiva Retail Credit, provider of the program, offers full support for Bradford White contractors who wish to offer this financing to their customers. Fortiva Retail Credit also handles all customer billing and support.

Plumber: How has Bradford White been able to reach out to plumbers during this COVID-19 time, and what has the company done to help them?

Kozak: For a company like Bradford White that prides itself on a strong field presence and face-to-face relationships, the COVID-19 limitations are obviously challenging. Throughout the pandemic, we have been diligent in staying in communication with both our wholesaler and contractor customers by any means necessary to continue supporting their businesses. Naturally, this has required a lot of calls, emails and teleconferences by our various sales, marketing and customers support teams, as well as our dedicated manufacturers’ representatives who are well immersed in our customers’ businesses.

From a training perspective, we have taken our hands-on training experiences to the web via live training broadcasts from our iTEC Training center in Middleville. Over the past few weeks, nearly 4,000 participants have joined us for these sessions. We have also increased the accessibility of our troubleshooting and installation tip information for all contractors who might work on our products, not just regular Bradford White customers registered in our For The Pro program.

Plumber: What is in store for Bradford White’s product line for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021?

Kozak: Thus far in 2020, from a residential perspective, we added a 65-gallon model to our AeroTherm heat pump water heater series, released a power direct vent version of our residential condensing product and further enhanced our power vent models with a lower-profile, quieter and more efficient blower unit. On the commercial side, we recently announced the addition of modulation and building management system features within one of our flagship commercial products, the eF Series 120 model. These features will be integrated into other Bradford White commercial models over the next several months. There are other significant product announcements slated for 2020 and 2021 that we look forward to sharing in the months ahead.



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