Kentucky-based Republic Conduit – manufacturer of electrical steel conduit – asks clients to consider the “Republic Difference.” The phrase is not just a marketing tagline, realizes writer Dan Harvey; it underscores a company that offers product versatility, superior customer service and an open mind that provides the fertile soil that fosters growth in the highly competitive 21st century.
Louisville, KY.-based Republic Conduit is a leader in the steel conduit marketplace, which covers the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and some exports to South America. “Republic Conduit has attained this status by applying Lean Manufacturing principles, employee empowerment, continuous improvement, energy management, focus on excellent customer service and investing in plant infrastructure,” states Federico Battelli, the company’s managing director.
THREE-PART PRODUCT LINE
The company offers three types of electrical conduits:
EMT, or electrical metallic tubing – sometimes referred to as “thin wall,” EMT is often used as a lighter and less expensive alternative to GRC. “Generally, you’ll find it in a range of scenarios from households, which require smaller diameters, to commercial and industrial buildings that have much larger diameter wiring applications,” describes Kevin Sulzer, Republic Conduit’s marketing and communications manager.
IMC, or intermediate metal conduit – this steel tubing provides a little more wall thickness than EMT, and it is used in industrial applications that do not require full GRC rigidity and corrosion protection.
GRC, or galvanized rigid conduit – the heaviest-weight and thickest wall conduit. Where galvanized by the hot-dip process, it has a coating of zinc on both the inside and outside. This provides corrosion protection.
We’re talking about more than 80 years of experience, development and innovation, dating back to 1928. It then took but a year for the emerging enterprise to introduce the EMT electrical conduit product line to the market.
Today, Republic Conduit operates in Cedar Springs, Ga. and in a state-of-the-art facility in Louisville, Ky. Republic Conduit offers a proprietary, customer-focused line that includes the trademarked Inch-Mark®, Guide-Line®, and Silverslick® brands.
When you look at all of the above products, you’re seeing a company that offers proprietary features that reduce installation and life-cycle costs, offers service readily available, provides physical and mechanical protection, offers chemical compatibility where needed, protects against fire and impact, among other substantial benefits.
Republic Conduit is 100-percent domestic, made in the United States with domestic steel. Add to that a homegrown workforce that averages 18 years’ experience, expertise, valuable input on safety and continuous improvement to strengthen the Republic brand.
FACILITIES – CUSTOMERS’ SOUTHERN COMFORT
It’s surprising that the company accomplishes all capabilities in just two facilities – the Cedar Springs and Louisville plants – but maybe not so surprising when you consider the capabilities. In Georgia, the company has produced conduits since 1975 in a building space that includes 130,000 square feet and employs nearly 90 workers. The Louisville plant is a sophisticated facility established in 2006. It encompasses more than 400,000 square feet residing on 50 acres of developable space. Currently, it includes a slitter, three welding lines, and Egalv and hot dip, three threaders, and nine bridge cranes to remove product, as well as six truck docks, three receiving and three shipping areas.
Further, Republic Conduit distinguishes itself by deploying North America’s most advanced electrical conduit galvanizing process, a superior method attached to EMT and IMC production.
This is what that means for customers:
- Tight zinc coating that withstands repeated bending and forming without cracking, flaking or peeling;
- Galvanized end of the pipe that prevents rusting too often present in competitors’ processes; and
- Satin-smooth protective surface – an attractive look that doesn’t sacrifice corrosion protection.
So we’re talking about a company that not only knows how to produce but distribute product. Manufacturing efforts are supported by regional managers, 39 regional sales representative agencies, four central distribution hubs and 13 local warehouses.
Republic Conduit is also a forward thinking corporation. “We feel that it is one thing to be ‘American Made’ but we also want to make sure we are ‘Good for America,’” states Facilities and Projects Manager Victor Grazionale. “The investments we make in efficiency and energy conservation have positive returns on the welfare of our community.”
In 2011, the University of Louisville – Kentucky Pollution Prevention Center (KPPC) awarded Republic Conduit with one of its 2011 Environmental Sustainability awards. The prestigious award recognizes KPPC client companies that have demonstrated a commitment to the principles of sustainability. Indeed, KPPC recognized how the company and its employees developed programs, teams and activities that have underscored the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainability.
Specifically, KPPC lauded the Louisville plant. The facility was commissioned in 2005 and became operational in 2006. Only two years later, it made waste and energy reduction projects a priority. This isn’t lip service: The company invested a large percentage of it corporate capital budget to environmental projects. Now, waste reduction projects include improvements to waste water treatment systems, the recycling of metal chips and shavings from the manufacturing process, the reuse of undamaged wooden pallets, and the reuse of machine cutting fluid. Anything that can be recycled will be transformed into something useful and – well – recyclable.
Energy resource deployment plays a huge part in how this company preserves the ecosystem.
Natural gas reduction projects implemented over the past 12 months have reduced energy usage by approximately 35 percent. Electric usage reduction projects are on-going, with significant progress being made with shut-down procedures implemented for the compressed air, cooling tower and process scrubber fans. Those three energy reduction projects alone resulted in an approximate 10 percent reduction in annual electric usage, despite higher production volumes at the facility, as the company reports.
Republic Conduit is one in a small handful of companies in the United States that is working towards ISO 50001 certification. Working with Georgia Tech University and the United States Department of Energy’s ISO50001 Superior Energy Performer Plan (S.E.P.) The goal is to:
- Foster an organizational culture of continuous improvement in energy efficiency;
- Develop a transparent system to validate energy performance improvements and management practices; and
- Create a verified record of energy source fuel savings and carbon emission reductions with potential market value that could be widely recognized both nationally and internationally.
Most energy efficiency in industry is achieved through changes in how energy is managed, rather than through installation of new technologies. Actively managing energy requires an organizational change in culture.
But back to business matters (after all, you can’t preserve the environment unless you have the financial means).
“We have been posed with significant financial challenges,” says Pricing Manager Kim Koontz. “Of course, that relates to current global economic circumstances. Since the recession, distributors have significantly reduced their inventory, which pressures manufacturers to deliver more quickly and to provide more service. We have changed with the times. No longer is it about just providing the highest quality product. Now, the highest quality customer service needs to become part of the equation.”
Ramiro Rodriguez Agusti, vice president (sales, marketing and supply chain) agrees: “If a company wants to move forward, it has to be more in tune with the marketplace,” he comments. “That means reacting more quickly to customer needs, as well as anticipating those needs. That’s what we are doing. True, we have a heritage that extends for more than 80 years, but in the 21st century, there is less room for error.
That’s why we keep close to our representatives. They provide us feedback from our customers, and we feed that information to our planning.” And that’s what gives birth to innovation.
Indeed, it’s a brave new world of manufacturing, where you can no longer just rest on the laurels of a good product. Republic Conduit realizes this, and it goes the extra mile.