The following are excerpts from an interview with Jeff Fraser, CEO, RPS Composites:
Tell us about HPPE, what’s different about it?
Our HPPE systems mark a significant point in the evolution of RPS Composites in that we’ve identified our tried and true piping systems that are suited for the greatest variety of applications and made them our standard. All were designed by our Engineering Department and put through rigorous testing, and have been in service around the world, for decades. Although we’re proud of our custom manufacturing heritage, our focus now is on the provision of standard high-performance pipe that’s in stock throughout North America. This includes HPPE P-150 corrosion resistant pipe and fittings, HPPE A-150 corrosion and abrasion resistant pipe and fittings, and HPPE H-150 and H-150-200 high temperature corrosion resistant pipe and fittings.
What do these changes mean to your customers?
Now that we have high-performance, pre-engineered pipe and fittings in stock, our customers can place an order with us and have it delivered that same week. In the past, it often took many months for orders to be added to our production schedule, and of course, this was unacceptable to many of our customers. Now, maintenance crews can have FRP materials on hand, just like steel and thermoplastics. I’ve been told by some companies that they don’t use FRP piping systems because of the apparent lag between order, engineering oversight, and delivery. They want the convenience and reliability of an in-stock product, and now, with a pre-engineered product, they’ll have that.
Does this shift mean RPS is moving away from custom engineered pipe and equipment?
Yes and No. We’d love to sell our customers one of our in-stock products like P-150 because we think it simply offers the best value-for-dollar in the market. However, many customers have custom specifications that we’ve built many times, and we’ll continue to provide these products, for sure. These products flow through our facilities quickly, they are just not in stock, so delivery depends on our current capacity at the time of order placement. Finally, a customer may have a specification that’s completely new to us. This means the product goes through the rigors of project management, engineering, and production to ensure we bid, design, and fabricate the product correctly. These types of projects will be assessed on a case by case basis. Overall, we think this three-phased approach is in the best interest of our customers.
How will the availability of HPPE pipe affect procurement decisions? Maintenance planning?
Procurement officers can contact us at any time and place an order with us, and just like a stocking distributor, we can immediately begin shipping procedures. No waiting. As for maintenance departments, they can pre-order their pipe to coincide with scheduled maintenance, or to simply have it on hand in cases of emergency repair. There’s even the option of having their delivery pre-assembled before shipment, or our own Field Services crew can bring the pipe along with them to perform the work.
Should your current customers be concerned that you’ve changed the pipe system they’ve come to know and trust?
Not at all – our formulas haven’t changed – this is the same premium resin and glass they expect, the same workmanship. The only difference is that our manufacturing plants are building up inventory, maximizing economies of scale, and now we can pass along those economies to them. They can order pipe that’s been custom engineered to their applications, without the wait.
What had to change at RPS to be able to provide the HPPE line?
We’ve worked hard over the last 14 months assessing our production procedures and our own procurement processes, to ensure we could maintain an adequate level of inventory not only for our existing customers, but for new ones who we expect will now give FRP a try. Our Canadian and Northern US Manufacturing Manager has worked diligently with the teams at each of our five production facilities, we’ve completed various rounds of employee training, invested in new infrastructure and machinery, and strengthened best practices.
What systems are in place that will enable RPS to deliver their HPPE line as promised?
In addition to changes at our manufacturing facilities, we had to have a new way of tracking not only items in production, but the location and availability of our stock levels. Our Spool Tracker software has been in use at the plant level for many years and is invaluable. But with three different product lines, and a growing number of warehouse facilities, we needed an application to help track items as they left the different plants. That’s where Stock Tracker comes in. Now, when an inquiry is received, any of our IDS Managers can log on and place an order, knowing right away where the stock will originate, and how long it will take to arrive at our customer’s gate.
How can customers place an order for this standard pipe?
They can go to our website (RPSComposites.com) and click the Products tab. From there they can see which products fall within our HPPE line, and at the bottom of those product pages, they’ll find contact information for our Sales Reps.
What’s coming next for the HPPE brand?
We’re in the process now of modifying our dual laminate lines, specifically our MAXAR Blue FEP/FRP Pipe and Fittings. This line will be stocked in our Gulf Coast locations and should be available the second quarter of this year. Stay tuned!