Bradford White Corp.
2007 Co Bradford White 5f088254d13e5

The Manufacturer’s Challenge

July 10, 2020
A conversation with Eric Truskoski, Sr. Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs for Bradford White.

The Bradford White Corporation is a team of American-owned companies that designs, engineers, and builds water heating, space heating, combination heating, and storage solutions for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. The company has been in business for 135 years and employs 2,300 people in its American facilities. While keeping the needs of the building owner always in mind, the company has made support for and outreach to the professional trades a hallmark of its culture.

We spoke with Eric Truskoski, Sr. Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs for Bradford White, to get a manufacturer’s perspective on the current state of the market and legislative environment during the ongoing national health emergency.

CONTRACTOR: So, given your brief with the Bradford White, what are the company’s key concerns right now?

Truskoski: The big focus is COVID and everything related to it right now. A supplement is workforce [development], and some of the challenges that our industry and our country were seeing even before the pandemic. Some of those will definitely be present as we work our way out of it, but we may have some greater challenges with how do we do some of the things we have done historically, and do it with the number of workers that are needed to perform a particular job.

The historical problems I’m referring to are, for instance, in manufacturing jobs and the skilled trades, there’s always a high demand for those skilled workers. There has been leading up to the pandemic, and I think there will continue to be a high demand coming out of it, and that of course includes fields like plumbing and HVAC contractors, the people who are installing and servicing our products. There’s that specialized training that they receive that the country has gone away from in some cases, and there’s a growing demand for that sub-set of workers. It’s definitely something we’re watching and we’re trying to encourage individuals to go into those types of trades and fields in our industry.

We supported the re-authorizations of the Perkins Act, that helps get funding for skilled trades training programs. We’ve been a part of conversations about how to make apprenticeship programs better, be it our own internal ones or other, federal- or industry-recognized programs. What can be done to make them better, to encourage more people to go into them or allow more companies to have those types of programs, or—and this is nothing formal—asking what we can do to support local communities and convince people that these are good jobs and we need more people to do them.

For essential industries and manufacturers like ourselves, most workers understand the value [of their skills], so it hasn’t been as big a challenge to retain our workforce [in the face of COVID], because we’ve been working all through this pandemic. But I can certainly see that as being different for other manufacturers.

CONTRACTOR: Are you facing any serious regulatory or legislative hurdles right now?

Truskoski: The challenge for manufacturers is that now your timeline is stressed. While you may have had, say, just under a year to comply with that residential boiler rule making, the resources that you internally have or are externally relying upon—as well as including components for those products—become quite a challenge. And it becomes a challenge for manufacturers, and because of that it puts in jeopardy manufacturers complying with upcoming regulatory requirements. Unfortunately, the date’s been set, the flag has been planted, and we’re all supposed to be working towards [compliance], and there’s a number of hurdles that have been put in your way. It isn’t as simple as saying, “work harder,” or “work more,” because the resources are scarce. Everyone is vying for the same certification, and in some cases vying for the same suppliers as well.

There’s other rulemaking that hasn’t been finalized, but which could be in the next year or two, and we could run into those same challenges all over again. There’s so much uncertainty right now.

A lot of the activity, actually, has been happening from executive branches within the states, and frankly also the federal government... Legislative activity has slowed down dramatically. A lot of state governments have either postponed coming back into session, or in some cases have adjourned for the year. The legislative activity has really slowed down at the state level. Still stuff happening, but not at the volume that’s normal.

[A major concern for] states along the west coast, both in the U.S. and Canada is de-carbonization, and this has impacts both short-term and long-term. We’ve seen state and local authorities that are still driving towards decarbonizing… and developing—whether it be energy policies or regulatory action—to support that goal, and it’s something we’re monitoring and engaging with as necessary.

CONTRACTOR: What knock-on effects do you see the pandemic having? Do you see major changes to the supply chain?

Truskoski: I do think there’s going to be some sort of realignment, or revaluation by the country as a whole. Once we get to the point where COVID is in check and probably when there’s a vaccine in place, there is going to come a point where we are going to reevaluate, ask what are the lessons we’ve learned from this? Where are we weak as a whole from a supply-chain standpoint, or even as a specific company?

Was it because we were heavily dependent on a single source? Where is that source, is it in a specific state that handled their stay-at-home orders, maybe, differently, more stringently than some other states? If was another country, maybe they had their own challenges—possibly significant depending on where they are in the world, and maybe took longer to recover from it. A part of that conversation is definitely going to be cost of the components or materials that come from those countries…

[Should these changes] be legislatively done? One topic that’s come up in different ways is the Made in America/Buy American-type of policies... there are different versions of that, and I think that will be something that will be part of the conversation as well. Whether that will be done from a legislative level or at federal level or not, I don’t know. Certainly it will be something that will be looked at versus what we currently have in place.

About the Author

Steve Spaulding | Editor-inChief - CONTRACTOR

Steve Spaulding is Editor-in-Chief for CONTRACTOR Magazine. He has been with the magazine since 1996, and has contributed to Radiant Living, NATE Magazine, and other Endeavor Media properties.

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