Watts Water
A senior instructor helps trainees get hands-on. Over the last decade, Watts Water Technologies has invested tens of millions into training and education.

150 Years of Watts Water – Looking Back and Looking Ahead

June 25, 2024
Our conversation with Andrew Windsor, Sr. Vice President of Sales, Americas for Watts Water Technologies.

NORTH ANDOVER, MA — Back in 1874, English immigrant Joseph E. Watts opened an independent machining shop in Lawrence, MA, the Watts Regulator Company, supplying parts and fittings to local textile mills.

Since then the company has grown to become a global brand supplying quality water solutions for residential, industrial, municipal, and commercial applications. Headquartered in North Andover, MA, the company has expanded, both organically and through a series of acquisitions including BLÜCHER in 2008, Socla in 2011 and water heater manufacturer AERCO in 2014. The company most recently welcomed commercial bathroom fixture manufacturer Bradley into the company in 2023.

CONTRACTOR spoke with Andrew Windsor, Sr. Vice President of Sales, Americas about the company anniversary, its formula for success and what it sees as the future of the plumbing industry.

CONTRACTOR: First, congratulations on Watts’ 150-year anniversary. It's a big deal! What are some of the key factors that have contributed to the company’s success?

Windsor: Thank you, it is a big deal. If you think of the journey this company's gone on over 150 years and the number of associates and customers that have contributed to our success, it's really an incredible story.

We're a company that was founded on products that helped create a safer world. Our original product was a relief valve for steam manufacturing up here in New England to make sure that these high pressure steam units wouldn't explode… That evolved to mixing valves to make sure that water is provided safely at the right temperature for showers and hand washing, and backflow preventers to help protect buildings from Legionella and other waterborne pathogens.

We've really been a company built around providing safety products and protecting people's water—and in many cases lives. And that's really what's made us an incredible company over the years.

CONTRACTOR: So that's a great thing to have at the core of the company. You've probably dealt with a lot of manufacturers reps over the course of your career. What makes a good manufacturer's rep?

Windsor: I think if you look at our rep network today, most of our reps have been Watts reps for 30-plus years and they have built their organizations in many cases around the Watts line. Being a manufacturer's rep is a difficult job because everyone's their customer—they have to do what's right for the manufacturer and they have to do what's right for the end customer and navigate that path. We find that the reps that are the most successful are very focused on demand creation at the engineer, contractor, and owner level, and that they are really laser-focused on what the differentiation of our product is.

They’re out there solving application issues for end users. So, when a contractor runs into an installation issue or an application issue, they're calling them to solve that problem not to sell product. And those are the reps that really do a spectacular job.

CONTRACTOR: While we’re on the subject of your sales reps, did any news come out of your recent National Sales Meeting?

Windsor: We made an acquisition late last year of Bradley, so we had a national sales meeting with that group of reps at the beginning of this year, an opportunity for us to get to know that rep network a little bit better and for them to know us a little bit better and who we are, what our strategy is and where we're headed.

Then we had another national sales meeting just recently online with our Watts rep network for both Canada and the US. Just a good opportunity to touch base with our rep network and make sure that they understand our strategy, our direction, what our expectations are, and ultimately how we can win in the marketplace. Those are always reinvigorating for me, just to get back to spending some time with the team and understanding where we're winning and why we're winning and then being able to take those examples and hopefully share that with the entire organization so we can replicate that nationally.

CONTRACTOR: What do you see as the big challenges for the plumbing industry in 2024, and what do you see Watts’ role as a leading manufacturer in meeting those challenges?

Windsor: I think there are two big challenges in our future. First, I think consolidation is going to continue to accelerate, and that's on every level; at the distribution level, at the rep network level, at the contractor level, and certainly at the manufacturer level.

So scale is going to matter. If you look at the cost to remain relevant today in the marketplace—from the investment required in new product development to the investment required in digitizing your product line to the investment required in training—and they're becoming incrementally higher every year.

When there's rapid consolidation, there's rapid change. As an organization and as an industry, being able to navigate that in a way that we're able to bring the best solutions and the best product to the end user in the most efficient way necessary, I think is going to be a challenge.

The other challenge we have is labor. I think as an industry we have to think about labor differently. If you look around this industry, it's a lot of people that look like me, in my fifties. We need to think about how we attract different talent into this organization, into this industry, and at every level.

Because if you look at the dynamics of building engineers and plumbing contractors, the stats are ridiculous. For every two people that enter five people leave. So that's going to become a huge challenge. I think there's a lot of good work going into that right now. But we have to accelerate it. We have to figure out how to make this a more appealing industry for people of different races, different genders. We just have to get better at this or talent is going to become a real limiting factor for us.

CONTRACTOR: In that case the big challenge for your company is a combination of outreach and education.

Windsor: One of the things I'm most proud about the journey we've taken at Watts is our focus on training. We've invested tens of millions of dollars over the last 10 years in our training capabilities. We have five training facilities around the country, our flagship here in North Andover, MA, where we'll bring in well over a thousand engineers, contractors, wholesalers in for in-person training. And that's hands-on training along with classroom training.

I think the organization has developed a just incredible assortment of what we call Lunch-and-Learns e-trainings. Over 30,000 individual people in the industry have participated in our Lunch-and-Learns. In our online training platform, Watts Works, we have over 400 courses available where contractors, engineers, wholesalers, and reps can take a five minute course, take a short test at the end of it, they earn some tokens that they can trade in for Watts-branded hats and lifestyle stuff. Last year over 200,000 individual courses were taken on that platform.

We're passionate about it. I hope you can hear it in my voice right now. It's one of the things I'm most proud that we've developed in the 10 years since I've been here.

CONTRACTOR: Does the company have any celebrations planned for the big anniversary?

Windsor: It's an ongoing celebration. A lot of focus on our associates. I think a company is only as great as its people. We're trying to host a 150 event at every facility we have around the world with our global leadership team attending each one of those. And that becomes a pretty daunting task when you have 50, 60 facilities!

It's all just a huge thank-you to our loyal customers and our associates. It's been an awesome journey for 150 years and hopefully we have another 150 years in front of us, continuing to find ways to innovate and provide value, protect water systems and protect people as they engage with water. 

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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