By Ryan Spencer
All spray foam manufacturers claim high R-values and promise optimal energy efficiency, which comes as a result of all leading spray foam insulations being superior to other available solutions like fiberglass and cellulose. To consumers, architects, and builders, the leading brands of spray foam may appear to offer the same intended result of insulating and air sealing a home or commercial building. They might think the manufacturer simply makes the foam and the installer simply puts the foam in the house. This is just not the case, as anyone with a thorough understanding of the industry knows that spray foam isn’t a commodity, and that brands of foam are well differentiated. So for contractors, choosing a supplier might be one of the more critical decisions they make, and often the decision comes down to more than just price. The real question is: does your supplier consider every aspect of the spray foam process, from the formulation of the foam itself to the support for their installers in every facet of their business? We’ll look at three indications that you’ve chosen the right supplier.
1: YOUR SUPPLIER HAS A UNIQUE POSITION IN THE MARKETPLACE
There are a number of ways in which brands of spray foam differentiate themselves, from cost to yield to R-value. Some of these factors are more appealing to the contractor, while others may be more attractive to the client. For environmentally conscious homeowners seeking green home systems, sustainable foams are the answer, as the environmental benefits are unmatched by traditional insulation materials. Manufacturers that produce green foam products, like SES Foam, start with the formulation of the foam to create sustainable insulation. In the case of SucraSeal, SES partnered with Imperial Sugar in developing the sucrose-based foam, which offers industry-leading bio content with backing from the USDA as a BioPreferred insulation. Sustainable insulation pushes the industry further towards environmentally friendly home insulation solutions, but the benefits don’t have to end there. Sucrose-based formulations like that of SucraSeal are inherently fire resistive. The ability to pass the ICC-ES AC 377 Appendix X fire test without a coating is a major advantage in the marketplace. Appendix X approval allows installers to skip the expensive and time-consuming step of applying fire protective coatings in restricted-access attics and crawlspaces. This benefit allows savings to be passed on to the client, and gives both homeowners and builders priceless peace of mind knowing that the foam itself is safe for all future occupants and will not exacerbate a structural fire.
2: YOUR SUPPLIER’S TECHNICAL SUPPORT IS COMPREHENSIVE AND THOROUGH
It’s important that a supplier truly understands the contractor by considering their full operation and keeping an eye out for inconsistencies in their installation procedures. It’s important to help installers overcome operational hurdles by streamlining their processes, which allows everyone–from the manufacturer to the end client–to benefit. To gauge a supplier’s stance on this, it’s key to understand the extent of their technical service, which should include chemical problems and equipment issues, and should be provided in-house, onsite, and online. Some manufacturers offer extensive in-house training facilities, like the training center at SES’s Houston, Texas headquarters, which is complete with a spray foam rig and mock walls for application training. Inhouse training is critical for building the fundamental knowledge installers need to properly install SPF, particularly when they’re new to the industry. Service at the job site is also a crucial differentiating factor for suppliers, as in-house visits simply aren’t practical once a contractor is out in the field doing installations. In that case, contractors benefit from onsite visits for everything from building a rig from scratch to troubleshooting equipment. This on-call service can eliminate the need for installers to hire expensive fulltime mechanics. Manufacturers that provide this level of training and support, like SES, stand out in the industry by ensuring the end product for every application is of the highest quality. It’s also important for a supplier to leverage current technologies, and when it comes to technical support, the internet is a powerful tool. With merely a website, suppliers can provide 24/7 access to technical videos, building science articles, and technical support, much like SES accomplished with the Contractor Support Portal on their website.
3: YOUR SUPPLIER TRULY TREATS YOU AS A PARTNER
Your relationship with your supplier should be intimate from a business perspective, and a supplier’s concerns should extend beyond just their products to the full scope of their contractors’ businesses. Moreover, manufacturers shouldn’t be concerned with the size of their contractors business, in terms of their purchasing power, but rather how well they’re running and how consistently they’re growing. Suppliers like SES have realized they can assist on a business level as much as a technical level by offering advice on everything from bidding jobs and accounting, to material costs and setting margins, as well as the importance of foam yield from each set ordered. Furthermore, it should go without saying that a manufacturer should be continuously looking to improve the yields of their products, and thereby the profitability of their contractors. It shouldn’t be out of the question that a supplier provides sufficient marketing support as well. Suppliers may opt to partner with a marketing specialist that can optimize their contractors’ websites for search engines and lead generation, start Google AdWords campaigns, design vehicle wraps and brochures, or order trade show booths. A manufacturer shouldn’t just want the business of their spray foam contractors; they should want their contractors to succeed in their own businesses, and do so in a safe and highly professional manner. With this approach, suppliers like SES can change the spray foam industry in the best way possible, benefitting everyone in the process, from designers and builders, to installers and homeowners. Rather than solely focusing on selling more foam by adding contractors, a manufacturer should focus on making its existing contractors more successful. If a supplier can help its contractors with training, technical knowledge, marketing, and best business practices, everyone stands to benefit, from the manufacturer to the small business owner to the employee.