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ACE Laboratories Tests Triumphs in Roofing - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

ACE Laboratories Tests Triumphs in Roofing - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
April 8, 2024 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Erick Sharp from ACE Labratories. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast.

Megan Ellsworth: Welcome to Roofing Road Trips, the podcast that takes you on a thrilling journey across the world of roofing. From fascinating interviews with roofing experts to on the road adventures, we'll uncover the stories, innovations and challenges that shape the rooftops over our heads. So fasten your seat belts and join us as we embark on this exciting roofing road trip. Hello, everyone, my name is Megan Ellsworth here at rooferscoffeeshop.com, and today, I am here with Eric Sharp from ACE Laboratories. Hi, how are you, Eric?

Eric Sharp: Hi, Megan, doing well. Good to be here with you.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, so glad to be chatting with you and to learn all about the history of ACE Laboratories. So I'll just let you take it away and have you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your journey with ACE.

Eric Sharp: Yeah, so my name's Eric Sharp, like you mentioned, and kind of been in industry for a little over 20 years, mostly background in the engineering side of things and used to be a consumer of laboratory services for most of my career. And then came the day where the company I was working for was getting acquired by big corporation and I had kind of gone through that route once before in my career of going to corporate life and didn't really like it. And so, I figured, hey, all those times where I had to use third party lab services wasn't always the best experience, and so, maybe there's a way to do that better. So took that as a focus, and in January of 2015, founded what is now ACE Laboratories.

And it's been quite a journey along the ways of first starting up, incubation- wise, we were really polymer-centric starting out, dealing with the raw materials of anything that polymers go into. Obviously, one of those end applications was roofing and construction-type products, but overall, polymers went across everything and we kind of started expanding from there. And then, we really went hardcore into the construction side, outside of just material support, but actually application testing in '22, when there was a company by the name of Momentum Technologies, that was a lab down the street from us that had been doing construction servicing testing for a number of years, and they were liquidating, and all of their team actually came available in the market.

And so, the know how is the number one avenue to get into something, and there were some really knowledgeable people came available, and so, that's when we build out our construction application testing lab, where now, we're actually testing roofing products for application. Still a lot of it was polymer-centric, but we're able to actually test in products for the construction market, so that's been a fun expansion over the last couple of years, as well.

Megan Ellsworth: Wow, that's amazing. So you started in 2015, so almost 10 years. That's exciting.

Eric Sharp: Yeah, yeah, 10-year birthday in January.

Megan Ellsworth: Oh, wow, coming up, kind of. A little under a year. So what would you say sets ACE Laboratories apart, specifically in the roofing sector?

Eric Sharp: Yeah, so two things for certain. So anytime any industry that we deal with ask what sets ACE apart, I always say service as the first thing, because that is really the problematic issue that I experienced as a consumer of lab services that I set out to fix in founding this company, was having a laboratory that actually understands service, which is able to be obtained through putting in proper systems internally to give you those efficiencies and allow you to be able to be responsive and interactive with your customers.

And so, being that we were able to found this from the ground level up, we were able to instill those systems as we've scaled it to allow that efficiency and responsiveness that is out there. That's been really key in allowing us to grow in the polymer space. And then, as soon as we got into the construction space and started doing voice of customer surveys, we found that the number one feedback that customers were looking for is better service, more responsiveness out of laboratories. So that actually fit perfectly well with what our whole mantra was on the polymer side, and it's been a really good synergy for us.

The other unique that we bring to the table is, because we started in polymers, we really understand the materials, so not just the end product. So, if something goes wrong with the end product in testing, we actually understand how it can be helped and what options are there to actually reformulate and make that product be able to work. So we actually understand the materials as well as the application, which is very unique in the construction and roofing space, so definitely want to use that to our advantage.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, no, that's definitely very unique and important, kind of overlooked a lot of the time. And I know you all work with the Cool Roof Rating Council, and sustainability is a big focus of you all, so how do you prioritize sustainability in the roofing solutions that you create?

Eric Sharp: Yeah, so we deal with sustainability on a lot of different fronts. One of the cool things about being involved on the material side is that we get to see a lot of new technologies, especially because we are an independent third party lab, so stuff gets sent to us for screening. So as people are developing new sustainable materials, they often send them to us and say, hey, compare them to incumbents that aren't maybe as sustainable and see how they stack up, to see if this is going to work. And so, we get to screen a lot of new technologies in the sustainable space through that and the fact that we are attached with material and in this industry, we're able to bridge that gap of saying, hey, this material looks really good in this type of application.

And recently, we just had one that was specifically the roofing application. We were like, hey, this is a fantastic positioning into this type of industry because it does really good on weather ability, really good sustainable aspects and so, we were able to kind of position it in there. So, we deal a lot with things like taking ground, recycled tires and being able to put that back into product. We've done that with some of the roofing pieces [inaudible 00:07:14]-

Megan Ellsworth: Oh, very cool.

Eric Sharp: ... where they extract the recycled carbon black out of tires and use it to make roofing membranes with. So that's been a fun project like that. There's also other recycled fillers that can go into roofing membranes and stuff, too, that we've seen, that we've utilized a lot of movement towards alternative oil feed stocks that go into these polymer systems that are going on the roofs, like plant-based oils now taking priority over hydrocarbon oils. And so, we've been doing a lot on helping those be able to get approved into these type of applications, which has been really exciting.

So we do a lot of that for customers, but we also have what we call kind of like our skunkworks here. We got those awesome sandbox of capabilities, the toys to play with. So we always get into [inaudible 00:08:10] new technologies, and we're like, hey, can it do this, can it do that? And so, we do quite a few projects internally, where we're kind of deriving off of technologies and understanding new ways to use them in applications and then being able to help roll them out where we can see an opportunity for it to fit into. And I'd say probably 80% of the projects that we do skunkwork-wise are probably sustainable focused, just because internally, [inaudible 00:08:40]-

Megan Ellsworth: Oh, that's so good to hear.

Eric Sharp: ... our passion point, internally, a lot.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, yeah, I mean, that's a great passion to have. So when you are testing these products, sustainable or otherwise, what are some of the tests that you run?

Eric Sharp: Yeah, so depending on the application that we're doing, let's say we're testing an alternative filler and a vegetable plant-based oil to go into these roofing membrane, let's say. So what we would evaluate, both on how we actually make the product, so actually mixing the raw stock and [inaudible 00:09:23] it out to make the membrane. So we would evaluate the processability of it, if it goes to a customer that's making membrane, is it still going to go down their line and process the same way without them having to reconfigure everything?

And then, when we get to the end application, that's where we're using some of our more day-to-day-type testing capabilities. We have here, the actual ASTM and ISO [inaudible 00:09:51] for these types of materials and applications, and so, we have a full kit and caboodle that we're able to test to for that. We are in ISO/IEC 17025 accredited labs, so we do all the certification testing for all these types of products that go into application and also accredited with Miami-Dade, as well, so we're able to know what specifications that we should be putting these things through the paces to compare and see that it would actually meet what the customer needs.

Megan Ellsworth: Wow. So this is kind of an offshoot question, but how many products would you ballpark that you test maybe in a year?

Eric Sharp: Wow, that's a tough question.

Megan Ellsworth: I know.

Eric Sharp: So, work order-wise, we probably do about 10,000 work orders in that space. So yeah, there's quite a few products, and sometimes those work orders could have up to 10 to 12 products on them sometimes. So yeah, we have a lot of products coming through the lab on a regular basis. And to me, that's part of the exciting part of what we do, because we are an independent lab, again, so we kind of get to see everything come through here and it's various different types of technologies, applications, things that we never even knew existed until they show up at our door.

That's a unique application, it keeps things fresh and fun. And sometimes they show up and it's a new concept, it's a new application, and there isn't an established testing protocol yet. Those are the fun ones, too, I think, where you're like, okay, what is this product going to see in a lifetime? What's the typical stuff that is going to be exposed to, the type of [inaudible 00:12:00] it's going to see, the lifetime's supposed to last, what can it come in contact with? And then, we got to find a way to simulate all of that in an accelerated fashion. But that's the fun stuff from the engineering side, so engineering-

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, got to get creative.

Eric Sharp: ... [inaudible 00:12:20].

Megan Ellsworth: Hey, I think that's pretty cool. So, what are some highlights or environmentally friendly practices that ACE Laboratories has implemented with some of these tests that you run?

Eric Sharp: Yeah, so as I mentioned, both from a service standpoint and even environmental standpoint, efficiency is always front of mind in every process that we set up. And we take that to mind, too, for our customers and their processes and what can we do to help streamline their product performance and their processes that do that. Always prioritize green alternatives, from a material standpoint, that could be had there. And from a more granular level of day-to-day, obviously we operate our facilities with all the things that we can, from energy efficient lights to soft starts on our equipment and things, just to try to limit demand and response [inaudible 00:13:29] from our power draws and things like that, as well.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, absolutely. I think it really shows just the sheer amount of innovation, all the products you're testing, all the practices you're putting into place, the sheer amount of innovation that's coming from the industry and the importance of sustainability. That's so huge, it's really great to hear that so many of these products you're testing and all these things you're implementing, are sustainable and new, too. So that's pretty cool.

Eric Sharp: Yeah, it's been exciting to see the products that we're receiving become more and more focused on sustainability. Just over the 10 years that we've been around, we've seen a dramatic increase in products that are more focused towards sustainability. And roofing industry, the polymer industry, they're both kind of old industries and so they're slower to move, but it seems like the momentum that we've seen over the last five years has been exponential over what we've seen in previous 15 to 20. So, it seems to really be-

Megan Ellsworth: That's great.

Eric Sharp: ... [inaudible 00:14:41] lately, which is exciting to see.

Megan Ellsworth: That's really great, that is really exciting. And the Cool Roofs kind of play into that, too, so what's your involvement with the CRRC, the Cool Roof Rating Council and maybe, why are you involved?

Eric Sharp: Yeah, so I think what the Cool Roof Rating Council has going on is really neat, and the total understanding of how these products affect not only the efficiency of the building that they're on, but the surrounding buildings and the heat island of itself that's created. So the science that's gone into it, I definitely appreciate, and it's been fun to be a part of. So the team that we brought over, they were heavily involved in Cool Roof Rating Council, so we immediately worked on getting that set up here. And so, now we've got some of our team members that are part of their technical committee, some of them that are on their wall rating committee, I'm one of their educators.

We also have the most trained technicians that are certified by the CRRC out of any labs out there, so we've really put an emphasis on being able to do the Cool Roof Rating Council work. So we've equipped ourselves, both with our team and our set-up, to do that. We understand that when people are submitting for CRRC's accreditation, that they most likely have opportunities at hand that all they need is that approval and that number to really get to commercialization, so turnaround time and speed is needed, as well as an understanding of the methodologies and why those methodologies are in place. So, we've definitely taken a priority in making sure that we have the staff capacity, the equipment capacity and the understanding needed, because we want to position ourselves to be the top choice for any CRRC testing.

Megan Ellsworth: Ah, that's great. Would you say that that is a pretty big majority of the products that you test, are CRRC-approved or verified products?

Eric Sharp: Not a majority as a whole of the lab, just because there's so many different applications that are out there. But as CRRC continues to grow ... I mean, they're just a couple years in on the wall rating side, so it's really just picking up the momentum. They're getting ready to get into some of these renewal aspects of it, and I know they're currently evaluating pavement, as well, that's another measurement piece for that. So as the program continues to grow, we plan to continue to grow in it and watch it grow as a bigger segment of our business. So hopefully, one day, it will be the biggest that's out there.

Megan Ellsworth: Yeah, that's exciting. So are there any projects or initiatives that we should be excited about coming from ACE Laboratories and CRRC?

Eric Sharp: Yeah, so I mean, I think as they continue to expand their programs, we want to be able to support that and help show that this type of technology can be used on measuring solar reflectance and admittance of various products within a heat island effect or a major city metro area, and how it can help with that. I think there's a lot of technologies when it comes to coatings and sealants and products like that, that are really geared around being able to help with this and so, being able to find other avenues of where they can be deployed to help that overall, I think is key for being able to do that, and so, we want to be a resource to help make that happen.

And then, as I mentioned earlier, we do play in the skunkwork side of things, where we're always trying to find new sustainable alternatives. And we got some pretty cool technologies that we're working on right now, where we're actually using recycled material feed streams that are coming through from various different outlets of recycling, and being able to use those feed sources to make actual applicable products that can be used in asphalt applications for rubber modification.

So stay tuned, there'll be more coming out on that as we work with partners to commercialize some technologies coming from that. But we want to be able to offset some of the materials that are out there that might be high hydrocarbon base with some sustainable solutions for feedstocks and waste streams that are readily available. So we're quickly advancing on some technologies there, so hopefully we'll have some good updates here shortly.

Megan Ellsworth: Ah, that is awesome. Where can people find all this information? I know they can find it on probably CRRC's website, but what's your website?

Eric Sharp: Yeah, so our website is ace-laboratories.com, and then, we also have a very active LinkedIn account, so you can get spur of the moment updates about-

Megan Ellsworth: Awesome.

Eric Sharp: ... where we're at and what we're doing on LinkedIn, as well.

Megan Ellsworth: That's great. That's great. Well, Eric, thank you so much, this went by so quick.

Eric Sharp: Yeah, it did.

Megan Ellsworth: This was so informative. Thank you so much, and everyone, go check out the ACE Laboratories directory on rooferscoffeeshop.com, as well as askaroofer.com. Go to ace-laboratories.com to learn more. Follow them on LinkedIn, and we'll be road tripping more, more episodes coming every week. So Eric, thank you again.

Eric Sharp: Thank you.

Megan Ellsworth: If you've enjoyed the ride, don't forget to hit that subscribe button and join us on every roofing adventure. Make sure to visit rooferscoffeeshop.com to learn more. Thanks for tuning in, and we'll catch you on the next Roofing Road Trip.

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