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Eric Younkin - Rooftop Technology Expands - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

Eric Younkin - Rooftop Technology Expands
January 16, 2023 at 12:39 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Eric Younkin of MTL Holdings. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast. 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a long-term professional within the trade. Listen for insights, interviews, and exciting news in the roofing industry today.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Hello and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips from RoofersCoffeeShop. This is Heidi Ellsworth and I am road tripping across country to talk about some amazing new technology from the folks at MTL Holdings. What is MTL Holdings? We're going to talk about that you all know. It is Metal-Era and I am here today with Eric Younkin, the VP of product and engineered Services to tell us all about it. Good morning, Eric.

Eric Younkin:

Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Oh, thank you for being on. This is exciting stuff. What you are all doing with Metal-Era, Hickman, and now Citadel. There's a lot going on and you're really leading with technology, which always is exciting as far as I'm concerned. So before we start down that path, if you could please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about MTL Holdings and all of the great companies.

Eric Younkin:

Sure. So Eric Younkin, as Heidi mentioned, vice president of products and engineered services for MTL. We will explain what MTL is. A little bit about myself, started in the roofing industry in 1999. Primarily I've worked on the waterproofing membrane side up until April of 2021 where I decided to get to the edge and I was able to join at the time, oh MTL is Metal-Era at the time. So I was able to come over and join Tony Mallinger, Brad Van Dam and have been with them now for a year and a half and just trying to innovate the edge and help the industry with labor savings ideas and making things easier for our installers.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I love it.

Eric Younkin:

Like I said, I spent numerous years on the waterproofing side so I understand the middle of the roof and now it's really kind of incorporating that edge and actually we'll talk a little bit about getting off the edge.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah, that makes sense. And I love the experience you have because you're right, now you can incorporate the whole nine yards of understanding that roof and what's really important.

Eric Younkin:

So it's been a learning process, getting to the edge, but taking the field to the edge has been awesome and hopefully I helped provide a little bit of insight into that as well for the company and our customer base.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That's great. That's great. Well, tell us a little bit too about MTL Holdings and also the companies that make up MTL, Metal-Era, Hickman, and Citadel.

Eric Younkin:

So Metal-Era was a family owned business since 1980 and then in, April of 2001, right in the middle of... I'm sorry, April of 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, they actually formed MTL Holdings shortly thereafter in 2021 they acquired the rights of the edge metal business from OMG, formerly known as Hickman Edge Systems or W.P. Hickman. So MTL Holdings is the parent company, holding company for both Metal-Era, the number one specified edge metal product in the market. And Hickman Edge Systems, the oldest manufacturer of edge metal systems dating back to 1945.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow.

Eric Younkin:

Metal-Era located in Waukesha, Wisconsin, serves the Midwest very well and up into the Northeast. Hickman Edge Systems is out of Asheville, North Carolina. We're able to get more south, closer to our customers, which is important when we talk about next day ships getting products on the roof faster, especially since the edge components are always last to go on and typically when the contractors need them, they need them fast. So those are the two primary brands on the edge metal side. And then most recently here in 2022, we acquired Citadel Architectural Panels, which is a manufacturer of ACM, MCM wall panels and they're located in Indianapolis, Indiana. So now we actually are able to incorporate aluminum composite materials on the wall into the perimeter edge systems, whether that be coping or fascia. So kind of the tie-in to roof to wall. So that is our first venture into something like that.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Wow. So important. And everyone's talking about the building envelope, you were right where it needs to be because that transition is the greatest weakness.

Eric Younkin:

Yes. So now I got to the edge, now I kind of jumped off the edge a little bit.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Little repelling. I love it. Well one of the things that you have come out with this last year, which I just think is amazing is the Falcon Roof Measurement Tool. You launched it in March. Can you tell us about it?

Eric Younkin:

Yeah, so in March we brought it out to the public at IBEC and the Falcon is a combination of a tool and an app that talk together. And what the tool does is it allows for spatially recognizing technology where we can actually tell this tool's place in space at any given moment. And that's on multiple axes, whether that be X and Y and the A and B axes. So it can tell the specific angles from one side to the other, it can tell the angle of slope and we're talking with extreme accuracies to tenths of a degrees and thousands of an inch. So the tool is handheld and the idea behind the tool is you would carry an iPad or some type of device that it would be able to talk to the app on and you can simply, with a roller, you're rolling across a coping in this case and it is measuring within a tenth of an inch... I'm sorry, a thousandth of an inch.

And then every five feet you would measure the wall. We have a clamping mechanism and that goes down to again, the thousands of an inch. So we're able to tell precisely how thick that wall is at that specific location. So it's very, very specific since it's able to tell exactly where it's at, we can then with the use of the app, we can actually take pictures at that exact location so we know exactly where it's at. But as we walk through and measure the coping or the parapet wall, we're able to actually get very precise measurements. We can measure radiuses, no longer have to get out and have all your equipment and take your cord and rise and figure it out. We're able to walk this through with the wheel clamp it and it takes the measurements of the radius instantaneously.

So a lot of math, a lot of smarter people and I of course developed that. But the goal here is that we can get up on the roof, measure very quickly, very efficiently, and very precisely so that way we can give the contractor the information they need as quickly as possible. So typically when you talk about going out to do a field measurement for a parapet coping job, you're going to go out with your tape measure and you're going to measure the wall. Most of the times they say, oh the wall's eight inches wide.

Well in this industry we know no wall is built exactly eight inches. They like to wave and turn and get wider and narrower. So we want to make sure that we're very precise. So this tool allows us to do that. But when they go out and do that by tape, they actually take all those measurements by hand, have to go back to the office, that might be a couple hours, maybe a day later they sit down and they actually try to manually go through all the measurements to come up with what is required for the job.

With this particular device, since it's talking to the app and we're capturing all the data, we're able to capture that and submit that automatically. So there's no more waiting for what you're going to need. So we're talking about getting it into the roofer's hands as fast as possible, as accurately as possible. And when we do this, the beautiful thing with our RTS, which is our Regional Technical Sales Team, we do this as a service and then we take responsibility for all the measurements.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Nice, nice, yeah.

Eric Younkin:

It takes away all the guessing. We're making it, we do it, it's our responsibility.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And I really like how you have brought the RTS or the Regional Technical Services Team onto the roof with this technology and tool, it's saving so much time but it also really puts, like you said, it puts Metal-Era or Hickman right there on the roof with very precise measurements. So talk to us a little bit about that team of experts, your RTSs who are out in the field and who are making this happen.

Eric Younkin:

So in the early part of this year we had three RTSs strategically located throughout the US in some of the larger markets for us, we've expanded that team. We now have 10 positions. We are actively recruiting wink wink if anybody's interested. These are actual roofing experts. A lot of these that are men or women have been old tin knockers, that's what they like to call themselves. They know sheet metal in and out, inside and out. They're extremely talented and they can get up on that roof and they can help provide solutions and really take the responsibility off of the roofer and I wouldn't say take it off of them, but ease the responsibility so they can reallocate their resources.

Instead of taking that expert guy they have in the shop who may be fabricating metal or doing something, we can go do that for them and think about the time, not only to go measure, to drive, measure, but do all the work post measurement to get what is needed. We can do all that for them so they can reallocate their resources somewhere else, either within the office, within the shop, or on the roof. Let's face it, if you have a sheet metal person, they're probably more valuable to the roofer when they're installing, when they're being charged out at their install rate as opposed to administrative work. So hopefully we're assisting with the labor as well as hopefully will be providing a better finished product for them.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah, I was just going to say, because with a labor shortage, every contractor out there has to be using their labor in the best way. And this really allows them to, I would say... I mean just in listening to you, Eric, the labor savings of the measurements and putting all that together, which is huge in itself, but also the savings in having it so precise and knowing it's going to be right when it hits the roof and not having to bend it yourself or make it yourself to have everything come, maybe talk a little bit about that.

Eric Younkin:

So the precision is key. So the other thing the app does that we're able to do is as we go through this roof, we're able to what we call create a roadmap, kind of a paint by colors schematic that says this coping is eight inches wide and you could go on the map and it's going to be color coded. So you know this goes in these particular areas, but the walls or maybe a miter is a specific angle and that miter will be colored blue so it goes to this corner. So we're able to create a paint by numbers process for them.

So when they get all of those components to the roof, the person actually installing them can look at that roadmap and say, I know exactly where each of those pieces go. Eliminates the guessing. Maybe they put a coping on that's a little too wide and then they figure out later, oh we got to change the pieces out. So we're really just trying to make it as simple as possible. The concept early on was how do we make this like Legos, take this piece and put it in that spot and then at the end you're going to have a nice looking ship or whatever. But that's really the concept of how do we get this as simple as possible to help our installers.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And it's again, saving time. Because when you have that roadmap, I love that, when you have that roadmap, everyone knows where everything goes. So you're saving time on the roof and able to get to the next project, which we know a lot of the contractors have some substantial backlogs.

Eric Younkin:

Getting onto that next roof is key. And all of this is gauged around timing. Even going back to as soon as they're done measuring, being able to get them the, here's exactly what you need for the job and not waiting a day or two. Because let's face it, if you wait a day or two, it's really probably two or three. So in that time we can already have that information to you, signed off on, and we can begin producing it. Remember all coping is custom because of wall widths and the leg heights, but we could be producing that in our shops typically prior to the regular process even being able to understand what is needed. So we're getting it to the job site faster, typically two to three days faster. And our ship days are somewhere between three to seven days, depending upon the job and the location. So we're trying to make it as instantaneous as possible for the roofer.

Heidi Ellsworth:

That's excellent, that's excellent. Talk about a real solution. And as we're thinking about that, what are some of the future plans for Falcon? What are some other things that you're going to be doing to make it even faster?

Eric Younkin:

Well the first thing that we're working on is the tool is in it's first generation. So we are working on a second generation tool that will allow our RTSs, all 10 of them that are strategically located to be able to get up and use the tool more efficiently. So that's internal stuff that we're doing. And then the next step is adding geometries. Right now, measuring straits and radiuses and corners, but adding more and more geometries that are complex to make it easier to measure, to take away a lot of the guessing. So that that's definitely within our next steps. And then how do we get this out into, between our RTSs, our Regional Technical Sales and our Independent Sales reps, how do we get more acceptance and more usage out in the marketplace? So the goal is to start small, which we've done and now it's to try to build the momentum and get more of the tool out in use out into the market.

So with 10 RTSs, there are parts of the country where we may not have representation that close. So how do we get it closer to the end user? If you do have an opportunity and there's not an RTS by you, that's when you reach out to myself or Brad Van Dam and we will make sure that we have somebody available to assist you with those measurements. So geography does not limit us to our service.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Yeah, that's great. And I think for all the contractors out there who are listening to this, really understanding too, that this is not something you have to do or your team has to learn the technology or use the tool or the app or anything like that. This is something 100% supplied by MTL to be able to really have those, like you said earlier, professionals, people who've been in roofing, who've worked on the edge forever come out and be a part of collaboration with their roofing while doing the Falcon measurements too.

Eric Younkin:

Yeah, I would say that's, from the feedback we've gotten from contractors of all sizes, whether that be smaller type roofers with a crew or two to larger roofers that have multiple crews, that's probably the biggest thing that I see in their eyes is when they say, "Hold on, you come out and do this for us and you're going to take away my labor to measure and you're going to assume all the responsibility. So if something goes wrong..." It's kind of goes back to the old vantage, I got one throat to choke. "I come right back to you and you're going to take care of it." And again, the expertise we have within the field with our RTSs, I mean these gentlemen and women are extremely sharp, extremely knowledgeable about edge metal. They can look at complex geometries and come up with solutions that I personally can't because of the experience they have.

They've done this for a living. And when you take that all into account and you take the tool, that actually Falcon tool, the app that talks to it, so when they're on the roof, they're going back and forth through a headset communicating. It minimizes the risk of error, the speed to the final product in terms of what is needed. We call that the output, to getting that into our shop to be manufactured, to be on the job and the precision that this allows us. It's really we're trying to revolutionize how coping is done. Labor, we know labor, we hear it everywhere, labor is a problem. So this is just one of those ways that we think that we can assist. And as we develop this tool, we're going to be looking for feedback and I'm sure there's going to be ideas that are shared with us.

So you asked what does next generation look like? It's really, the sky's limit. There's a lot of possibilities. We know what we can do now, we know what we want to do next, but looking down the road, we really want this to really make edge metal as simple as possible because we know at the end of the job it's the last thing to go on. The sooner you get it on, the sooner the contractor get their retainage, they can get the warranty issued and they're onto the next job.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Right, which is what is so important. And I just don't think you can also... You can't discount the importance of that relationship. So technology is the future. We need all the technology we can get, we need it to help with the labor shortage and everything else. But having that relationship with your local RTS and really being able to obviously get the measurements but also get... I just love what you said, the expertise for all roofs, but the ones that are just really complicated, that has to mean a lot to estimators too, to have that kind of resource.

Eric Younkin:

Absolutely. And you brought that up as I was just thinking in my head, our RTSs just are not about coping, it's about fascias, it's about gutters. Most recently there's been a new gutter standard launched called GT-1 that was just passed in to IBC. So states are now starting to adapt this... Adopt this I should say. And so we're going to see more and more need for tested gutter assemblies, very similar to ES-1. Our RTSs are well versed on that. So they understand how we can help design gutter systems that meet and pass code. So it's that expertise. Because let's face it, there's contractors that have great metal shops that do great work, but we're a great resource when they need the difficult jobs or the overflow. And that's where our RTSs can really come in. So they can do product knowledge, they can come in and do hands-on training. I'm in Cleveland, Ohio, I'm not in Buffalo, thank God, today with the six feet of snow. But-

Heidi Ellsworth:

Serious.

Eric Younkin:

When your shops might get a little slower, our RTSs could come in and do hands-on training, do product knowledge, so simple things like that and just help the installers get more comfortable with what's going on on the roof. And again, it's the service we provide and the relationship at the local level that really means something. I call it the face-to-face combat. It's really being in front of people and helping them, being a resource for them. So when they run into those situations, those jobs, whether that be time, complexity or whatever, we're here to help.

Heidi Ellsworth:

And I truly believe it's the future. It's that combination of people and technology and finding the right combination that really makes for huge success and that's really what this is showing overall. And I loved what you said, because I think there's probably some contractors out there thinking, oh, I'm too small, I'm too big. Where's that sweet spot? But really, let's talk just a little bit, I mean contractors should be thinking about this for every job, no matter what size they are. And like you said, even if they have their own sheet metal shop, this is great for complex jobs and overflow. So what are you hearing from the contractors of all sizes about how this is helping them?

Eric Younkin:

Well, yeah, we're hearing it from all levels, which is great. There are some contractors that prefer not to even touch and fabricate metal. So they may buy locally or buy through us or somebody else. So this is a great benefit for them. If you don't have a metal shop, we can basically become your metal shop. You can outsource it. So no expense, no equipment, no nothing, no responsibility for measurements. So in those cases, very clearly they see the value. When we get to the larger roofers that have pretty sophisticated shops and equipment, they do great work, when the job gets difficult, when they need overflow, when capacity becomes this concern because of labor, we're a great alternative. And then of course specifications drive a lot of the market as well. So when specifications require certain parameters, maybe it's based upon warranty, whether that be a full system warranty from a membrane manufacturer, a specific wind speed warranty, then those are some of the technical expertise that we bring into the market as well.

So we're able to meet some of those things. So depending upon the need, we can service all levels, like you said, no matter what the size of the roofer is, if it's a one crew shop or a 10 crew shop, we have the ability to help in any of those situations. And we talked about GT-1 coming in and with a lot of the roofers that might be going out and selling jobs themselves, we can actually provide a benefit there, helping them understand what's going on with code and just again, being that resource, being the person that the roofer calls first when there's anything metal.

Heidi Ellsworth:

I'm seeing a future podcast about gutters in our future there, Eric.

Eric Younkin:

I had the opportunity in the last several weeks to give a presentation on risk mitigation and through the presentation, it's a very intriguing presentation, but there's one particular part where we're talking about code and we just kind of give an update. Like GT-1 has passed, it has been accepted, it's starting to get adopted. I think there's 12 or 13 states now that have adopted it. The consultant and the architectural groups, their eyes light up. The awareness of it is not there yet. And let's face it, there's a lot of roofs that terminate into gutters and there's no standard and there's a lot of failures from wind blow off due to gutters. So the gutter, the GT-1 standard was needed. It was done in collaboration with ANSI/SPRI and there was input from Factory Mutual and everybody. So yeah, I think there's definitely an awareness needed on what's going to come with GT-1.

I actually met with somebody and they were specifying it even though it wasn't in their local code. And someone asked, "Why are you specifying if it's not in code?" And their response is, "It's coming to code. And if it is in code, if it's in IBC but not yet adopted in our state, I still think it's a good idea we get ahead of the curve." So even if it's not adopted in your state, understanding what it is and designing around it now I think is a great idea to get ahead of the game.

Heidi Ellsworth:

Because you know it will, sooner or later it's going to come to your state. That how it always works. So, okay, I do want to make sure that everyone out there listening knows how to get started with the Falcon technology. So for roofing contractors out there, what should they be doing? How do they get started in order to get this great technology?

Eric Younkin:

It is really just getting in touch with us and how do you do that? In today's world, there's a lot of ways. We're all over LinkedIn. Erin Inhof, our marketing manager, does a great job keeping us very relative on LinkedIn. So you can reach through us on LinkedIn. If you know any of us personally, just pick up the phone and give us a call. You can go to either of our websites, HickmanEdgeSystems.com or MetalEra.com and there's a place down at the bottom where it talks about the Falcon and you could actually go on there and schedule your Falcon demo. Our RTS has love to come out and demo it. Our best place to demo it is up on the roof. So we would love the opportunity to come out and show you. Basically just reach out to us. You could even call any of the numbers for Metal-Era or Hickman and just let us know you're interested and we will get you in touch with our local RTS.

Heidi Ellsworth:

 

That's excellent. And for everyone out there, you can find Metal-Era on both RoofersCoffeeShop and MetalCoffeeShop with a full directory that will also get you right there, too. So there's just so many different directions to be able to... You all make it very easy for people to find you.

Eric Younkin:

 

I would say a year and a half working for MTL, Metal-Era, and Hickman. The one thing that really intrigued me about working with the group is great products, easy to work with it. It's really want a win, win, win, everybody to win in the process. So we want to make it as easy as possible down to even getting in touch with us.

Heidi Ellsworth:

 

Right, all the way. I did it on a plant tour and actually I did one of Hickman many years ago, too. And when I just tell you all, when you're in this manufacturing plants, it's so amazing. The robotics, the inventory, how it is, just the processes and then the huge customer service area. So it all goes together, it's very impressive. Eric, thank you. Thank you so much. We'll have you back because we're going to want to talk about that GT-1. And we're also on the Falcon, please everybody look for it. Get it out there. This is the kind of stuff that can make such a difference in your business. It's a differentiator for commercial roofing for low slope. And I love these new technologies as they keep coming out, Eric.

Eric Younkin:

 

Yep. And a little teaser, at IRE in Dallas, we will have a rather large booth. We have been absent from IRE for many years. We are back. We'll be just catty-corner to the Para Latino's Lounge hosted by SRS. We will have the Falcon, we will have some new and innovative ideas to share. So-

Heidi Ellsworth:

 

Awesome.

Eric Younkin:

 

Look forward, stop by, check us out. We'd love to chat.

Heidi Ellsworth:

 

That's great. We'll all be there. So we'll be coming by to check that booth out too and see the Falcon in action. I love it. Eric, again, thank you so much for being here today.

Eric Younkin:

 

Thank you. Really appreciate it.

Heidi Ellsworth:

 

It is great. It's such great information and for everybody out there, thank you so much for listening. Please check out the Metal-Era and the Hickman directories on both MetalCoffeeShop and RoofersCoffeeShop. You can find all the information you want right there. Also be sure to check out all of our podcasts under the Read, Listen, Watch Initiative under the Roofing Road trips. You don't want to miss a single episode. So be sure to subscribe and set those notifications and we'll be seeing you next time on Roofing Road Trips.

Speaker 1:

 

Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the RoofersCoffeeShop.com.



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