JANUARY 2019

IN THIS ISSUE:

      
Larry Rybacki's Thoughts While Showering: Reflecting on 2018, Looking to 2019 

Larry Rybacki, President
The year 2018 has been very interesting to say the least. For SIGMA, it's been a good year in terms of overall growth as we have experienced double digit growth for the first time in the last few years.
 
Demand has been good but still not great as we need more Millennials to buy homes; housing starts are at an "ok" level of 1.2 million annually. As you all know, I've already preached that 1.4 is the number needed to keep the Waterworks Industry healthy. With public spending improving in many areas (and should be more so in 2019) it was a good year for the vast majority of us, but it was not without its challenges.
 
Everywhere we turn costs are going up: healthcare, freight, materials, personnel, etc, etc. By midsummer we were shipping orders with our 5th or 6th choice in carriers as the top choices were all booked up. Once we fought through the rising costs of doing business, we got hit with the tariffs of 10% that didn't help anybody. It's obviously a good sign for 2019 that China and the United States are talking about the possibility of either limiting further tariffs or rescinding the ones already in place. The first quarter promises to be very interesting politically.
 
We, unlike the pundits on CNBC, are still bullish on the Waterworks Industry for 2019 and well into 2020 as the country is still in dire need of a comprehensive infrastructure bill that should prioritize water projects and not place them as an afterthought. This is one area both Republicans and Democrats can agree on, and should agree on, and need to agree on.
 
Even with interest rates at 5% we don't think this should be a deterrent to keeping the current pace of 1.2 - 1.3 million housing starts in 2019. My daughter Laurissa bought a new house in Hood River, Oregon and her mortgage rate was just over 5%. She was distraught as her last mortgage rate was a full point lower. I quickly informed her that her parents' first home was financed at nearly 14% so there is a good chance she will survive.
 
In closing, I want to wish all of you a very Healthy and Happy New Year. We at SIGMA are thankful for all the support you give our 300 plus employees throughout the years and we continue to make improvements in all facets of our business to make it easier for all of you to do business with us.

Sincerely Yours,
LR sign 
Larry Rybacki
Assistant Janitor
      
Aerosol Asphalt Coating/Primer 
Now Approved for Potable Water Pipes and Fittings  

Effective January 1, 2019, SIGMA will stock the newly NSF 61-approved Blackhawk R-17-A-73 aerosol coating/primer. The product is an ANSI/NSF61 approved, quick drying black asphalt glossy coating that can be universally used for the inside and outside of ductile iron pipes and fittings, including for potable applications. SIGMA is the only distributor in the US to carry this NSF 61-approved asphalt aerosol coating/primer.
 
The aerosol is especially useful for touchup and recoating of pipes and fittings and is applicable anywhere that asphalt is used to protect cast iron pipes and fittings. SIGMA's National Customer Service Manager Craig Schapiro comments, "Previously, customers had to buy gallons of this paint in drums for small local applications. This new product is very versatile, convenient to use, and good to keep on hand. We had numerous waterworks industry customers call us and ask if they could use the paint in a potable setting. With this new NSF 61 approval, the aerosol can safely be used in this way".
 
For further information, please contact Craig at cs1@sigmaco.com or 609-498-7308.
      
Manufacturing in China: The State of Play  
by Mitchell Rona, Executive Vice President, #GlobalSourcerer

Mitchell Rona Executive Vice President, #GlobalSourcerer
As anyone who has been doing business in China knows, the country's environmental problems are well documented. China hit the world stage and increased its international profile back in 2008 when it hosted the Olympics in Beijing.  For China, this was like a debutante's coming out ball!
 
Since then, China has consistently made strides to improve its environmental standing in the world. In the last two to three years, that push for improvements in environmental compliance has increased, and has translated into tremendous pressure on all manufacturing suppliers; it has hit suppliers of iron and steel castings especially hard.
 
In late 2017, and the first half of 2018, this pressure intensified as many suppliers suffered major production interruptions. As a result of poor weather and poor air quality conditions, controls were tightened on many manufacturing processes. However, out of this adversity came opportunity. The suppliers with the resources and determination to make the necessary changes have become better suppliers overall. Initially, while suppliers may have been forced to introduce environmental improvements, the resulting changes have improved quality and overall production efficiency.
 
Yes, the costs for these environmental advances and improvements are going to find their way downstream to us, and to our end customers, but the increase is not significant enough to make China non-competitive compared to the other qualified alternatives. While other countries are improving, and some manufacturing business is migrating, there is no replacement for China - except China.
 
The Chinese suppliers who are still in business believe they deserve to be paid a fair price for the improvements they have introduced. They are proud that they are still "alive" considering the major challenges they have faced.  SIGMA is both fortunate and gratified to partner with several key suppliers who have made it through and are committed to continuous improvement to ensure that their output meets customers' demands. It is never easy, but there is no alternative.
 
There are other challenges facing those who are currently doing business in China. These challenges include: pricing (relating to currency movements); raw materials costs and sourcing, and other soft costs, which have become increasingly volatile.  Additionally, the political landscape has been quite turbulent. We are carefully watching all the different elements that affect those of us operating in China. Our eyes are wide open. Given all of the above, we still encourage prospective customers to continue to feel comfortable developing new business in China. By working with the SIGMA OEM team, you can rest assured that we can help you navigate your way. Nothing in life is 100% guaranteed, but the key to success in our industry is to build trusted relationships with companies such as SIGMA and our manufacturing partners.  
 
For further information, contact mr1@sigmaco.com.
      
Product Spotlight: Indicator Posts


SIGMA is fully stocked with a complete range of Vertical Indicator Posts and Wall Posts. These posts are designed to operate non-rising stem (inside screw) gate valves, which are used to control the underground water supply to various systems. These are ideal for use in automatic sprinklers, water spray deluges, foam water deluges, and standpipe fire protection systems.
 
The Vertical Indicator Posts permit the operation of underground valves while providing an above surface visual signal to show whether the valve is open or shut. In addition, they deliver a means to lock the valves in a particular position. SIGMA's Indicator Posts enable valve operation from outside of the protected property, and therefore allow immediate response in an emergency situation.
 
Wall Indicator Posts perform the same functions in applications in which the valve is installed behind a wall.
 
These Indicator Posts will accommodate 4-14 inch post indicator valves requiring 10-43 turns to open; they are compatible with valves that are listed or approved for fire protection system service. SIGMA's Indicator Posts are provided "standard order" for use with left hand opening valves.
 
For information on this and other SIGMA Piping, Plumbing, Fire Protection, and Industrial products, please contact sppsales@sigmaco.com.
      
Trench Drains Case Study:  Diamond Plate Stainless Trench Covers Installed in Florida Property 


SIGMA's Trench Drain Division was recently contacted by a distributor in the Florida Panhandle to address a drainage problem on a local property. The site had a conveyance trench and grate that continuously failed due to rust and overflow. In addition, the existing grate presented a slipping hazard for pedestrians, and this also needed to be addressed. They sought a solution that would provide durability, resistance to corrosion, and an anti-slip surface for pedestrian traffic. They were also concerned about fit, because the area was relatively compact and could not accommodate a large component.
 
The SIGMA Stainless diamond plate trench drain cover met all specifications. Because the SIGMA Stainless line is custom made to order, the fit was assured. The stainless-steel material is rust and corrosion resistant, even in coastal regions where the salt air can create durability challenges. Finally, the diamond pattern provided a slip resistant surface to ensure pedestrian safety. The installation was successfully completed, and the SIGMA Stainless Diamond Plate Trench Cover has met all of the site specifications.
 
For additional information about this and other trench drain solutions, please contact Todd Amerson at tamerson@sigmaco.com.
      
SIGMA Welcomes New Employees

Maria Gliddon Senior Accountant
Maria Gliddon, Senior Accountant

Maria joined SIGMA in October to support the Banking Finance Accounting Division with a number of initiatives. She works closely with Chief Financial Officer Jeff Marcus and Comptroller Don Muller, providing month end closure reports, inventory analyses, and product inventory reports. Maria brings a strong resume to SIGMA; she worked at Eisner Amper for several years after graduating Monmouth University with a degree in Accounting.   She later moved to Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, where she handled fixed asset accounting and magnitude reporting.
 
When she is not crunching numbers for SIGMA, Maria spends her time working on her new home, which she recently purchased, in Point Pleasant, NJ.
 
Maria can be reached at mgliddon@sigmaco.com or 609-498-6082 ext 1410.
 
Jonathan Richardson, Territory Sales Manager, No Florida
Jonathan Richardson, Territory Sales Manager, Northern Florida

Jonathan brings a strong resume and an affable way with customers to SIGMA's sales force. A former college baseball player, Jonathan left the diamond to pursue a degree in business management at the University of South Florida, and then worked in the construction field for several years. He moved to agricultural management, and then agricultural irrigation. This provided a good background for waterworks, and he ultimately landed at SIGMA.
 
Jonathan is the proud husband to Rachel, and proud father of Lyla (5) and Adleigh (1). When he's not serving his waterworks customers or spending time with his family, you can find him on the golf course.
 
Jonathan can be reached at jrichardson@sigmaco.com or 850-464-6156.

Scott Smith, Territory Sales Manager, Western Canada
Scott Smith, Territory Sales Manager, Western Canada
 
Scott Smith was hand-picked to join the SIGMA Canada sales team. He brings with him 27 years of sales experience, 20 of them in the waterworks industry. His deep expertise will be an asset to SIGMA and our customers. Scott's approach to sales is simple: "I put myself forward, build a strong rapport with the customer, and ensure that they want to deal with me. When you have a quality product and quality service, as SIGMA does, the rest is easy." Having been in the business for two decades, Scott was no stranger to SIGMA. He knew many members of the SIGMA Canada team, and while he recognizes there will be a learning curve in a new place, "It was an easy decision. SIGMA's reputation in the industry is uniformly positive, the company is known to put people first, so this is a great
opportunity for me."
 
When he is not selling waterworks products, Scott trains and competes in triathlons and Iron Man races and spends a fair amount of time on the golf course.

Scott can be reached at ssmith@sigmaco.com or  705-627-9423.

Matt Levyssohn, Plant Work Project Manager & Inside Sales Representative
Matt Levyssohn, Plant Work Project Manager & Inside Sales Representative

Matt brings a broad sales expertise to his newly created position serving as both a project manager for plant work and an inside sales representative. His previous position involved sales in the construction, industrial, telecommunications and fire protection sectors, so he is well suited to the current job.
 
Prior to entering the sales world, Matt earned a Philosophy and Law Degree from the University of California Riverside with a plan to enter law school. After shadowing some attorneys, he saw that the life of an attorney was not for him, so he launched a career in sales. He explains, "My academic background is really helpful in the sales world. Because I was trained to sift through a lot of material and explain it concisely, I am able to understand what the customer wants and help deliver it quickly. Customers want a solution. Here's what I need, here's when I need it, how much will it cost? They do not want to get bogged down in technical specification, quality control, or inspections." Matt's approach to customer relations and sales relies heavily on active listening, understanding quickly what is needed, and prompt delivery.
 
When he is not selling SIGMA product and managing plant work projects, Matt enjoys spending time with his family: wife Melissa and their 3 ½ year old twin daughters Evanna and Layla.
 
Matt can be reached at mlevyssohn@sigmaco.com or 909-983-7944.
 
Welcome aboard to all, and best wishes for much success!
      
Meet SIGMA:   Spotlight on Greg Wilkerson, Customer Service Representative, Southeastern Region 

Greg Wilkerson, Customer Service Representative
Greg became a member of the SIGMA family in 2005 through a corporate acquisition; SIGMA purchased Greg's former company, Florida-based PCI. He worked in the SIGMA Orlando office, and when the company began to centralize operations in 2010, Greg was at a crossroads. He explains, "I had four kids in school and I couldn't relocate my family. I will always be grateful to our Vice President of Sales, Greg Fox, for giving me a chance to stay with SIGMA, keep my family together and let my kids stay in their schools. He created a position that enabled me to continue supporting outside sales and handling customer service. I knew I had a maximum of 90 days to show that it was a good plan, and I was determined to make the arrangement work. I hit the ground running and I never stopped. The key to success in this job is to respond immediately; customers don't want a voice mail or a delayed reply to an email. They want answers now."
 
When asked about his job title, Greg is circumspect: "My title is CSR, but what I really do is manage customer expectations. I always try to anticipate the needs of customers and make sure to meet, or even better, exceed them."  Greg is something of a guru on customer service, having given talks and trainings at various professional events over the years. His approach is straightforward: "I put myself in the position of the customer. I know that anxiety arises when things do not turn out how you expect. Something as simple as a quick trip to Target becomes stressful when there is a wreck, and a 5-minute ride takes 30 minutes and you are now late for an appointment. I work really hard to avoid that type of experience with my customers. If they request a product tomorrow that I determine won't arrive for a week, I tell them. They need the worst-case scenario, not the best. That way, they are prepared, and they know what to expect, but if the item arrives early, they are happy."
 
Greg is keenly aware of his role as a representative of SIGMA. He likens the company's leadership structure to a pyramid, with the executives at the point and the remaining employees forming the base. But to his customers, the pyramid is turned on its side and he is the point: "I am the point of contact. To that customer I am SIGMA. It does not matter to them who the CEO or the President is, if they are not happy with me and the service I deliver, they are not happy with SIGMA." And this is something that Greg works tirelessly to avoid: "I love SIGMA. The people are nice. It's the best company I've worked for."
 
We salute Greg for his productive tenure at SIGMA and wish him continued success
      
Spotlight on SIGMA 

We at SIGMA place tremendous value on our SIGMA family. With that in mind, we celebrate the joy and success of our employees and their loved ones, and we share their good news...   

From the Northeast Region:

Congratulations to Karen Barone, Accounts Payable Manager, whose daughter Jenny graduated from Ramapo College in December. She completed her studies a semester early, with a degree in Sociology and a concentration in Criminology. She also earned a minor in History. While at Ramapo, Jenny helped establish the college's first chapter of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and held the office of Parliamentarian for three years. She also joined the professional fraternity Phi Alpha Delta. Both organizations enabled her to work with other students raising funds for charitable causes. Currently, Jenny is looking into graduate schools and hopes to continue her education in September.
 
Congratulations to Donna Jones, Sales & Marketing Support Associate, who participated in the National Mounted Police Services De-Spooking Clinic with her horse Jack. Both Donna and Jack received certificates for completing safety clinics in Horse Physiology and Psychology, Equitation Techniques, Mounted Drill, Mounted Obstacles, and Mounted Sensory.



On Friday December 21, the Northeast Regional Office held its annual Holiday Luncheon for staff and their families. The boardroom was lovingly decorated by Nona Chamberlain and her helpers and looked more like Santa's Workshop than a conventional meeting room. The walls were adorned with lights, tinsel and handmade paper cut outs in the shape of fittings. There were 91 fittings in total, each labeled with a Cream Ridge employee's name. 

As Chairman and CEO Victor Pais commented: "Everyone deserves to be private-labeled, and that's just what Nona did!"
 
Management issued a call to employees to dress up in the holiday spirit, with the winners being offered the opportunity to give out holiday gifts to the children of in attendance. Operations Manager Jim Carr and Engineer Mr. Rao were the clear winners, with Craig Schapiro, dressed in wrapping paper, in a close 3rd place. Congratulations to everyone who wore a costume. 
Victor addressed the gathering: "It is said that God created the world in six days and then rested on the 7th. Well everyone here at SIGMA has had an extremely busy and exciting 51 weeks and we hope over the next week as we bring the year to a close that you all enjoy a week of rest and relaxation with friends and family."
 
Accounting Associate Chrissie Miller's Christmas was made when her son AJ, who is on leave from the Marines, surprised her with a Christmas visit home and threw his arms around her.






From the Southeast Region:

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The Southeast Regional Team shared an office-wide pre-Thanksgiving celebration. The group enjoyed a traditional meal, and several people expressed their gratitude for their SIGMA family and for the generosity and effort that went into the luncheon.

From the Southwest Region:

 
Members of the SIGMA Southwest Regional Team showed their spooky spirit with a festive Halloween celebration.

From the Western Region:


The SIGMA Western Regional Team had a great time at their annual picnic. Employees, families and friends gathered at a local park near the SIGMA Warehouse for a catered lunch of barbecue and tacos, and the whole group enjoyed games and raffles. Adrian Chavez was the big winner, taking home a 49" flat screen television. Special thanks to Operations Manager Les Robinson for organizing the event.