The drain-cleaning industry is in the midst of change. And manufacturers of drain-cleaning products are being proactive when it comes to adapting to an industry that previously maintained the status-quo.
“We are seeing more segmentation and innovation in the drain-cleaning market,” General Pipe Cleaners National Sales Manager Dave Dunbar says. “In the past, licensed plumbers did most drain cleaning and pipe replacement. Lately, those jobs have migrated to drain-cleaning specialists such as Roto-Rooter, Rooterman, Mr. Rooter and smaller non-franchise companies that follow a similar business plan. These drain-cleaning specialists don’t need to be licensed plumbers and tend to purchase tools of their trade directly from manufacturers or other newer acquisition channels instead of working with traditional local wholesalers and distributors.”
Dunbar also is noticing a rapid change when it comes to the drain-cleaning products and technologies entering the marketplace today. “The past several years has seen rapid innovation in both equipment and techniques for drain cleaning and pipe repair,” he says. “Pipe relining and bursting techniques have become more prevalent in the marketplace along with milling machines, epoxy pumps, camera and jetting systems, and other equipment that is effectively reinventing the drain-cleaning industry. Our customers, both in the wholesale and end-user market, are experienced increased options.”
Milwaukee Tool Product Manager Kathleen Keegan also is noticing a swift shift. “The drain-cleaning industry has seen little to no innovation and has been dominated by the same manufacturers for more than 50 years. Now, the industry is trending toward new solutions that increase efficiency and ease of use,” she says.
RIDIGD Underground Technologies Product Manager Brendon Goede has noticed one key shift in this marketplace has come on the property-owner front. “This space has changed for the positive in recent times with not only professionals, but also property owners who are understanding the value of maintaining clear drain lines,” he says. “Maintenance/service crews are telling us how different drain-cleaning products improved the quality of life of a property, making life easier for the teams managing the properties as well as residents. This increased awareness of the importance of preventative maintenance has helped create more value in the work plumbers do.”
Training the pros
General Pipe Cleaners’ Dunbar explains the company works with its rep and wholesale partners via maintaining an up-to-date and informative website loaded with educational videos, as well as its recently introduced Drain Brain University.
“This package of video tutorials is designed for our distributor and wholesaler partners and covers the drain-cleaning industry in general, and our product line in particular,” he says. “It is designed to inform and educate a distributor’s inside and outside salespeople to help them be more effective in their jobs. After graduating from Drain Brain University, sales and counter personnel will be better-equipped to recommend the proper tool for the job as well as communicate more effectively with their drain-cleaning customers.”
Keegan notes Milwaukee Tool also is hard at work educating its reps and distributor partners about the company’s drain-cleaning product offerings. “Through onsite trainings, our sales team equips our distributors with the knowledge to outfit our users with the proper solution,” she says. “Through jobsite research, we work to understand the frustrations, needs and limitations of current solutions to optimize products within our drain-cleaning lineup.”
Looking into the future
Dunbar says the industry landscape will continue to change. “We see increased vertical and horizontal consolidation of supply chains for product within the plumbing industry in general, and more diversification of services within the drain-cleaning contractor segment,” he says. “This means fewer and fewer distributors will be selling a more and more diverse mix of products to a growing, aggressive group of entrepreneurs. We see the next few years as being ripe with possibility for companies nimble enough to give contractors what they are asking for.”
RIDGID’s Goede notes the emergence of smart technology must be embraced going forward. “We expect that future drain-cleaning products will have features that incorporate computer-based technology to improve how drain cleaners operate.”
Keegan also sees a landscape filled with future possibilities. “Regarding tooling and technology, we believe this industry is ripe with opportunity for a future where users can enjoy more efficient, more portable, cleaner and safer drain-cleaning methods,” she says.