Second in a series of articles about training sessions undertaken by L&W Supply. This week’s article highlights our visit to USG’s Corporate Innovation Center.
In June of 2019, L&W Supply gathered 20 of our sales associates from across the country at the USG Corporate Innovation Center in Libertyville, Illinois for an in-depth training session surrounding their catalog of ceiling products. The three-day visit consisted of various training exercises, presentations, a hands-on ceiling installation, and a guided tour of the 200,000 square foot facility. The entire effort represents L&W Supply’s continued investment in the knowledge and development of our associates, along with USG’s incredible partnership and generosity in hosting us. Let’s take a quick look at what the training consisted of and what we all learned from the experience.
Every sales representative works to be a trusted partner for the contractors walking in their door. GC’s and subs need to feel confident that when they enter a branch, they will be met with a knowledgeable partner who will be able to help them get exactly what they need. As L&W Supply associates, we strive to add value for our customers. This is where extensive product knowledge comes into play.
The training began with various representatives from USG taking us through their catalog of ceiling solutions. Many of us from L&W Supply were already familiar with their standard ceiling products like Radar and Frost panels, but were less familiar with specialty products like Paraline and Celebration. The USG presentation began by covering their specialty ceiling products such as wood veneer, open plenum solutions, and metal ceilings. After this presentation, we were shown their standard ceiling solutions, made from materials like mineral fiber, fiberglass, and gypsum.
Learning more about the various applications of standard and specialty panels was eye-opening and gave each of us more knowledge about the state of the ceilings industry. The presentation also provided us insight into what kinds of trends are popular in the architectural community and what to expect in the future.
After our discussion of ceiling solutions, we were then taken through grid systems and steel products, exploring the different types of suspension and channel coatings. To designers and sales representatives, the number of different product options from main tees and cross tees, to wall moldings and hanger wires, represents the amount of flexibility available to their customers, allowing contractors to find exactly what they need for any given project.
The second day consisted of hands-on training surrounding the fundamentals of installing a 10×10 acoustical ceiling grid, led by Michael O’Donnell and Dave Malik, two USG Contractor Specialists. Outfitted with safety goggles, we were split into groups, with at least one former contractor from L&W Supply working in each group. Using a lag driver, we began by installing lag screws into the upper beams where the hanger wire would be fastened.
The next step was installing the steel, starting with the main center tee and finishing with cross tees. USG’s tees come with a unique feature called convenience holes, rectangular openings spaced at regular intervals designed to attach the hanger wire. A laser was used to ensure they remained level. Another great feature of USG’s acoustical suspension system is the Cross Tee Clip, which allow tees to be snapped into place with one another with a satisfying click. They can be installed in this manner without any tools.
This process was completed in each of the groups with varying degrees of success. After watching the demonstration, I quickly learned that installation it is a bit more challenging than contractors make it look! Thankfully, it was easy to identify and correct any given mistake with the specialty contractors from USG on-hand to guide us through the installation. There is a large amount of complexity and nuance to the process, but it can be easily learned and understood with the proper guidance.
Later that day, we were taken through various tips for how to better understand your customer’s needs in order to respond to them successfully. This involved exercises where we discussed methods for improving how to get the right information from our customers. As previously stated, our goal as sales representatives is to develop an in-depth understanding all of our customer’s products, which will allow us to better serve contractor’s needs. A key aspect of this boils down to having enough knowledge to ask the right questions in order to make helpful recommendations.
Concluding the Visit
On the final day, we were taken on a guided tour of the facility, described as the “North Pole” for USG. We were shown various laboratories, including gypsum panel and ceiling laboratories, as well as testing facilities. These facilities perform fire testing, impact resistance, acoustical testing, and many others. As explained to us, their goals with these tests are always to push the material to its breaking point, in order to guarantee that the materials surpass requirements and will not fail on the jobsite.
On behalf of all of us at L&W Supply, we wanted to extend a very special thanks to all of the organizers at USG responsible for hosting and organizing the training event. All of the participants enjoyed learning more about USG’s dynamic line of ceiling products. It gave us all the opportunity to strengthen our knowledge as associates and learn first-hand the value that USG brings to L&W Supply and to jobsites everywhere.