Made in the U.S.A: Duro-Last
Duro-Last Roofing’s Commitment to Tradition, Quality Service Cements Strong Growth Over Nearly Four Decades
Family owned and operated since 1978, Duro-Last Roofing has fulfilled a pledge to both customers and tradition since its inception: “The entire Duro-Last organization will foster the highest standards of work ethic, integrity, honesty, and professionalism in order to serve and strengthen the roofing industry, community, and country.” Company founder John R. Burt never rested on his laurels, and maintained that focus throughout the duration of his career. Though he died in 2003, Burt’s legacy is still an important component of how Duro-Last operates today, and is showcased throughout company headquarters in Saginaw, Mich. Including an entire “Welcome Center” dedicated to the founder and his passion for building high-quality roofing systems right here in the United States.
“The Welcome Center is a way to share our story,” said Al Janni, code approval specialist at Duro-Last. The center, which opened in August 2015, displays a wall of Burt’s most famous sayings, as well as a timeline of the company’s history, various artifacts and a touch-screen kiosk that allows visitors to navigate through different areas of the company.
In addition to the center, Burt’s words of wisdom are shared on various posters throughout the facility. Quotes are printed on t-shirts worn by the employees who create the systems that Burt built his business around and dedicated his life to improving.
Employees at Duro-Last understand Burt’s values and recognize that his devotion to customers must be maintained at the forefront as the company continues to grow. “Although John wasn’t alive when I started here, all of his ideas and values are still a big part of the company,” said Marketing Manager Tara Gerhardt.
Duro-Last coined the slogan, “World’s Best Roof,” showcasing their commitment to the highest quality product for customers. Its prefabricated roofing systems were first in the industry, and it all stems from one man’s big idea that began with a pool liner.
According to the sayings wall in the Welcome Center, Burt himself said from the beginning: “My philosophy is this: If I’m going to manufacture a product, that product better be the best of its kind and do what it’s supposed to do.” And that’s exactly what he did.
In the 1960’s, Burt opened Bridgeport Pools, which specialized in installing pool liners. Several years later — following a shipment of defective pool liners that nearly left him broke — he decided that the only way he could control the quality of his product would be to manufacture it himself. That setback that gave Burt the idea for a prefabricated roofing membrane, and he ran with it.
“(Prefab) is what the company was built on,” said Janni, who has been with the company since June 1979. Prefabrication is considered to be most beneficial to contractors in relation to the least amount of work. Eighty percent of prefab work is done in the Saginaw facility, while only 20 percent is done by contractors in the field. The benefits to prefabrication emphasized by Duro-Last are called the “Prefab Four” and include factory welded seams, easy transitions, less labor and clean installations.
After facing several setbacks in the quality of the product, Burt, over time, decided to bring more and more aspects of the company in-house. “John was always one to listen to the customer,” Janni explained, “He was never too proud to take advice.”
This mindset has helped Duro-Last maintain steady growth over the past 35 years and expand to four other facilities scattered throughout the United States — where employees continue to build a brand on company traditions and high quality products.
Maintaining the Quality
What started as a prefabrication company has since developed into much more. Duro-Last’s focus on company history consistently drives toward the same ultimate goal — help the company operate more efficiently to provide greater customer satisfaction. With that mindset in place over the past 38 years, Duro-Last has maintained quality control. “We are about minimizing steps in order to create efficiency,” Janni elaborated. “If you can draw it, we can make it. The benefit is being able to accomplish this in a controlled environment as opposed to the field.”
Viewed as a giant assembly line of different stations where everyone works together, the company now has several sister companies including Exceptional Metals, Protect-All Flooring, Plastatech, Creative Impressions, Oscoda Plastics, Tri-City Vinyl, Inc., and Tip-Top Screw Manufacturing Inc. With these companies in place, Duro-Last oversees all the different aspects of the roofing system to ensure quality standards are met on each and every project.
Janni said he’s fully aware of how talented and dedicated the company’s 700 employees are to upholding Burt’s beliefs, and they showcase it regularly by consistently maintaining focus on getting the job done efficiently and correctly.
The company’s commitment to the roofing contractor is also well understood. Duro-Last developed a training area where contractors can participate in classes focused around proper installation of Duro-Last Roofing systems. Complete with various materials, tools and props, contractors are presented with a hands-on experience that showcases how these systems are installed. This training advantage gives contractors the ability to ensure exceptional quality on all jobs.
“There’s a lot of components to the system…we want our customers to have a comfort level and we realize the value of training,” Janni said.
Jenny Bruzewski, Duro-Last’s communications manager, explained the company’s role in bringing in their chosen contractors to the 2015 Roofing Games. The event, which takes place annually at the Western States Roofing Expo, featured a low-slope competition where two-man teams installed a Duro-Last Roof on a mock-up deck. Company officials said they were happy to sponsor the competition and showcase the benefits of installing a Duro-Last roof.
Taking it one step further, Duro-Last organizes weekly tours for visitors to come in and explore the facility. During these tours, guests are shown the “assembly line” of heavy machinery that creates the roofing membranes from start to finish.
Importantly noted during the tour is the flooring throughout the facility, and Duro-Last’s commitment to a sustainable future.
The Importance of Sustainability
During the tour, company officials tell visitors to pay special attention to the prefabrication facility’s floor, given the nature of where it comes from.
It showcases 57,000 square-feet of material that was at one point a roof, but has since been recycled into a one-of-a-kind flooring. For the past 20 years, Oscoda Plastics (a sister company), has recycled nearly 80 million pounds of PVC scrap material that is off spec. From this recycled material, they construct flooring, concrete expansion joints, and roof walkway pads.
Scattered throughout the facility are color-coded waste bins, each of which designates a specific material for disposal. Materials such as cardboard, paper and plastic are recycled and used on unique projects. For instance, the edge trim from the polyester scrim the company produces is recycled into carpet backing, as well as filling for stuffed animals.
“We recycle as much as possible, and if there is a material that is still usable, like equipment or supplies, we sell it for refurbishment or donate it to a local non-profit,” said Katie Chapman, sustainability specialist at Duro-Last.
The company’s commitment to sustainability is even demonstrated over long periods of time. Old Duro-Last roofs that have reached the end of their life cycle are recycled through the company’s Recycle Your Roof program. The uniqueness of this program allows Duro-Last to take back an old roof and recycle it into new products, allowing for potential use for years to come. “Just because the material has left our doors, doesn’t mean we forget about it,” Chapman said.
The company upholds the stance that the roof must perform as intended and then be disposed of in the same manner.
Sustainability has evolved rapidly in recent years, generating a buzz of conversation and prompting plans for moving forward. Chapman explained that the company’s commitment to sustainability is not only the right thing to do, but it saves money, keeps Duro-Last competitive and increases employee engagement.
Currently, Duro-Last is 93 percent sustainable, and ultimately aims for 100 percent as a long-term goal. “When we started our sustainability journey, we wanted a big, flagship goal we could all rally around, and that is zero waste to landfill,” Chapman said.
With many projects and opportunities on the forefront for 2016, Duro-Last has no plans of slowing down anytime soon, officials said.
“Duro-Last’s culture is extremely customer focused,” Bruzewski explained. “Everything we do is to make our customers more successful — we know that in order to grow our business, we must help our contractors grow theirs.”