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View From The Top: An Interview With S-5!'s Rob Haddock

By Marge O'Connor, DesignandBuildwithMetal.com 

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Rob Haddock in one of his trademark cowboy hats.
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Entrepreneur. Inventor. Industry expert. Educator. While one label or another might fit many in the metal construction industry, there’s really just one person to which all titles equally apply: Rob Haddock, president of Colorado Springs, CO-based Metal Roof Advisory Group and inventor of the S-5! Attachment technology. 

Easily recognized by his classic cowboy boots and hats, Haddock has been active in the metal industry since the early 1970s – clearly voicing his ideas and taking action to expand the use of metal in construction. He has helped foster the growth of the industry through his innovative spirit, his support of many important organizations, his products and his successful businesses. He is most recognized for his unique S-5! non-penetrating attachment technology, which is used around the world and is increasingly popular now with solar systems. This year the product and Haddock’s company celebrate 20 years of success.

We asked Rob to share his observations on how far the industry has come in the last 40 years and where it is headed. He describes our progress as moving from the horse and buggy to the man-on-the-moon stage. He feels the industry will continue moving forward by fostering true innovation while emphasizing our strengths and admitting weaknesses.

Background

At the age of 18, Haddock began working for a company that erected pre-engineered steel buildings. This move introduced him to metal roofing and was the start of developing his talents as an entrepreneur and inventor.

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At the beginning of his career, Haddock installed metal roofs for a living. It was up on the roof where he gained insights into the strengths and weaknesses of metal roof systems. In the photo above, circa 1990, Haddock, in the white tee shirt and blue hat, watches and learns. Click image to enlarge.

“I learned a lot by doing,” Haddock recalls. “Within a year or two, about 1973, I had started my own company. Four years later, I started installing standing seam roof jobs and was fascinated by this roof type that everyone was calling ‘new’. Later I learned it had been around for about 1200 years, when it got reinvented by Butler, courtesy of a new electric seaming machine brought here by Ole Swenson from Sweden. Over the next ten years, my erection company installed millions of square feet of Butler’s MR24 and other brands that followed. We also got into architectural metals, and did flat roof conversions as early as 1982 when it really was a new concept.”

Rob’s curiosity drove him to seek out and learn from people who knew more than him. In 1977 he got involved in the Independent Erector Division of the Metal Building Dealers Association (now MBCEA). “Through this organization I was introduced to many people: metal producers, sealant chemists, engineers, insulation experts and so on. I learned all I could from them. When I understood all the ‘whys’ it led me to create new and different ways of doing things.”

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Rob Haddock has a long history of active involvement in metal construction industry trade associations, but was a vocal critic of the industry's fragmentation. He argued the need for small associations with narrow interests to pull together for the greater collective good. His opinion landed him on a 1986 cover of a now-defunct trade publication. Click image to enlarge.
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That was just the beginning of his venture into industry associations and information sharing. Since then he has served on technical committees of many groups and has been awarded lifetime memberships in the MBCEA and the MCA. He also is active in ASTM, ASHRAE, ASCE, CSI, and NRCA. Other trade groups have been consulting clients of his including the National Coil Coaters, BIEC, NAMZAC (Galvalume producers), Roof Consultants Institute, Metal Building Manufacturers Association, National Roofing Contractors Association, Copper Development Association, and the American Iron and Steel Institute to name a few.

His keen interest in standing seam roof technology drove him to learn more about it whenever and wherever he could. This included manufacturers’ workshops and seminars, plant visits, tours of steel, copper and zinc mills, galvanizing lines and lots of air miles all over Europe and Scandinavia to practice and study about crafted roofing and soft metals.

Industry Education

Most of what Haddock learned he shared, starting with employees in his contracting business. He taught them on the job and developed written materials designed to help them be more productive and to advance in their jobs. “I had to create a lot of training materials because they just didn’t exist. I used slides with diagrams and photos that I took, plus hands-on exercises. I have always been a big believer that if people understand more about what they do and why they do it, they will be better at it. For the most part, people make mistakes not because they don’t care, but because they don’t know any better. The training and management materials I developed were so effective I was able to sell them to others in my vocation, and they are still in use today by some building erectors,” he says.

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Haddock's passion for metal and ability to convey information in an easily-understood manner has made him one of the industry's most recognizable and popular presenters. In the photo above, Rob talks solar metal roofing at METALCON. Haddock has helped craft the message about the natural fit that exists for pairing metal roofing and photovoltaics. Click image to enlarge.

His role in industry education began to consistently expand because of his willingness to learn and to share his knowledge of metal construction and roofing with others. Since the 1980s until now he has presented to groups internationally, and some of his presentations and technical writings have been translated into at least 10 languages. Why? “I have been told that I have a knack for making technical subjects easy for regular folks to understand. I guess that’s because I, myself am a ‘regular folk’,” Haddock says.

This knowledge sharing has included teaching builder groups about erection techniques, writing numerous articles for trade publications, helping develop industry standards documents, creating an apprenticeship course on metal building and metal roofing assembly as well as many other programs on metal roofing, including Understanding Metal Roofing (or Metal Roofing Aluminum to Zinc), which remains METALCON’s most popular education session. He also has designed a course on metal for the University of Wisconsin and remains an adjunct faculty member there.

Innovations and Applications

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In 1992 Haddock introduced the S-5! attachment clamp. It was marketed first and foremost as a component of a non-penetrating bar-style snow retention system for a select number of popular standing seam metal roof profiles. Over time though, clamps were developed for most styles of roofing and marketed as a means of securing a whole host of products to the metal roof surface without penetrations. S-5! products are commonly used to attach the following to metal roofs (click images to enlarge)...
 
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Snow retention systems
 
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Condensate lines and electrical conduit
 
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Satellite Dishes
 
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HVAC Support Stands
 
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Solar Panels 
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According to Haddock many of the changes in the industry took shape in the last two decades. He describes the transition:

“It feels like horse and buggy to man-on-the moon. When I started working in the industry about 1971, we didn’t even use self-drilling screws. We drilled a hole and ran a self-tapping screw into it. The screws were cad plated and painted by hand and the washers had been threaded onto the screws by hand. They were neoprene, not EPDM. If you over-tightened them, they would squish, split and spin out. They would begin to corrode within 5 or 7 years. Of course, this method of face fastening crushed the insulation and produced a roof with thousands of holes in it. The sheets were sealed with field applied “roll caulking” containing a lot of paper fillers, and if you didn’t get it in right, the roof was pretty sure to leak.

“In those days, the plumber flashed his soil stacks with lead flashings that corroded the roof and leaked almost immediately. The HVAC contractor mounted his units and gas piping on wood blocking that induced corrosion from day one. “Galvalume” was some new coating for steel that they claimed was better, but hardly anyone had heard of it or used it. Polyester paint was the norm, and your red roof faded to a bleached- out looking pink within 10 years. If you wanted to “doll up” a building, you alternated white and blue panels on the wall for a candy-striped look. You screwed plastic gismos on the roof to keep the snow from sliding, and they turned yellow and broke after a few years.

“Now, we install the latest standing seam technology with full-purlin-cavity insulation. The few exposed fasteners of the roof utilize innovative screw designs that incorporate unitized, recessed washer heads so that it’s almost impossible to over-tension them. They are made from stainless and other metal alloys and use EPDM washers applied by an automatic machine. They will go maybe 40 or 50 years corrosion-free. The roof sheets are sealed with factory-applied butyl copolymers that demonstrate life expectancy of more than 50 years. And the roof may just be formed on site as well with a new concept introduced by people like Gary Knudson and Ewald Stellrecht.

“And we now have flexible rubber pipe flashings to seal the soil stacks thanks to an Australian guy named John Deks, and HVAC units are mounted and flashed with all-welded aluminum curbs thanks to innovators like LM Curb. And thanks to S-5!® attachment technology, gas piping and other mechanicals as well as a solar array that provides 40% of the power consumed by the building are all mounted with S-5!® seam clamps that last longer than the roof itself. Of course the snow retention system is engineered to the specific project and attached with the same technology- often warranted for the life of the roof.

“Galvalume® steel has become the industry standard, offering a service life of 60 years in most environments, doubling or tripling the service life of other asphaltic and membrane alternatives. Paint standards are PVDF with 30-yr fade warranties. And if you want to “doll up” your building you use an iridescent paint finish that changes color depending on where you are standing, applied over a concealed fastened, factory insulated wall panel providing R-20 and a finished interior surface.”

Market Projection

What’s ahead for the industry? Haddock feels mergers and acquisitions will slow and better market prospects are ahead if we encourage innovation and wisely apply our strengths while acknowledging and improving on our weaknesses.

“The good news is that the industry’s opportunity to expand is not over, but the merger/acquisition craze is finished. You can only buy market share by acquisition for a certain amount of time. The merger/acquisition thing was driven by Harvard MBA’s, just as the “no-inventory/ just-in-time” delivery concept was. We are still in an information age, and numbers can easily be crunched to prove viability. But, through that cycle during the last two decades we lost two things that will make the difference going forward— and they work hand-in glove.

“The first is true innovation. Real innovation means taking a fresh look at things and thinking outside the box, then doing things differently because it makes sense. This will frustrate the hell out of number crunchers because it can’t be calculated. But there is no substitute for it, and it has to be done. Not to disparage the accounting and business management folks, because they are good at what they do. But we need a balance. The publicly held corporate culture de-emphasizes and even discourages innovation. That has to change. The publicly held entity says it wants “different”, but is really afraid of being different. They worry about: ‘What will it cost? What if it goes wrong? What if it doesn’t work? Our stock will drop. Our investors will be unhappy. So, we better not do it.’

“Growth can happen many ways in an expanding market. In a contracted market, growth will only come by real innovation. Doing what the other guys can’t or don’t. That’s what built this industry in the first place. We have to get back to real innovation. Take risks. New ideas. New concepts and ways to do things. Galvalume, standing seam, long-bay, Dektite, S-5! and Zac fasteners are not the last horizons. There is much more to be done. We need to innovate, balance the calculable with the incalculable, and in the end, manage business differently to move forward. We have an excellent foundation to build upon.

“The second thing is to emphasize our strengths and recognize our weaknesses. You can identify your own weakness voluntarily and prosper from it, or let others do it for you, and lose. For example, metal walls are fragile and don’t stand up to abuse very well. After some years, they can really look ratty and beaten up. Everyone sees that. So quit pushing it. I can’t be good at everything and my customer knows that. Every product or system has limitations, and a customer finds them out. I would destroy my own credibility by trying to convince him otherwise. Put durable walls down low, and metal walls up high where they are not subject to abuse—otherwise, lose the wall altogether to competitive products. We have to stop pushing things just because it happens to be what we make or sell.


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S-5! clamps aren't just for attaching things to the roof. The company offers a wind clamp designed specifically for use with metal roofs in high-wind regions. With the clamps installed, the wind-uplift resistance of the roof can be effectively increased.

“I am not at all ashamed to tell people that my products are not magic and not good for everything they inquire about. I would rather they know that before they buy them than afterwards. I would rather be up front about my products’ or company’s limitations. So, I try to do what is right—even when it may not be profitable. Sure I might lose a sale, but I have gained a friend who knows I’m not going to just sell him a bill of goods. He’ll be back because he knows I won’t lie to him—even if it’s profitable to do so.

“This is where the innovation opportunity ties in. If I can’t solve the customer’s problem, someone else will. Using the previous example, if he wants to buy a durable wall, and I don’t give it to him, someone will, and I may lose the customer—forever. If I can see that, then why not just figure out a way to give him a more durable lower wall, and make it easy to use and integrate with my other stuff? Now, I have innovated a solution to his problem and made him my friend and lifelong customer. He will tell his friends, too.”

What’s Next? 

Haddock feels his role is to innovate and think ahead and to leave the next generation the attributes of personal integrity.

“Being an innovator is what I am and what I do. While our competitors are busy trying to copy things that we did 10 or 20 years ago, I have been working on business models and filing patents on things leading into future decades and way beyond S-5!

As to the next generation, all my children are involved in the family business—and really eating it up. They still ride horses and rope cows, but now are passionate about S-5! too. I’m creating a legacy of sorts— one that they, and others here have helped to build. But the best things I can leave them are the lessons, principals and precepts that I have learned in 58 years of life and business-- not just some little widget. I have created and built a dozen companies and been awarded more than two dozen patents-- some more successful than others --but those are not the things in which I take too much stock.

“I feel it’s better to leave the next generation with an understanding of why integrity, free enterprise, creativity, hard work, perseverance, and relentless pursuit of excellence pay off, rather than just leaving a company or brand name. A company can be lost, but the other things are pretty much eternal and can give birth to new and valuable enterprise all the time and under any circumstance. I hope I have taught them how to know and always ask their Creator for help (Js1.5). These together, are the best things I have learned and gained—and the most valuable. I hope I leave them those things. If not, I really haven’t succeeded at all.”

About S-5!®

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Since 1992, S-5! has been one of the world's leading authorities on metal roof attachment solutions. S-5!’s zero-penetration clamps attach ancillary items to standing seam and conceal-fix metal roofs, while maintaining roof integrity and warranties. S-5! solutions are engineered for a variety of applications: snow retention, fall protection and wind performance systems, satellite dishes, solar arrays, signs/banners, light fixtures, stack/flue bracing, walkways, air conditioning, lightning protection, equipment screens, conduit, condensate lines and more. Made in the U.S.A., S-5!’s products have revolutionized the metal roofing industry and are now installed on more than 2 million metal roofs worldwide, including 2 GW of PV, providing unsurpassed strength and longevity.  For more information, visit  s-5.com.

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