Certified Applicator Program
The L&M Certified Applicator/Installer Program: The Benefits and Requirements
For over 20 years, L&M has promoted its certified applicator/installer program to current and prospective floor owner customers. Concrete News Editor-in-Chief, Jim Vlcek, recently sat down over morning coffee with Greg Schwietz, president of L&M, to answer questions regarding how the L&M applicator/installer selection and certification program works, and the benefits it provides for both the floor owner and the applicators. In the following, Schwietz outlines L&M's successful applicator certification programs for SEAL HARD® and FGS PermaShine®
JV: First of all, why does L&M have an approved and certified applicator/installer program?
GS: It goes back to the early days when we introduced SEAL HARD. We realized after a short while that we could do a better job for the owners if we controlled who installed our product. The "low-bid process" was presenting us with a lot of well-intentioned but unprepared contractors who wanted to get this type of work because it looked easy. Well, they soon found out that SEAL HARD and, later, FGS PermaShine are not your standard "spray and go home" products. Our certified applicator/installer program eliminated the need for us to start from scratch with a new contractor on every new project. In addition, we felt more confident with the finished floor. Then, as a result, we issued a ten year warranty (Treated floors are guaranteed for 10 years against dusting due to abrasion) which, in effect, doubled the standard multiple coat, 5-year warranty for chemical hardeners. So, the bottom line is that the owner gets a better job.
JV: What is the difference between an applicator and an installer?
GS: Jim, we typically use the term "applicator" to describe approved and certified contractors who apply SEAL HARD. The application process for this product requires some surface preparation and then a thorough and precise application of our liquid SEAL HARD product. On the other hand, with FGS PermaShine, there is the whole process of grinding and polishing of the concrete that happens before the application of the final two chemical hardening and densifying steps. So these contractors are more accurately called installers because of the intricacy of the steps involved.
JV: How do contractors initially become involved in the L&M applicator/installer program?
GS: The program and communication starts at the regional level, with qualified contractors selected by the L&M regional sales managers to meet the business needs of their region. These relationships are developed depending on how many active applicators are already servicing a given region, and how many projects or potential projects there are in that region.
This program has grown over the years. We now have quite a number of qualified and trained applicators approved in each territory; conscientious contractors that can ensure the owner of a consistently superior installation of our high-performance products. Our desire is to develop long-term relationships with those applicators who will work hard for our customers and are committed to properly installing the L&M product line in their work. L&M teams up with like-minded applicators who can show us that they can handle the work.
JV: What verification process does L&M use to determine that a prospective applicator is suited to do the jobs from both an equipment and financial backing standpoint?
GS: This process is done by working through our existing distributor base that works with the general contractors on other projects. L&M learns about these projects through our regional sales managers and by examining specifications. We have a good idea of what's going on out there through our many contacts in the industry.
JV: How does a prospective applicator/installer actually get his/her certification papers to launch operation under the L&M network?
GS: We find out fairly soon those companies who fit our profile. To fulfill the FGS application process, applying companies have to attend a comprehensive school sponsored and given by L&M and its approved equipment vendors. At this school they learn how grind the surface and install the products properly from that day forward.
Seal Hard installers are more typically trained by project based, on-the-job training until they master the process. The key benefit of this program is to ensure quality, consistency and long-term benefits of our products to our floor owner/clients.
JV: After the FGS or Seal Hard job is completed, what does L&M do to document each job?
GS: L&M is concerned with capturing and documenting as many details as possible both before and after the installation. We follow up after each job is completed to validate the warranty of either the FGS or Seal Hard floors. On some projects, we photograph the finished floors. We may interview the floor owner to see how things are going and what their feelings are about the process and benefits of their new floor. We also produce paperwork details about that specific floor as to the size dimensions, installation conditions, specs, and preparation obstacles so we have an ongoing record of just how these projects were performed. All these things are quality control checks, and are important especially in areas where warranties become a factor.
"Our desire is to develop long-term relationships with those applicators that will work hard for our customers and are committed to properly installing the L&M product line in their work."
JV: What do you see as the most important factor leading up to a quality installation?
GS: The floor owner and the specifier should be involved with the L&M-certified applicator. They should demand and specify that their floors be treated with an approved applicator using L&M products. Our installers are the best in the industry. They have training, experience, proper equipment, and financial resources to insure that the project gets done right and on time. They are also completely trained to properly install the best products on the markets. Finally, only an approved applicator can initiate the request for a warranty.
We must assure every owner and owner's representative that the project will be well done and followed through to completion, with the expected results. As I mentioned earlier, the applicator is given a certificate to operate as a certified L&M installer/applicator and, upon request, the building owner is given a written warranty. It is in the floor owner's best interest to be part of this process throughout the job.
JV: What type of equipment does it take to qualify an L&M applicator?
GS: We're basically talking about two different types of L&M products, Seal Hard and the FGS system. Seal Hard requires the proper scrubbing equipment, pads and cleanup equipment. Some of our qualified applicators actually go so far as to bring in their own water and pumping equipment.
On the FGS side, we've found that the equipment and material necessary to successfully install an FGS floors requires a significant amount of capital outlay. The powerful grinding and polishing machines are very specialized. Larger projects may require multiple machines to do the job. Much of this equipment is driven by 220 or 440 volt powermany applicators, therefore, actually bring in their own generators if the power to that building is inadequate. Some buildings also need auxiliary lighting and our applicators may provide that as well. During the qualification process, if the applicator won't invest in the right equipment, they do not qualify as a certified L&M applicator or installer.
JV: Tell me about the "How To."
GS: Once again, the processes for Seal Hard and FGS are different. Some of our applicators are approved to apply the Seal Hard process, but not the FGS...and vice-versa.
One of the things we found to be very important is the rapport and communication between the contractor and sub-contractor in scheduling so that the applicator can get in and out of the building. Many times this requires the applicator to work late hours or weekends. Our applicators also learn a lot about concrete in general. They're good at understanding the different types of floor conditions they may face in order to tackle that job.
We want our applicators to be competitive in their industry and encourage them to work so that it's always a win/win situation for both the applicator and the floor owner. Sometimes, a floor may be carbonated or isn't quite up to spec. We expect the applicators to be able to adjust their installations to accommodate requirements of different project conditions. Each floor is different, so consequently each project requires the applicator to be flexible to suit each job. These guys are our eyes and ears out there. By communicating properly the project will ultimately turn out as expected, with no surprises.
Seal Hard and FGS vary in their finished floor expectations. With the Seal Hard application we can install the product, scrub it in on a clean, hard-troweled surface with good results. If the concrete surface is rough, not troweled tightly, or is damaged and stained, the end result will not be as nice, visually speaking. In contrast, an FGS floor has a remedial feature to it in that the applicator can actually correct floors and make them look dramatically different before the chemical hardening solution is applied. Depending on how many diamond grinding and polishing steps are usedthat is, how many passes they use, the grit numbers, how they adjust to the projectthey may sometimes find themselves working within operating facilities. All of these variables determine the success of these projects.
The applicator has to be reasonably flexible, adjusting and moving with the flow of the project, savvy to the project needs and changes as things move along.
JV: Besides Seal Hard and FGS systems, can L&M applicators expand their scope to other floor maintenance and repair services?
GS: Yes, they definitely can! Some of our applicators have taken on additional floor performance and renovation responsibilities for saw-cut joint filling and crack repair with L&M's Joint Tite 750. I look at this as a way the applicators can be multi-dimensional in their scope of products and services, increasing their value and worth on any given project.
Another product that many of our applicators find building owners requesting is L&M's Aquapel, an odorless water repellent which protects exterior concrete from water and salt damage especially on parking areas, walkways, steps and building entrances.
As far as concrete floor repair, you'll find our applicators involved in many types of concrete floor repair, patching and self-leveling compounds, and other types of treatments made by L&M. These products are for both new and old floors, and help renovate and improve the surface performance, durability and appearance of the concrete floors. It's important that all our applicators know how to apply these fine products, and also advise the floor owners, after the application, as to proper maintenance of their floors. We do that.
JV: Where do you see the evolution of the L&M approved applicator program going?
GS: The program will continue to bring benefits to L&M and the applicators through diligent certification, education and training. We will continue to train and certify new applicators in newly carved-out geographic areas, where and when the demand for that calling warrants. We won't add new people just to add numbers. We want to make sure there's a need and that need will bring profits to the applicator and satisfaction to the floor owner.
We are loyal to our installers and we expect that loyalty in return. We train them. We work hand-and-hand with them. Over the years, we've developed a great business relationship that directly benefits our floor owner customers.
To learn more about the how to specify the benefits of the L&M applicator/installer network, call L&M direct at 203-393-0010 or contact your local L&M regional sales manager.
© 2006 L&M Construction Chemicals, Inc. | ConcreteNews Winter 2005/2006.