Industry Member Spotlight: Duro-Last, Inc.
Saginaw-based commercial roofing system manufacturer, Duro-Last®, Inc., is unique in the industry with their custom and comprehensive product offerings.
“I would describe Duro-Last as a vertically integrated, full-service innovator,” says Mike Tracey, Senior Vice President of Operations at Duro-Last. “We manufacture everything a contractor needs for any flat or low-sloped roofing application, from edge to edge, from roof deck to sky.”
The company’s history begins with John R. Burt, who got into the swimming pool business after working as a lumberjack, carpenter and tool and die maker. Burt recognized the importance of vertical integration to control quality after a pool liner he had purchased failed, so he founded Tri-City Vinyl to manufacture his own liners. It later occurred to him that if he could keep water in, he could keep water out. In 1978 he developed the Duro-Last Roofing System and he began moving on up, as they say, to focus on the roofing industry.
How We’re Innovating
Our company uses lean start up, which allows us to quickly develop minimum viable prototypes and get them to the field for feedback and either move forward or not very quickly (fail fast).
Best Advice I Ever Received
In leadership, I have been told that my job is to remove roadblocks for the people I am privileged to lead.
Burt recognized that the majority of commercial roofing failures were (and still are) due to onsite workmanship rather than material failure and he knew custom-fabrication was the solution. Duro-Last developed custom-fabrication methods and specialized equipment that allows them to complete nearly all of the difficult roof details and up to 85 percent of seam welds for an entire roofing project, all under ideal factory-controlled conditions.
“Doing more work in our facilities leaves less work for contractors to do on the roof, where trying to complete watertight heat welds and handle other critical details out in the elements can lead to leaks,” Tracey says.
In the early 1990s, to keep their roofing material from ending up in landfills, Duro-Last opened a recycling center in Oscoda where they grind up waste PVC and turn it into slip-resistant flooring. A few years later they internalized screw manufacturing to produce a product better suited to the roofing industry. To further round out their custom-fabrication solutions, in 2004 they began making metal edge materials, cutting and folding sheet metal to fit the trim and downspout needs of roofing contractors.
Today, Duro-Last has 750 employees at 11 locations across the U.S., and they have 80 Quality Assurance Technical Representatives throughout the country that are dedicated to inspecting every commercial installation before a warranty is issued.
Duro-Last put their ingenuity into high gear in March of 2020 to quickly develop and manufacture medical gowns and masks for a major hospital in the Detroit area. They continued to manufacture the PPE products for months until supplies became more readily available to front line workers once again.
The Best Part of My Job
The people I work with and am fortunate enough to lead. These people are committed to our mission statement to “Wow our customers all ways always” and I am fortunate to serve them.
One Thing I Can’t Live Without
Most definitely coffee.
To keep ahead of the talent shortage, Duro-Last has an internship program with Kettering University.
“We have students working on rotation, typically with two on staff at all times,” says Tracey. They also sponsor Senior Design Teams at Saginaw Valley State University.
“In the summer of 2021, we brought in high school students to expose them to opportunities in the manufacturing industry,” Tracey adds. “In addition to being educational for the students, several of our team members expressed that it was great to see the younger generation coming in, interested in working.”
Duro-Last is committed to keeping Burt’s spirit of innovation alive by continuing his vertical integration, pitching in during the early days of the pandemic, offering internships, sponsoring design teams and opening their doors to school students.