Case Study: Insulspan
Product and service mix
Insulspan manufactures structural insulated panels (SIPs) that are used to insulate homes and buildings and improve energy efficiency. The Insulspan SIP is an emerging technology that has the potential to contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Using advanced technology, Insulspan produces precut SIP units that are ready to install as wall, floor or roof components for residential and commercial building applications. Use of factory pre-cut panels minimizes construction time and can generate savings in time and labor for builders.
In addition to manufacturing, Insulspan offers a variety of services for builders, architects and specifiers:
- Precutting - Panels can be completely pre-cut to size in Insulspan's manufacturing facility.
- On-site advisors - Customers have the option to have an experienced Insulspan technician on-site to assist with installation.
- Installation - Insulspan offers two options for installation. The company can send a crew directly from their manufacturing facility or locate an experienced advisor in the customer's area.
- Design assistance - Insulspan's designers and engineers can assist customers with design, panel options and construction details.
- Construction financing - The company offers assistance in finding construction financing.
Company location logic
Over 25 years ago, Frank Baker founded Insulspan in Blissfield, Michigan. In 2004, PFB Corporation acquired Insulspan as part of an effort to expand their reach of energy efficient products.
Insulspan is a wholly owned subsidiary of PFB Corporation, a public company based in Canada. Insulspan is based out of Blissfield, Michigan, and Delta, British Columbia, with a factory in each location. In addition, the company has a technical, administrative and support office in Calgary, Alberta. The company maintains its presence in both the U.S. Midwest and Western Canada to serve customers throughout North America.
Company size and structure
PFB Corporation employs roughly 400 people, more than 100 of which are Insulspan employees. Although Insulspan is not the largest of PFB's four subsidiaries, it is growing steadily. According to Governor Jennifer Granholm, the company has grown by about 40 employees in the last ten years.i
In 2008, PFB Corporation generated between $80 million and $100 million in revenue.
Relationships with partners in the value chain
Over the years, Insulspan has experienced increasing demand for its SIPs. According to Tony Mammone, Product Manager at Insulspan:
"Demand has been steady year after year because our business is driven by consumers and architects. Consumers and contractors are increasingly seeking out information about energy efficient products and architects are trying to make decisions that are sustainable. Additionally, as demand for energy rises, the demand for our product goes up, because our product saves energy."
Insulspan supplies its products through dealers, typically small businesses who buy the company's products and sell them to homeowners and builders. Dealers also provide Insulspan's customers with associated services such as installation. Mamonne explains: "We built our business based on our relationship with our dealers. Some dealers have been with us since the beginning."
Even with the current financial situation, Insulspan is in a steady state of business and does not expect to go into contraction mode. As Mammone describes it:
"To some degree we've been affected by the financial crisis. There are small adjustments in our company, just like there are in any other company. We are more careful about our expenditures. We have to work harder to identify new clients. There are fewer clients and the same number of suppliers, so there's increased competition.
"However, the customers we deal with have a desire to build sustainably and green, and this is an area of the marketplace that is growing. Building plans take years to come together and our clients are dedicated to building sustainably. Our business will grow this year as a result of this."
Insulspan is currently looking to expand its network of dealers. As Mammone notes, "Good dealers who have a lot of expertise are hard to find."
The company has bolstered its attention to sustainability in recent years. Insulspan has been taking efforts to reduce resource and energy use in manufacturing their products.
Insulspan and PFB Corporation are working to develop their website into a resource for future clients on sustainability methods.
Top opportunities for future growth
Through Insulspan's technical center, the company is continually researching and developing new technologies for improved performance. The most opportunities for future growth are in the commercial sector. Mammone notes that "The local and state governments are adopting standards that encourage energy efficiency. Incentives and changes in the tax laws will have a big impact on our market area."
Other potential areas for growth include the emerging sustainable community developments. As Mammone puts it:
"With residential construction, you are working on an individual scale. With the growing trend of sustainable communities, a project could entail over 500 homes. More than a third of all energy goes into buildings. With a combination of structural insulated panels, energy efficient windows, and ENERGY STAR appliances, customers can reap between 40 percent and 60 percent in energy savings."
Top requirements to capitalize on opportunities
Insulspan's top requirement for growth is innovative networking. The company is looking to increase their visibility through the Internet. Mammone explains:
"Utility companies in many states provide incentives for energy efficient building and retrofits. Although consumers might be aware of the incentives, they typically don't know which products to use. We would like to spread the knowledge of our products. Any associations that we can communicate with will further grow interest in our products. Green building chapters and the growth of sustainable businesses are the key to our success."
In Mammone's view, with financial incentives, government could have a significant impact on demand for energy efficient products.
This case study was prepared by Collaborative Economics for Environmental Defense Fund.
Posted: 17-Feb-2009; Updated: 17-Feb-2009