A Great Idea Leads to an Even Greater Partnership
WHEN FLOODS OVERWHELMED the Westgate area of Ottawa in 2005, most homeowners sought higher ground. Bruno Giammaria, on the other hand, sought a solution, one that would protect homes against sewage backup and provide extra drainage and flood protection.
By 2007, he’d found one. Or, more accurately, invented one.
By combining the benefits of a backwater valve and a trap, Bruno’s creation—called a Backwater Trap—prevents sewer water and gases from backing up. It also provides additional protection from groundwater under the concrete floor. And, unlike conventional traps, Bruno’s Backwater Trap does not require water to properly seal a property from the outside. It is always closed, opening only to allow water down. As a result, water is allowed to drain out, but wastewater, unhealthy gases and odours are blocked from coming in.
For a man with Bruno’s abilities— he founded his own company, Bruno’s Plumbing and Heating, in 1971 and has a number of related innovations—defeating flood water was relatively straightforward. Especially when compared to getting his invention to market, which, as it turned out, proved to be considerably more complex.
By 2008, Bruno was ready and anxious to have his Backwater Trap approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). However, he was informed, he would need to submit a prototype as part of his application. Who better able to help an inventor with a prototype, he figured, than another inventor?
So he reached out to his friend Tony Cuffaro, who had created Remar (Rescue-Marker), a tool used by hospitals, long-term care centres and other healthcare facilities to quickly identify occupied rooms.
Tony introduced Bruno to his manufacturer, Plas-Tech Fabrications Inc., who created the plastic prototype that Bruno required for his CSA application. While the CSA approved the prototype, moving the process yet another step forward, Bruno quickly realized that he would need a mould if he was to manufacture and market his Backwater Trap.
In the fall of 2010, Plas-Tech Fabrications Inc. referred Bruno to L-D Tool & Die. As it turned out, the die had been cast—literally—for a successful and rewarding relationship.
Lawrence (Laurie) Dickson, who co-founded L-D Tool & Die in 1990 with partner Dave Tait, says there was nothing unusual about Bruno approaching the company about a mould for his new creation. “We’re a little different from other tool and die companies in that regard,” says Laurie. “We don’t just fill customers’ orders, we insist on working with them, to make them a part of the process. We want to make sure they get exactly what they need and want.”
In Bruno’s case, that was easy, says Laurie. “We liked him right away. He was engaged, he was motivated and he looked to be dead honest.”
The feeling was mutual, says Bruno. “Although I’d never met them before, I was very impressed by both owners. They had the technical knowledge, the attitude and the willingness to work with me on this unique project. If it wasn’t love at first sight, it was close.”
One of the first challenges the new partnership faced was cutting costs. “Producing the moulds in Canada would have added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the final cost,” says Laurie, “so we suggested that the mould be produced in China, which could do the job at a fraction of the cost.” Once the mould arrived from China, L-D Tool & Die produced Bruno’s first Backwater Trap. After testing the product themselves, Bruno and his partners at L-D Tool & Die submitted it to the CSA. After another round of tests, the CSA approved the Backwater trap for use in Canada and the United States in May of 2013.
Unfortunately, Bruno suffered the fate of many entrepreneurs. His market was limited and getting the word out about a new product—no matter how effective—can be difficult. In short, while Bruno’s Backwater Trap was widely praised, there was not an immediate flood of orders.
That’s likely to change following a ruling earlier this year.
“In February, the Ontario Building Code approved the use of the Backwater Trap in municipalities across the province,” says Bruno. “It’s not mandatory at this moment but for the first time, builders and contractors can be confident that the trap meets every requirement of the province’s building regulations.”
While Bruno and the folks at L-D Tool & Die expect demand for the Backwater Trap to increase as more folks become aware of its effectiveness, both are looking to the future. Bruno, for example, says he has a few ideas for new products while Laurie and Dave continue to offer a wide range of services to an even wider range of customers.
“We’re proud that we have always delivered a complete line of services, from mould design and manufacturing all the way through to small and large volume production runs,” says Dave. “Today, the markets we serve include medical, defence, high tech sector clients, industrial and electrical. That’s in addition to customers in the construction, landscaping, automotive, recreational, and consumer markets.”
On that list of customers—right near thetop—is Bruno Giammaria.