One Small Business, One Smart Idea

One Small Business – One Smart Idea

Patent awarded to Northern Michigan roofing company

By Karen Johnson

KINGSLEY – Springfield Commercial Roofing was recently awarded a patent for a breakthrough roofing system that removes the greatest threat posed to modern commercial roofs – water.

The Springfield SmartShield™ – a component of its SmartRoof™ System -completely waterproofs a roof through a breakthrough process, said owner Terry Umlor.

"In most roofs, water comes in through holes cut into the roof for vents and pipes or through holes where nails were pounded into the metal," he said. "We just had to find a way to get rid of them."

Umlor and his team educated themselves by attending several conventions and events, eventually creating the SmartShield™, a process that uses jackets to seal pipes, vents and insulation, shielding them from ice and water.

A secondary waterproofing layer of a plastic reinforced product is applied, and the standing seam metal roof is finished with a clip method instead of nailing holes into the metal.

After rigorous testing conducted by independent laboratories, the product received perfect reviews and received a patent this year, Umlor said.

Umlor's professional journey began in the late 1980s when, after earning an engineering degree paid for by the GI Bill, he returned to the family construction trade. He worked his way up, buying the business in 1996, and began focusing on roofing.

"I saw a huge potential for growth in that area," he said. "Roofing was often the least specialized, yet most difficult and problem-filled aspect of the construction process."

While soon experiencing a 15 to 20 percent growth rate per year, Umlor recognized the need to control that growth, insuring the concerns of his clients weren't lost in his success.

His diligence paid off when Springfield Commercial Roofing was nominated for the Hagerty Small Business of the Year Award in 2007, ultimately making the Top Ten. The process required a series of self-evaluations about his company, his staff, his business goals and practices.

"It was such a valuable experience; we decided to pursue the award again in 2008," he said. That time, they won.

Because of that self-examination, Umlor realized Springfield was, at heart, a service company – a discovery that changed his entire business approach, and led to the creation of the SmartShield™.

They turned to their clients, asking about unaddressed problems, thinking outside the box to find solutions. They began with fruit and food processing companies, whose metal roofs were compromised by rust, mold and ice, resulting in structural breakdowns that allowed water get into the insulation and around pipes, eventually seeping into the building and potentially, into the food.

Umlor and his team spent a year researching the market while developing their new product.

"There was nothing but a bunch of smoke-and-mirrors and BS out there," he said.

A series of integrated sensors allow for safe, exterior monitoring that ensures problems are identified and dealt with immediately, creating value for even his most demanding clients, Umlor said.

"There are three types of return in this investment," he said. "It is energy efficient, it outlasts existing metal roofs and it extends the life of a building's mechanical systems by protecting them from water damage. Our team continues to work hard toward developing and implementing solutions for our commercial clients."

For more information contact Springfield Commercial Roofing at 231.263.5300 or visit