Smart Solutions Case Studies
MCAA’s manufacturer and supplier partners share their expertise on staying competitive in this issue of Smart Solutions.
Atomatic Mechanical Services, Inc. and J.C. Cannistraro both rely on SureThread™ pipe from Wheatland Tube to keep their costs down. Cannistraro Fabrication Manager Billy Gardner said, “SureThread is the only brand we use for fabrication. It creates less wear on our tools, which saves us money.” Nick LaMonto, piping superintendent at Atomatic, added, “We’re threading every day. We can’t afford inferior pipe.”
Preventive maintenance is crucial for ensuring the reliability and efficiency of pumps and motors, which are essential components of commercial HVAC applications. An effective maintenance program can reduce unplanned downtime, decrease maintenance costs, and extend asset life. All of these drive business value, which is especially important in today’s competitive and challenging commercial building environment, when building operation teams are being asked to do more with less.
With PypeServer technology, Strategic Mechanical, Inc., has sped up its fabrication processes and opened up new avenues for prefabrication. Strategic Mechanical serves clients throughout California; its 70,000-square-foot shop in Fresno, CA, includes an HVAC sheet metal shop, pipe fabrication shop, industrial metals fabrication shop, and electrical prefabrication. In this Q&A, Miro Telesmanic, vice president of operations, describes how Strategic Mechanical put PypeServer to work.
With only three weeks to fully replace the riser system at a high-profile residential building, New York-based Fresh Meadow Mechanical Corp. selected Victaulic to win the race against time. Ultimately, they remained ahead of schedule, completing the entire project in only 15 days. Despite spatial constraints at various stages of the project, Fresh Meadow navigated each challenge with reliable engineered solutions that will benefit the building’s tenants and management for years to come.
Up until now, handwashing has always taken place within the confines of the restroom. But what if hand sanitation and where it takes place were reimagined?
To update the HVAC system at the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, OH, Starco, Inc. relied on NIBCO’s new PressACR™ system to save at least 100 hours in installation time. Initially, press systems were not approved on the specs for the project, but Starco convinced the building owner and the project’s engineering firm, HEAPY, that PressACR would save time and money.
To renovate an historic building while simultaneously seeking to reach new heights in sustainability, Holaday-Parks installed a water-saving vacuum plumbing system from AcornVac, a division of Morris Group International. The AcornVac system was among the solutions that earned the building recognition as one of the most environmentally friendly office spaces of its size worldwide. It also eliminates the need for costly trenching or core drilling.
If your team is tired of callbacks because of a lack of hot water at the point of use and the labor required for manual balancing, thermostatic balancing, a more efficient domestic hot water balancing method, is now an option. Thermostatic balancing recirculates the hot water loop based on temperature, as opposed to pressure or flow.
Since A&R Mechanical Contractors adopted Procore’s workforce management software, project planning has become much less of a struggle, timelines have decreased, and profits have increased. For example, getting paid for out-of-scope work has dramatically improved with the T&M [time and materials] Ticket Tool.
Human error is often misinterpreted as solely a human issue. However, it predominantly arises from system flaws within organizations. We inadvertently create systems that tolerate poor processes for the sake of rewarding outcomes, leading to constraints and errors. To effectively prevent and mitigate human error, it is crucial to shift our focus towards understanding the systemic factors at play.
It is clear that artificial intelligence (AI) is advancing fast and coming into everyday use. In the near-future, AI systems will be paired with established technology, such as 3D laser scanning for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) applications. What many do not appreciate is that AI is still largely only as good as the quality of data fed into the system, either by human operators or through technology that gathers and organizes information, such as 3D laser scanners and cloud-based data platforms.
Harris saw an immediate return on investment (ROI) from their Watts Specialties automated pipe cutter, with improved efficiency in cutting and handling and no need for hand-cutting for olets or saddles. Based in St. Paul, MN, Harris has 15 regional offices with more than 300,000 square feet of fabrication shops.
Like every contractor, Western Allied Mechanical is always looking for innovative ways to get ahead in their market and deliver projects better, faster, and cheaper for their clients. Also like every contractor, Western Allied is facing the nationwide shortage of qualified welders. By adopting Novarc’s spool welding robot (SWR), they have not only increased productivity dramatically, they also increased capacity and are taking on bigger jobs.
Michigan-based Andy J. Egan Co., Inc., relies on MSUITE software to improve their fabrication operations, which has enabled the company to grow exponentially as it carves out a niche in the energy industry. For example, Egan credits MSUITE with helping them shave three weeks off a major power utility upgrade project.
Since they implemented ServiceTrade software in 2021, Western Allied Mechanical’s service department has been able to cut their quote delivery time in half and send invoices three times faster, while also providing clients a better overall experience with more visibility. ServiceTrade allowed Western Allied to streamline their operations and improve the customer experience while sticking with their existing accounting software and processes. In this Q&A, Western Allied Vice President Jeremy Goodland talks about how the company has been improving operations, customer experience, and sales since implementing ServiceTrade.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers have a responsibility to protect their workers from extreme heat. Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in hot or humid conditions. Heat is the number-one cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 815 heat-related worker deaths and 70,000 heat-related serious injuries between 1992 and 2017. To protect workers, employers should establish a complete heat illness prevention program in addition to observing the heat index.
When their out-of-date software started slowing them down in the office and the field, Northwest Mechanical Group switched to the BuildOps platform, simplifying and streamlining data management so they could grow their business. “Before we knew it, we were seeing quicker turnaround times on job closeout and a huge improvement in the time it took for quotes to be accepted by our customers,” said Chris Howard, owner and CEO.
Althoff Industries credits their switch to ServiceTitan software with an improvement in customer service that contributed to an increase from $8.5 million in revenue in 2021 to $11.4 million in 2022. Althoff went live with the software in July 2021 after spending decades on a server-based customer relationship management system. It was such a momentous occasion for Blake Wiltshire, director of residential services at Althoff, that an empty bottle of champagne sits on his shelf to commemorate the moment.
To expedite construction of a new university housing project designed as a hybrid of wood and steel, Harry Grodsky & Co., Inc. turned to Mueller Industries and its Mueller Streamline Co. products and piping systems specialists “We were able to save an incredible amount of time on the project thanks to Mueller” and its Streamline® ACR Press Fittings in particular, said Ross Halket, superintendent at Grodsky. Mueller’s products gave Grodsky “the ability to get stuff into tight spaces, [and with] no fear of burning the building down, the ability to run piping in areas where brazing would have been hazardous,” Halket noted.
As the trades continue to navigate an ongoing labor shortage, innovative products and methods of installation become increasingly important. Over the past decade or so, one such product that industry professionals have gravitated toward is outlet boxes for new construction. The options run the gamut, from fixtures to washing machines to ice makers, and they offer a more efficient alternative to traditional rough-in plumbing methods for these kinds of installations. Here are the key reasons why outlet boxes are becoming the industry standard and how they can support your workflow, bottom line, and craftsmanship.
Over a span of 32 hours, a city of about 20,000 people in upstate New York suffered 13 residential water main breaks. After making temporary emergency repairs, the Department of Public Works (DPW) turned to F.W. Webb, which supplied thousands of feet of HDPE pipe within weeks.
Not long ago, the impact of a tool on its user was not given much thought when it came to tool design. Today, thanks to advancements in technology and a better awareness of how repetitive use of a tool can contribute to injury, ergonomic tool design is becoming the norm. To help ensure you are making the best equipment investment for your team, here are basic ergonomic tool features to look for.
In recent years, the power needed to heat or cool buildings has fallen dramatically with the focus on reducing energy consumption and minimizing the environmental impact of HVAC installations. The flow rates in our installations are much lower now than in the past, especially if we use modulating controls on the terminal units.
Therma’s steady growth and sterling reputation over the decades has been driven in part by its highly motivated and skilled innovators, each with their own approach to process—which also resulted in a disjointed recordkeeping system. They chose Procore’s scalable construction management platform to standardize their project processes and centralize their document management, creating seamless collaboration, complete flexibility across project types, and a single source of truth and project data accessible to all. Now, workers collaborate through a common platform with deep visibility into all the information they need, all available on mobile devices.
Recognizing that pipe fabrication was slowing down its prefabrication process, F+F Mechanical Company invested in a Watts-Mueller pipe cutter that dramatically improved speed and quality while decreasing labor costs. In fact, thanks to the efficiencies gained from prefabrication using the Watts-Mueller machine, F+F Mechanical recently completed a full boiler room change-out for a hospital in just three months.
For Graco Mechanical of Houston, TX, Marley NC® Cooling Towers from SPX Cooling Tech, LLC proved to be the ideal solution for replacing a highrise building’s aging cooling tower in a tight space with an even tighter timeline—just one weekend. These factory-assembled, or “package,” towers allowed for faster installation than a field-erected option while meeting the building’s needs.
When processes are not aligned at every stage of a construction project, costly delays and unnecessary expenses are inevitable—and in the worst-case scenario can even result in legal disputes. Communication with stakeholders, the ability to monitor site progress, and the interconnected nature of construction work can all pose challenges to your bottom line.
Welding preheating is used to ensure weld quality and reduce the chance of cracking and other defects that can result in costly rework. Preheating is commonly used in field and shop applications when welding steel or steel alloy pipes or plates that are 1” thick or more. Applications that often use preheating include power plant and structural construction, as well as pipe fabrication. Here, Miller Electric outlines four common methods for welding preheating and how to choose the best option for your application.
By installing antimicrobial cooling towers from Delta Cooling, Bluegrass Hydronics and Pump helped a rural Kentucky school district qualify for a federal grant to replace a failed tower and another nearing the end of its life. The units solved the two biggest issues the school district was facing: budget constraints and the need for durable solutions.
With more than 70 million baby boomers set to retire by 2030—more than 10,000 each day—organizations need to rethink the way they capture and transfer knowledge before it is lost forever.
For a new, state-of-the-art medical school campus, Maxair Mechanical saved valuable time by installing “miles of piping” using Victaulic products rather than welding and relying on Victaulic’s 3D models of the mechanical space to anticipate potential pitfalls and avoid costly delays. Streamlining processes at every opportunity, Maxair completed the project on time, despite labor and supply chain challenges. Victaulic is a major sponsor of MCAA23.
Silicon Valley Mechanical, a full-service mechanical contractor in San Jose, CA, rapidly improved productivity and increased efficiency by putting PypeServer software into place. Here, Jamie Garza, detail manager, and Dean Garza, piping shop general foreman at Silicon Valley Mechanical, describe how they achieved those gains.
JPG Plumbing & Mechanical Services’ adoption of new oil and grease interceptor monitoring technology from Zurn has significantly reduced pumping overspend and minimized the risk of backups for JPG’s customers. The increased monitoring is translating into more tank repair and replacement work as customers gain better visibility into their systems. Zurn Elkay Water Solutions is a benefactor of MCAA23.
Barrier-free, accessible, and inclusive design is an important trend in building. Planning for a commercial restroom with all users in mind, regardless of ability, gender, or age, makes for a safer and more comfortable restroom that is easy for anyone to use. Contractors who embrace the concepts of inclusive design can stand out as partners who put users’ needs first, and Sloan, a benefactor of MCAA23, has innovative products to help. Inclusive design is pivotal for supporting people with disabilities and complying with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines. It is also important as society’s awareness of gender identity grows.
B&W Mechanical, one of the largest mechanical contractors in the Southeast, chose ServiceTrade software to help them make the move from paper to digital, shortening the time it takes to provide quotes for repairs. Swift, detailed, clear communication is one way that B&W builds trust that leads to long-lasting customer relationships.
Confidence in your installation and its reliability are important to any contractor, but labor shortages and economic constraints can often make you feel like you have to choose between speed, cost, and quality. Balancing all three can be a challenge, especially when it comes to water heater installations. Water heater supports, in particular, often get cobbled together using leftover jobsite materials or other makeshift methods in hopes that they will keep the unit stable in the long run. While this may be the cheapest solution in the moment, it is not the best choice for your budget or your reputation.
From apprentices to expert craftsmen, the construction industry employs a workforce that spans multiple generations. While an age-diverse workforce brings well-rounded skills and experiences to the table, it is not always easy to manage efficiently. Employee expectations and preferred communication styles vary greatly from generation to generation. With today’s labor shortages and low employee retention rates, if mechanical contractors want to attract and keep top talent, they need to explore strategies to help their age-diverse crews work together effectively.
Breaking ground on the Rex and Alice A. Martin Softball Training Center at the University of Illinois in April 2021, A&R Mechanical Contractors, Inc., faced the unique challenges of building during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent supply chain issues. They successfully completed the project on schedule thanks to NIBCO, which manufactures more than 90 percent of its products in the United States. “I would have to say NIBCO was very instrumental in helping A&R Mechanical get this project finished in a timely fashion,” said Chris Asklund, A&R Mechanical project manager. NIBCO is a major sponsor of MCAA23.
Complex and sensitive facilities—such as nuclear and fossil fuel plants, refineries, steel and paper mills, chemical processing plants, and semiconductor and pharmaceutical manufacturing plants—require sophisticated piping systems. These systems must perform under great stress while adhering to strict safety, health, and governmental regulations. Relying on well-developed, industry-recognized standards ensures that your work meets even the most demanding criteria.
By implementing Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot (SWR), Harder Mechanical Contractors has minimized their need for highly skilled welders and increased productivity from an average of 120 factored diameter inches (FDI) per shift to more than 200 FDI, while also achieving a repair rate of 0 percent and maximizing arc-on time. Moreover, because the SWR is a collaborative robot—or cobot—Harder Mechanical can assign less experienced welders to operate the machine, significantly improving shop productivity and resulting in high-quality welds every single time.
A new, state-of-the-art hospital in New York required that John W. Danforth Company use solder connections for mechanical piping and press fittings for the plumbing, so they looked to a trusted and reliable partner, Mueller Streamline Co., a primary subsidiary of Mueller Industries, that could provide both. That decision has paid off with a smooth construction process to date, supported by building information modeling (BIM) technology that ensured accuracy for prefabrication. Mueller Industries, Inc. is a major sponsor of MCAA23.
McKinstry set out to gather more insight into fabrication shop productivity and enhance the connection between its Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) and Fabrication teams. They partnered with MSUITE to improve communication and better understand the costs of work, which ultimately will help them target investments and improve overall project management.
Egan Company selected Josam Company’s drain system to ensure that LeafLine Labs, the premium medical cannabis cultivator in Minnesota, had the right drainage systems to meet their unique needs. Josam Company’s PRO-PLUS® Trench Drain System was a welcome change from other labor-intensive drain systems that Egan Company had used, saving time and streamlining installation.
With a goal of eliminating paper in the shop, increasing efficiency in cutting, and using barcode labels to improve shop workflows, Postler & Jaeckle started working with STRATUS software from GTP Services in 2015. Since then, the company has seen a continuous return on investment with STRATUS, most recently by using labels to increase efficiency with hangers.
You cannot eliminate the possibility of business disruptions—but you can prepare for them. Whether the cause is a storm, a cyberattack, or another unexpected event, a sudden disruption could affect your organization at any time. To grow and thrive in an uncertain risk environment, your business needs preparation to absorb, adapt, and be resilient to disruptive events. CNA, a benefactor of MCAA23, offers a series of short podcasts (about 15 minutes each) on risk and resilience.
A hospitality industry veteran opted for A.O. Smith for a dependable water heating solution for a new four-story Hampton Inn in Ashland City, TN. “Hampton Inns thrive on being local,” said hotel general manager Sammy Naquin, “so it made sense to turn to A. O. Smith, who is right here in Ashland City, for a solution.” Naquin worked closely with A. O. Smith, which specified two 750,000 Btu/hr Cyclone® XL commercial gas water heaters, recommended for the hotel’s size and water heating demands.
Whether it’s labor shortages, supply chain challenges, tight deadlines, or other hurdles, MCAA members and manufacturer/supplier partners are finding smart solutions to stay ahead of the game.
When Sacramento-based Air Systems Service & Construction (ASSC) began shopping for new software, their main priority was improving customer experience. Within eight months of adopting ServiceTrade’s commercial service software in 2021, ASSC was already seeing significant improvements in customer communication and increasing efficiency. ASSC was established in 1996; they specialize in fast-track, complete turn-key mechanical systems and now serve clients all over Northern California.
Mark Caudle, shop foreman of W.E. Bowers, estimated saving at least $35,000 per year and 20–30 hours of labor per week by taking full advantage of the PypeServer software that came with one of its CNC pipe profilers. W.E. Bowers, a mechanical construction, service, and repair firm serving Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, operates a 42,000-square-foot steel shop with six overhead cranes, CNC pipe profilers from both Watts and Vernon (each running PypeServer Enterprise), and 11 pipe turners and automated welding stations, each with a certified welder and a shared fitter.
Ohio-based mechanical contractor Geauga Mechanical Company keeps projects on track and recoups more than 750 office hours annually through eSUB CLOUD’s project management and time tracking software. Prior to transitioning to eSUB, the contractor’s paper-based system of time reporting required field employees to call in to the office weekly or submit written time sheets that had to be reviewed, approved, and then manually entered into the accounting system.
Facing a tight labor market, Warwick Mechanical Group turned to XOi for technology solutions that make it easy for less-seasoned technicians to get information and communicate with supervisors and customers quickly. Warwick’s revenue reached around $115 million in 2021, and Ron Clark, vice president of Service, credits solutions like XOi with contributing to that success.
Winger Companies tackled two challenges—the growing scale of its fabrication projects and a tight labor market—with Watts-Mueller machines that allowed them to do more with fewer people. General Manager Mike Smith said, “We increased our finished fabrications while cutting the cost of both consumables and manhours.”
Training is key in driving desired systematic improvement in any organization. Yet many businesses see training as an optional cost rather than as a necessary investment with a significant return. Consequently, training often drops to the very bottom of companies’ priorities. Prioritizing training, however, makes your employees more productive, more profitable while at work, and more committed to your organization.
Plumbing a new Sloan showroom comes with high expectations, so Great Lakes Plumbing and Heating Company placed a priority on early coordination and constant communication with Sloan and its construction company, Skender, throughout the project. That partnership paid off when the project faced some roadblocks, which Great Lakes Plumbing resolved using Sloan products.
For decades, plumbing contractors have used inflatable or plumbing test balls to perform drain, waste, and vent (DWV) testing for new pipe installations, as required by plumbing code. But those traditional DWV testing systems often slow the plumber’s job down and can put them at risk of physical harm. In today’s world of labor shortages, plumbers and contractors need the best technologies available to get the job done efficiently and safely.
General Piping, Inc. counted on NIBCO grooved butterfly valves to meet the strict deadlines of a high school renovation project. “NIBCO’s grooved butterfly valves were easy and fast to install, and they’ve performed well,” said Justin Richardson, project manager, who led the renovation of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, IN.
W.D. Manor Mechanical Contractors devised a better, safer dialysis box plumbing system, and now they are partnering with Whitehall Manufacturing, a division of Morris Group International, to manufacture and market the system. The W.D. Manor All-In-One Modular Dialysis Box by Whitehall® (model numbers 8193 and 8194) is easier and faster to install than traditional systems. Banner University Medical Center of Phoenix, AZ, installed the All-In-One Modular Dialysis Boxes in a major expansion project, saving hundreds of hours compared with traditional dialysis systems.
Since the beginning of 2022, Har-Con has played a crucial part in a school expansion project, using MIFAB’s Quick Hub couplings and fixture carriers to stay on track. “The quick coupling is a great product that has saved Har-Con time and money through material cost and labor savings,” said Travis Welch, Har-Con project estimator.
Close collaboration between IMI TA, a branch of IMI Hydronic Engineering, and building designers led to a 23-percent savings in annual energy consumption (equivalent to $19,341) for an Oklahoma public building. The Lawton Public Safety Facility in Clay Coe, OK, is a 100,000-square-foot, four-story building with 350 working stations. The original design strategy for the facility included proportional control valves with no balancing valve on each terminal and a variable speed pump (VSP) differential pressure (DP) sensor.
In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Waldinger Corporation had several projects delayed or cancelled, while the John W. Danforth Company needed additional detailing support. Using GTP Services’ STRATUS software, they successfully collaborated on a large project, to the benefit of both companies. STRATUS allowed the contractors to share resources and also digitize their paper-based workflow, eliminating mistakes and increasing productivity.
South Florida’s weather poses many challenges, so Nagelbush Mechanical, Inc. relied on EVAPCO cooling towers to withstand the heat, sea air, and high winds for residents of the luxurious three-tower Park Grove complex along the shores of Biscayne Bay in South Florida.