Service Triangle Shapes Successful Partnership

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff December 22, 2004

Successfully securing and managing HVAC projects in today’s competitive construction market, challenged by tighter space and time schedules, takes more than just a good bottom number and a promise of responsive service. Each member of the construction team needs to provide extra value to the other members in order to maximize success. A prime example of this effective manufacturer-distributor-contractor “service triangle” in practice was on the recently completed $58 million, 181,000 square foot Tyson Events Center construction project, a city-owned, multi-purpose convention center in downtown Sioux City, IA.

Portsmouth, NH-based Anvil International, Inc., the most complete piping products manufacturer in the world, and Central States Group of Omaha, NE, an Anvil distributor for seven years, started working together to establish the triangle from the earliest stages of winning the project. They engaged in job tracking, met with the mechanical contractor, Hagan Company, of Sioux City before they were even awarded the job and provided standard quotes on Anvil pipe fittings and hangers, which would ultimately allow the most efficient “bag and tag” delivery of product possible.

The process of selling Hagan Company also included presenting the value-added of the Anvil and Central States sides of the partnership triangle. These advantages included meeting the space and time savings realities of the project with Anvil’s Gruvlokmier job in the city and eventually make the switch from another leading piping components manufacturer to Anvil.

However, before the service triangle could take shape, Hagan Company had to show the construction manager, Mortenson-Klinger, that they possessed the manpower and the experience to complete the job in the vigorous, 14-month start-to-opening schedule demanded by the city. Hagan, a member of MCAA, had over 50 employees at the time of this project and was poised to do all the piping and plumbing installation for the new convention center, including 13 boilers, two chillers, two cooling towers and 30 pumps.

Hagan Company also had its 100 years of experience to fall back on, including 35 years of specifying projects with the space- and time-friendly grooved piping product when compared to traditional welded product. In 1903, the company began providing plumbing and heating service in the Siouxland area, starting a legacy that has spanned four generations. V.J. Hagan first opened his small residential plumbing and heating service business working from horse drawn wagons. The company eventually grew to become a full-service commercial plumbing contractor specializing in new construction. In fact, in the 1950’s Hagan Company installed all of the plumbing for the building that was tying into the new Tyson Convention Center, the Sioux City Auditorium.

Satisfied that Hagan Company possessed all the elements to meet a tight construction schedule and even tighter mechanical room space, Mortenson-Klinger awarded the company the approximately $3 million HVAC piping and plumbing project, including the 16′ x 26′ square foot boiler mechanical room. The initial product was ordered in bulk and stored on the job site. The 30 pump valve and fitting packages featuring Anvil’s Gruvlok

The key to the success of the project was that everyone worked very well together at every turn to make the service triangle work effectively. “The total package of product, service and experience solidified this partnership and made the project flow very easily,” said Julie Lord, President of Hagan Company.

In addition to the product itself, Anvil’s value-added to the project was largely its Design Services Group. Due to the tight construction schedule, John Prescott, Hagan’s General Superintendent, didn’t think it was prudent for him to spend the time to do the mechanical drawings while also trying to supervise the project on-site and back at the office. Prescott was somewhat skeptical of any manufacturer’s design services capability but after speaking at length with Anvil designer, Merrill Davis, and seeing the preliminary drawings, he quickly became a convert.

“In addition to saving me weeks of my own time by providing the mechanicals, I was extremely impressed with Anvil’s ability to take the potential problems I identified and work with me on quickly devising workable solutions and accurate three-dimensional drawings,” said Prescott. “By partnering with the Anvil Design Services team we also realized valuable product and space savings.”

Prescott pointed to a design change affecting the boiler pumps as one such example. “With the height of the mechanical room only 12′ and some major duct and vent work overhead we really had to put the boiler pumps in with a shoehorn.” The pumps were originally designed with 4″ valves. Prescott determined they weren’t going to fit so they were downsized to 3″ and Anvil’s Design Services Group revised the drawings accordingly to accommodate all 13 pumps into the space allotted.

“Our Design Services component really stood out on this project,” said Phil Schechinger, a key member of the Anvil sales team. “We were looking for a customer relationship, not just an order and presented the design services as a real solution to Hagan’s challenges.” Schechinger added that, unlike its competition, Anvil’s design services capability is very flexible in its approach and will also include welded or threaded components if they are deemed appropriate.

Hagan Company also attributed Central States Group’s on-site trailer storage capability as key to the success of the project. Hagan purchased 75 percent of the product from Central States’ 42,000 square foot warehouse facility in Omaha prior to the start date and requested that it be stored in the trailer. Central States’ trailer stored all product tied to bills of material and provided a dedicated inside sales person, Patty Lundgren, to coordinate the delivery of any additional product. This value-added service saved time and helped to offset the shortage of space for storage on the job site. Security was also an issue and the trailer protected the product and facilitated the just-in-time deliveries.

“The trailer worked perfectly for this project’s needs,” said Monty McCoy, Hagan’s Project Manager. “We received the Anvil product from Central States Group right when we needed it. We were also very impressed with their flexibility and inside customer service capability, especially Patty. If we had a change and product wasn’t on the trailer we would fax a list of needed items and heard back from Central States immediately. It would then be shipped for next day or brought directly to us if we needed it right away. The communication was just great. Without them, we would have been hard pressed to meet the strict schedule requirements of the project.” McCoy added that the 30 pump valve and fitting packages featuring Anvil’s Gruvlok

“All the pump valve and fitting packages were assembled together, numbered and labeled by Central States which translated into a tremendous amount of time savings on-site,” said Schechinger. “They really partnered up with Hagan, took ownership of the job and brought a ‘can do’ attitude throughout the project.”

The third side of the service triangle, Hagan Company, used its 100 years of experience to feed the partnership and let it flourish. The company knew the benefits of pre-planning and worked with Anvil’s design team to identify and maximize the product, time and space efficiencies. “Hagan was open to utilizing a manufacturer’s design services which is often not the case,” said Brian Skinner of Central States. “However, Mr. Prescott had the experience and confidence in his own abilities to know that in this instance it was the best option. It freed him up to go out to the job site and feed Anvil additional information they might not have received otherwise.”

The contractor had also worked with grooved product for decades and was extremely well versed in its labor savings advantages when compared to traditional welded systems. “Our ability to use Anvil flex connectors instead of fixed connectors lowered our costs and helped us space-wise as they take up less vertical room,” said McCoy. He added that the easy access and replacement of the connectors was also important. With all this product knowledge, Hagan’s staff felt a synergy with Anvil’s personnel and its products, from the design to the installation stage.

Is the Hagan Company, Anvil International and Central States Group “service triangle” a shape of things to come? “Oh yes, we’re certainly looking forward to building on our service-focused partnership in the second half of 2004,” said Lord.