New Customer Experience: Allied Crawford Steel

We recently had the pleasure of meeting Allied Crawford Steel, a Canadian-based industrial company, who is wrapping up their first construction project with Helmkamp Construction. Their experience was so positive that it prompted some glowing comments from the owner. We’d like to thank Allied Crawford for allowing us to share that feedback with the rest of you.

Please enjoy this back-office look through the eyes of our Industrial Construction Expert, Ryan Clay, Senior Project Manager, on the successful execution of this project and working with a long-distance customer.

How did Helmkamp start working with Allied Crawford Steel? They reached out to us on a recommendation from Sherrill Surveying, so really just word of mouth from another local contractor who knew our capabilities. We didn't have any previous intel or anything like that. They reached out by phone, and I said “yep, send it over, I'll take a look.”

From Canada? Yes, that's where they operate out of. They have approximately 12 facilities in the eastern United States, and this is the westernmost facility for now. We met them on site in May of 2021. With Covid, they weren't able to fly much because they had to quarantine for 14 days before going back across the border. We did the work from August of 2021 through January of 2022 before they came back on site so most of our interaction was done via Teams or FaceTime. We got on the line with them at least weekly. I would go flip my computer open at the site, then Randy and I would physically share site photos or videos. They also have a contact that’s been on site with us that will be the facility’s general manager. Alex, in Canada, was our main contact for everything but we did have that go between/somebody on site as well.

What was the scope of work and what were the major problems that they needed solved? They bought a building that was owned by Metals USA. It was built in the 70s so everything in that building was conformed to how Metals USA did business. They had to come in and renovate everything to how they wanted it to be. So, we tore down sections of the warehouse, and closed them in. They wanted an outdoor crane rail that was 625’ long x 115’ wide so they can store material outside as well. That being said, we put 75,000 square feet of new roadway around the building so they had better access for traffic. We were told that they operate on overnight delivery – that’s their business. They have 15,000 tons of material on hand and need to be able to get it out the door at all hours, as opposed to weeks like most people, so it took a lot to get the site to where it was going to be functional for them. There is an office building on site, which is probably 80’ x 50’ (roughly 4000-5000 square feet) so an office building was completely renovated as well.

How many people are going to work out of this facility? Probably 30-35 people once they hire all the truck drivers. They have started interviewing and hiring people for the office, shop floor, and warehouse floor already.

Anything else in the scope of the project? Yes, the existing building utilities… we essentially tore all the electrical out and replaced everything that they wanted. Same thing for building a restroom in the warehouse as we had to find the existing utilities. The biggest part was all of the modifications to the warehouse. They had a two-story mezzanine off the side of the building 200 feet long. It was torn down and we replaced everything along the side of the building to close it off.

How long did the project last? We started construction in mid to late August and were substantially done by the end of the year. We're still there in some capacity but it’s for stuff that's coming up like setting equipment such as saws and conveyors, etc., so roughly 16 to 20 weeks.

Tell us about the Helmkamp team on this project. We had Brian Bechard during preconstruction, Nathan Knackstedt came in for estimating, myself as Project Manager, Randy Houck as Superintendent, obviously Luke (Safety Director), then the rest of our crew and subcontractors.

We received an email testimonial from Alex praising our efforts. He said “he’s worked with a lot of general contractors in his day and from Brian early on in the precon stage to Ryan and Randy in the field, this [experience] has been a breeze.” If you had to interpret that comment, what would you say made the experience a breeze for him? Probably us realizing their urgency to get things done. We were able to basically get notification on August 17th that we could start, and we were there the next Monday. Days after, subs, tractors, and bulldozers were all on site tearing things down. Randy is really good at that. He understands the industrial landscape, having that sense of urgency, and 10 or 15 things in his mind at all times. You know, like “these are the important things that I’ve got to keep going to get things done faster than usual, but to Helmkamp’s standards.” I also believe our ability, flexibility, and quality of work exceeds what they're used to seeing because I know how we do things. However, I think the biggest aspect is just not knowing each other, all the back and forth we had for that time, and then just saying “here, go out and do this” which isn’t the common scenario so that takes a lot of trust. I would say trust is a huge component in any of our owner relationships and that reigned true here as well. We were joking and having fun with Alex, but we're pretty down to business. I'm sure he could see that from day one.

He also said he “can't say enough for the performance on the job.” What do you think he was referring to that you can give an example of? Probably quality, but I think his biggest concern was just the speed or the ability to make things happen. It is my feeling that they don't usually tell people to do projects of this size in August and have it done by December. It's a pretty quick turn, even with the few items we’re still in there for.

He ended his testimonial to us saying “it has been a great story and a win-win for both companies.” What do you think was the big win for them? My gut feeling is they found a contractor that was reliable and easy to work with. We’re pretty easy to work with. We told them what we were going to do for them, and the performance followed up.

What was the big win for Helmkamp? The potential for more projects is a big win for us. We are proud to have built another trusted relationship with a new customer. The fact that we are capable of out-of-state work proves again to be a huge advantage to our customers when they have construction needs at their facilities in other states. I mean we’re basically just doing what we set out to do for every customer every day, so it's successful in that way. We hope to have the opportunity to do 3 or 4 more of these for them in the next few years.

From a cultural perspective, we have been “building relationships since 1938” and this is a prime example of how we work with customers and secure repeat work. Based on this experience, what would you tell someone else who might be considering using our services on their next project? I would tell them “Here’s how it went down... These guys went from not knowing us to making a cold call to spending eight months designing something. We had to have design people on our side to see the construction subsequently happen in four months but that is what we did.” Our goal is to knock it out the park every time. We did it for them and we’ll do it for the next project that comes along.