A reputation for quality and reliability sends financial customer to this electrical contractor

Fuellgraf Electric Co., with its headquarters in Butler, Pa., is one of those companies that just gets better with age. It strives to understand its customers and helps them create solutions for their needs. The Operations Center project for Citizens National Bank of Evans City, Pa., illustrates Fuellgraf Electric's customer-driven solutions.

Fuellgraf Electric was founded by Charles L. Fuellgraf Sr. in 1946. The company immediately became a prominent player in the field of electrical construction and engineering, a designation that the company continues to enjoy today. Time has dictated the addition of other core areas of expertise, including design/build and construction and engineering in communications, security, wireless and lighting design. Fuellgraf Electric's list of past and present clientele includes businesses in the healthcare, education, manufacturing, industrial and financial sectors. Fuellgraf's many clients in Pennsylvania include Armco (now known as AK Steel). Over the past 30 years, Fuellgraf Electric has done in excess of $100 million worth of electrical construction and construction management for this client alone.

The company is registered and licensed in more than 30 states and has participated in projects in all 50 states and 14 foreign countries. Its design/build expertise has made this global expansion possible. The company is owned and operated by the third generation of Fuellgrafs; Charles L. “Chud” Fuellgraf III serves as president.

Thinking back

In fall 2002, Fuellgraf Electric began work on what would become one of its most notable projects within the financial marketplace. The client was a locally known and respected bank-Citizens National Bank. Citizens, founded in 1878 and headquartered in Butler, has 15 branch locations throughout western Pennsylvania and is now a fourth-generation family owned and operated organization.

Ten weeks or so

Citizens National Bank was consolidating its operations. The project was designed to create a centralized location that would be the main site for company operations. The bank required a system large enough to support its growing client base and services. Fuellgraf Electric gave its client exactly what was needed to continue efficient operations and in a way that had its client proactively poised for ongoing growth. In the end, more than 200 dedicated data drops were installed using 50,000 feet of data cable. The bulk of the work, 75 percent, was completed within the first 10 weeks.

The communication system is quite impressive. The operations center runs on a WAN infrastructure, which supports the various systems contained within the building; branch locations are tied into the main system via a series of T-1 lines. A high-level solution was required due to Citizens' ever-growing communication needs. This type of move is becoming increasingly common as businesses look toward centralized solutions for operational needs.

Comprehensive blueprint

The Citizens' project used just about every imaginable system available-lighting, power, data, voice, fiber optic and emergency power. The emergency power system consisted of two generators to provide redundant power in a power outage-a crucial requirement for banking operations as customers constantly require account access regardless of local power outages. In today's global economy, it is common for banking customers to be physically located quite a distance away from a bank's center of operations.

Total redundancy is prevalent throughout. Financial institutions, such as Citizens, require that such measures be in place so that transactions can occur at any time. The project also incorporated systems that allow for automatic rerouting of transactions as an added precaution, thus further aiding in redundancy efforts. In fact, if the entire operations center goes off-line, there is full back up readily available at another branch location. Getting to know customers' needs and requirements well in advance, especially the time and effort put into the initial design, made this all possible. But for Fuellgraf, this is just part of the routine.

Facing the challenges

Most fast-track projects put some sort of strain on not only the installation team, but on the company as a whole. Harry McClaine, electrical superintendent, said, “The biggest challenge of the job was meeting the schedule, particularly when new work was getting added without any extension of schedule. The move-in date was set and had to be met. The project manager, Bill Hindman, had everything flowing smoothly the entire job period. This made it easy to keep the schedule. It was a rush job, but everything came together … we had great manpower.”

Chud Fuellgraf also provided a clear understanding of the project challenges. “The most challenging aspect of the entire project was meeting the schedule with the continual changes,” he said. “By the end of the project, the magnitude of the job increased fivefold. The completion date was never changed during the project even with all additional projects.”

What started out as a design/build for a section of the building quickly turned into a large-scale undertaking. In fact, Fuellgraf Electric remodeled and retrofitted the entire building, including the basement.

Even though more than 5,000 man-hours were logged, the entire project was completed without a single incident. Safety records are a crucial aspect of the contracting world and completing such a large project as Citizens Bank incident-free is quite an accomplishment.

Because it was such a complex project done under very stringent deadlines, the back-end support needed to be just as tight, which required the use of Fuellgraf Electric's purchasing department.

“Jack Rice, our purchasing agent, was very instrumental in helping to meet the deadline,” Fuellgraf said. “There were certain light fixtures required for the job that typically had a six- to eight-week delivery time. However, installation of these lighting fixtures had to begin within a two-week time period. Jack scoured the country for the electrical items that were needed, expedited the order and had them delivered in two weeks.”

In fact, according to Fuellgraf, Jack Rice is a standout employee overall. Rice was inducted into the Electrical Hall of Honor with the Electrical League of western Pennsylvania on Oct. 1, 2004, for his significant contributions to furthering the high ideals of the electrical industry. Such employees help explain how Fuellgraf Electric can continually succeed, project after project. The Hall of Honor has one other Fuellgraf member on its roster, Charles L. Fuellgraf Jr., who not only serves as Fuellgraf Electric's chief executive officer, but also as the president of the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association.

Moving beyond

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the project is an intangible one-the relationship between Citizens and Fuellgraf Electric. The two entities enjoy a long-standing relationship, and in fact, Fuellgraf Electric continues to work on several branch locations. In a sense, the company is replicating portions of the original project, on a smaller scale, at Citizens' branches. According to Fuellgraf, they continue to do various upgrades, especially in telecommunication conversions. One of the ways that Fuellgraf is helping the bank upgrade its branches' operations-thus helping make them more efficient-is by aiding the design and installation of systems that support Citizens' desire to convert branch ATM machines to direct-network connections. In the past, high-speed phone lines were used to allow ATMs to communicate with the host system, but the direct connection allows for decreased telephone costs and an appreciable monthly savings to the bank.

Taking the branch locations from copper to fiber optic backbones is part of the overall continual upgrade process. This changeover from copper to fiber has become quite popular, and Fuellgraf Electric's customers are benefiting.

Fuellgraf Electric operates best in a mission-critical environment. The company is proud of the fact that, as in the Citizens Operations Center project and countless others, Fuellgraf Electric is almost always invisible to clients. It often goes in and changes over entire facilities under the cover of night, if need be. With a staff of 110 employees, Fuellgraf Electric is one of the companies that proves that the sentiment of “improving with age” holds much merit.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.