Branching Out

JAMERSON & BAUWENS ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS INC.
JAMERSON & BAUWENS ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS INC.

Handling a range of power and low-voltage work, Jamerson & Bauwens Electrical Contractors is based in Northbrook, Ill., with a second office in Urbana, Ill.

“We have about 165 steady employees with about 17 on the low-voltage side,” said Mark Woosley, senior low-voltage project manager.

On average, 10–15% of the company’s work is low-voltage, which the company first got involved in when more customers wanted cable upgrades several years ago.

“Around that time, we started having some of our people get training in low-voltage work,” he said.

Currently, on the low-voltage side, the company does structured cabling, fire alarms, distributed antenna systems, and wireless networks; it recently expanded to security.

“We do about 60 cameras a year, and we do a lot of fiber optics,” Woosley said. “This is an area that is really growing.”

Woosley has never liked jobs where all his people did was pull cable and leave.

“I always wanted us to be able to finish the job,” he said, adding that, as a result, the division began to branch out more. “There are too many new opportunities to just stay with the same things. We are always looking for new areas of low-voltage to get involved in. My personal favorite is fiber optics, because this is getting really popular, and not everybody can do it.”

To ensure everyone in the department remains current on the latest training and education, the company arranges for in-house training from manufacturers and other third parties.

One of the best ways the company markets its low-voltage capabilities is by word of mouth—telling existing customers about their capabilities.

“For example, about 90% of our work is hospitals,” Woosley said. “When we are doing power work for them, we also let them know that we have a low-voltage division for things like fiber optics, wireless, etc.”

The company also takes advantage of networking opportunities.

“In hospitals, in specific, it seems everyone knows everyone else,” Woosley said. “For example, a director at one hospital knows the directors at other hospitals, and tells them about our quality of work, so now we get the opportunity at another facility. Or that person might become a director at another hospital and recommends that hospital to use our services.”

Currently, much of the department’s work involves retrofits because not that many new hospitals are being built. However, existing hospitals always need upgrades, and that is where a lot of the work occurs.

“However, we love when a new hospital is being built, because we can start from scratch with both the power and the low-voltage,” he said.

The main reason for the company’s success is its commitment to professionalism in all aspects, including quality work, communication, coordination and scheduling.

“Besides being a one-stop shop for all of our customers’ power and low-voltage needs, one thing that stands out is that we stick to the book,” Woosley said. “We even go above and beyond. In fact, on some of our projects, people from other facilities have come in and taken pictures of our closet buildouts, ladder racking and cable dressing.”

Communication

Meetings are crucial to success.

“We have original kick-off meetings, then in-house meetings to make sure everyone knows what is going on,” he said.

The company also schedules meetings with the other trades working on the job where they create timelines and ensure everyone knows when they will be there and what they are doing.

“As a result, we aren’t there trying to put in wire on the same day that the flooring guy is trying to lay tile down,” he said.

Coordination

Hospitals can be a challenge to work on because they never close. The key is coordinating with all branches of hospital staff.

“For example, we need to make sure they have enough operating rooms to utilize while we are working on the other operating rooms,” he said.

On a laser surgery machine wiring project, the company had about 30 planning meetings before it could even begin working and installing the fiber optics.

“Then the physicians came in, recommended some changes, and we had to come back and tweak those changes,” he said.

Scheduling

Unlike some other electrical contractors, Jamerson & Bauwens rarely has problems finding enough qualified people for low-voltage work.

“The key to success,” Woosley said, “is that we schedule our work in such a way that we don’t have spikes. For example, we won’t end up in a situation where we will unexpectedly need 40 extra people all at the same time for a new project.”

In the future, the company plans to expand into A/V systems and is seeking certification in low-voltage lighting, Woosley said.

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