Setting Itself Apart: BW Systems

BW Systems is a systems integrator capable of providing turnkey solutions anywhere in the United States. Based in Colorado with 38 employees, it provides assessment, systems engineering and design, installation, and maintenance. Launched in 1979 by Bob Wells as BW Electric Inc., the company operates out of offices in Colorado Springs and Longmont, Colo.


“I was hired in 1988 to do a security project for Hughes Aircraft,” said Jim Thiele, president. “As we realized that we were gaining an expertise in low voltage, we started focusing on this more and more.”


In 1998, BW Electric decided to target systems integration, primarily access control, fire alarm systems, intrusion detection and CCTV.


“However, we were having problems getting dealerships because of the ‘Electric’ in our name, so, while we are still BW Electric Inc., we do business as BW Systems,” Thiele said.


These days, about 85 percent of the company’s work is access control, intrusion detection and CCTV surveillance. The rest is fire alarm systems. It performs work for commercial, educational, government and pharmaceutical clients. However, the majority of its work is focused on Department of Defense (DOD) facilities.


“DOD tends to be a pretty small ‘family’ in this area, both in terms of the number of contractors and military bases, so they know us by our reputation,” he said.


While BW Systems does an excellent job of customer retention because of its reputation, it recently hired a business development professional to go out and find additional business.


For an example of the company’s customer retention, look to Raytheon. In 1997, Raytheon took over Hughes Aircraft Co., the company for which BW Electric did a systems integration project in 1988. BW Systems still does work for Raytheon to this day.


Thiele attributes the company’s strong customer retention to maintaining effective business processes, staying abreast of the latest technologies, hiring and training the best technicians, and earning extremely important certifications.


“I don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room,” Thiele said. “I want to hire the smartest guys in the room. We hire only people with good mechanical skills, good professional skills and a good work ethic.”


BW Systems relies on the IBEW to provide it with trained technicians.


“While their training doesn’t focus specifically on access control, fire alarms, intrusion detection and CCTV, it does provide the technicians with a solid background on DC theory and work processes,” he said.


The company also has an on-staff technology and training director who does in-house training and arranges for factory training.


“Factory training is required by the manufacturers, and it is also required by many of the contracts that we are awarded,” he said.


For access control, BW Systems primarily uses a company called Lenel.


“We send our people around the country for that training,” Thiele said. “Then, once they receive the factory training, they can come back here and get involved in distance learning, so they can keep their certifications upgraded annually.”


Intrusion detection technology training generally occurs online, and the company brings in the manufacturer for additional training.


For CCTV, two of the company’s estimators/engineers are gold-certified by one of its vendors, Axis Communications, so it can register and certify its CCTV jobs.


BW Systems possesses a UL 2050 National Industrial Security Systems Certification, meaning it is approved to install and service closed areas of DOD facilities, known as Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility areas. The company’s designers and installers are certified by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies.


The company is UL-approved to issue National Industrial Security Systems certificates for National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual and Intelligence Community Directive 705 areas. It also possesses certifications from KABA MAS X10 and LKM7003, which are high-security locking systems.


The up-to-date business processes, knowledge of the latest technologies, comprehensive training and various certifications enable BW Systems to perform work that other systems integrators might not be able to handle. Recently, it completed a project for Comcast in Denver—an access-control cut-over project that involved moving from an existing system to an AMAG Technology system.


“The project involved about 250 card readers, and we were required to keep all of the readers online,” Thiele said.


Preplanning for this project involved building racks and getting the equipment in place ahead of time, so the technicians could put the new equipment on and position it properly, enabling them to cut over one reader at a time.


“All of the programming for the card readers had to be done in advance, and all of the testing had to be done in advance,” he said. “Our technicians did a great job, and lot of credit goes to Jeff Brown, the project manager, and Jeremy Thomas, our lead technician on the project.”

About the Author

William Atkinson

Freelance Writer
William Atkinson has been a full-time business magazine writer since 1976. Contact him at w.atkinson@mchsi.com .

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