Capacity Improvements Help Windham Millwork Win $5.75 Million MaineGeneral Hospital Contract
Landmark project enables company to compete for additional LEED and IPD contracts
AUGUSTA, ME - When MaineGeneral announced in 2010 its plan to construct a new regional hospital in Augusta, Windham Millwork owner Bruce Pulkkinen saw an opportunity to stem the business slowdown caused by the recession. His firm had seen a steady decline in orders as construction projects in Maine ground to halt; and Windham Millworks has been forced to lay off employees, dropping from a high of 70 prior to 2008 to the mid-50s in 2010. MaineGeneral’s proposed $312 million project, the largest financed hospital project in the state’s history, represented a contracting opportunity that Pulkkinen couldn’t pass up.
While the hospital project offered one of the few opportunities on the horizon, Pulkkinen recognized the magnitude of the challenges confronting him if he hoped to bid successfully. The $5 million subcontract far exceeded any previous project the company had completed; and Pulkkinen knew that his first challenge would be convincing the contractor that his firm had the resources to do the job. That skepticism would be warranted, because Windham Millwork had never had the opportunity or the technology to do a job this size. But Pulkkinen had faith that his core team could pull it off.
Confronted with this challenge, Pulkkinen developed a strategy for winning the contract. He recognized that there would be three key prerequisites. First, the MaineGeneral hospital was being built according to an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) methodology, so he would need the ability to participate in this construction process, which his firm had never done before. That process would require that his firm acquire the ability to design in 3D, which was a technology his firm had never employed. And his employees would need training to master the technology and processes.
“The project was far beyond anything we’d ever done before, and I knew our capability for doing the job would be questioned. We needed to acquire the technology and show that we had all the systems in place before we even submitted a bid. That’s when I decided to call on Maine MEP for assistance,” Pulkkinen stated.
The company turned to Maine MEP to help assess its technology needs for participating in an IPD project and evaluate the available 3D CAD technologies. Since the hospital project would be built to LEED silver standards, Windham Millworks also needed to ensure that the wood products it used were sustainably harvested and met LEED requirements, which meant that it also needed to acquire forest products certification.
Over the next several months, Maine MEP staff worked with senior managers to assess the technology options and outline the training and implementation processes that would be required. The team also assessed the variety of architectural woodworking quality certification programs to determine which certification process would offer the greatest value to the company. And it evaluated the competing forest product certifications to determine which would best meet the company’s future needs. The MEP staff also discussed Windham Millwork’s anticipated equipment needs if the company did win the contract and helped develop a strategic technology roadmap.
Armed with recommendations from the MEP project team and assistance in finding the right vendors, Windham Millwork begin investing in the technology, equipment and certifications it would need to bid on the project. The company subsequently implemented an intensive training schedule, so that it could demonstrate that it had the necessary systems in place and could collaborate on an IPD project.
The strategic planning and evaluation assistance from Maine MEP paid off. Windham Millworks won the $5.3 million contract, even though its largest previous project had only been for $2.3 million. Over the course of the next year, the company built 8,000 cabinets and all 82 clinical nursing stations, installed 3 miles of cabinet tops and 85,000 square feet of wall covering, outfitted the restaurant, the café and gift shop. As a result of the cost savings it was able to achieve because of its enhanced capacity, the company was able to cut its project costs by more than $1 million, which it later earned back with contracts for $1.45 million in additional work.
“This was the project of a lifetime. It really required us to expand our capacities,” said Pulkkinen. “We won the contract because we could show them they we had the systems in place and could collaborate on an Integrated Project Delivery contact. “
The IPD approach turned out to be one of the most notable achievements of the entire endeavor, reducing the anticipated completion time for the hospital from 20 months to 12 months, resulting in significant savings.
Pulkkinen praised Maine MEP’s assistance in evaluating the technologies, certifications and training required for the project.
“The 3D CAD software allowed us to design and validate our products before they were built, reducing our development costs. In fact, the new systems we put in place with Maine MEP assistance enabled us to knock $1.3 million off our cost upfront. And the savings offset our internal cost of training all five designers,” said Pulkkinen.
Pulkkinen also praised Maine MEP’s role in evaluating the competing forest products certifications.
“Maine MEP recommended that we pursue Forest Stewardship Council certifications, which we did; and it was the right call, because some of the certifications we considered are no longer operating today, but FSC has become the gold standard and enabled us to qualify for other LEED building projects,” the Windham Millworks owner said.
Having successfully demonstrated its capabilities on the MaineGeneral contract, the three-generation family-owned business has gone on to win contracts for other IPD and LEED buildings, including two federal courthouses in Vermont and one in Bangor.
“The decision to bid for the MaineGeneral project was a game-changer for us,” Pulkkinen noted. “It elevated our company to a whole new level and has enabled us to bid on a range of projects that we never could have completed before.”
The opening of the new Augusta hospital last week prompted Pulkkinen to reflect on the transformation his company had undergone in the past two years.
“If it hadn’t been for our decision to invest in our capabilities, and Maine MEP’s work in guiding us through the process, we might not have survived the recession. Many of our former competitors are out of business today. But our payroll is now up to 80-odd employees, and we’re doing the preliminary work for another hospital project in Waterville. When I toured the completed hospital in Augusta a few weeks ago, it brought a lump to my throat, seeing all that we had done there and knowing what might have happened to this family firm if we hadn’t made the right decisions,” Pulkkinen concluded.
About Maine MEP
Maine MEP is a program of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and an affiliate of the NIST under the U.S. Department of Commerce. The national MEP is a network of manufacturing extension centers that provide business and technical assistance to smaller manufacturers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Through MEP, manufacturers have access to more than 2000 manufacturing and business “coaches” whose job is to help firms make changes that lead to greater productivity, increased profits, and enhanced global competitiveness. For more information on the Maine MEP program call 1-800-637-4634 or visit www.mainemep.org.