Adding New Technology For Success
Hyde-Stone Mechanical, with offices in Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Syracuse, and Watertown; has been a presence in New York since 1893. We’re growing every year and we have been for the last 30 years. We’re looking at new technology and software all the time. But we’re an old firm and are behind the times. Nonetheless, technology is relatively inexpensive, and if you don’t keep up with it, you’re going to be on the other side of the fence getting rocks thrown at you from your competition.
Our father passed away in April. He was 80 and he still worked every day. He absolutely loved the field, loved the business. Even at 80, this man still wanted to grow our company. He was not a technology guy, he was old school. He still did heat-cool loads by hand when the rest of us were using computers. He wasn’t afraid for someone else to use the technology. He knew that technology was the thing that was going to push us. So, he just kind of sat back and said, “I think it’s a good idea, run with it.”
I like technology. I think it makes everybody’s life easier. It makes a project more efficient not only for us, but also our customers. We have 100 mg fiber optics in all our offices. We can plot a drawing from here to one of our other offices hours away. With invoices, instead of writing it down and bringing the invoice back, putting carbon copies in an envelope and mailing it, now, when the service techs are done with a ticket, they fill everything out on their tablet and hit done. That goes back to our office and we can either email the invoice immediately before they’re back or we can mail it that day.
We use technology for marketing. Last week we rigged six big air handlers, rooftops, and we set up two time-lapse videos, a drone and two cameras, to take pictures and we make a small video out of that. And we put it on our LinkedIn page and our YouTube page. On the construction side, all our field guys, our service techs have company iPhones and tablets.
We operate on a design-build model. Our logo is design, install, service. Our customers call us and say, “I’m putting an addition on my building. Will you design an HVAC and plumbing system?” Absolutely. We sit down and say what do you want to do with this space? What is it going to be? What is your budget is? We start working from there. We come up with some preliminary drawings. We fine tune it and then we start to use some technology. We’ll use BlueBeam for their drawings.
A couple of years ago we did a project at Kraft Foods of some really big stainless steel ductwork that we had to have made. We went to a manufacturer and had them make it and they gave us all 3D drawings. Our guys in the field were like this is a piece of cake now. This goes here, this goes here, this goes here.
I am the one who pushes technology in this company. I try to bring in lunch and learns and
webinars. And I know that most of the people think I’m a pain because, here’s another webinar or here’s something else he wants us to do. We also emphasize hiring young people out of college that have no bad habits from other contractors, because they have the technology. I said we have to break into that. And if you’re not comfortable with it, that’s OK because we have people that are comfortable with it, and this person is going to teach us.
But there’s so much more to do. And I do run into resistance. We’ve got some older project managers. I say older – my age, in their mid-50s, that still like to do things the old-fashioned way. I call them the white hairs, because we all have white hair now.
When we got GPS in the vans six or seven years ago, all the service techs said, “Oh, Big Brother’s watching.” I was like no; you guys are missing the point. This is going to help the service dispatchers know exactly where you are. If Mr. Building Owner calls us up and says my chiller’s down, we can figure out who is the closest person. I said that’s what it’s for. It took us three years before they realized oh, technology is helping.
Last year we bought BlueBeam. Basically, it’s a high-end markup tool for the construction trade. You can take a blueprint and you can fully mark it up. You can fully color in ductwork. You can put notes on it. You can take pictures in it. There’s so much you can do with it.
We had just hired a young assistant project manager, Logan Wheeler. On her first day I said, “Have you ever worked with BlueBeam before?” and she’s like “Yeah!” And three of the other project managers said we should probably have it. So, I bought four. And the only one who ever uses BlueBeam is Logan.
It’s a process, and we have growing pains. But I think technology is also making us a better company and a more efficient company down the line.
Author Note: Christopher Stone is Vice President of Hyde-Stone Mechanical with locations in Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Syracuse, and Watertown, NY. Hyde-Stone Mechanical was ACCA’s Commercial Contractor of the Year in 2015.
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