Case Studies

ABCO Peerless Sprinkler Corporation

Commercial fire protection products and services in New York

ABCO Peerless Sprinkler Corporation (ABCO) has been in business for 57 years and four generations. William G. Bowe and father in-law Anthony Robillotta established the business in 1958, when the partners landed their first contract.

Anthony was born in 1896 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, but grew up with his grandparents in Italy until the age of 10. As an adult, back in the United States, Anthony ran a scrap paper and rag company. When legislation mandated that he needed to install a fire sprinkler system in his business, Anthony asked the installation company if there was an open position for William.

As a young father and recent college graduate, William had been working bagging groceries at a local market. He soon joined the sprinkler company and began to learn the ins and outs of the trade. Several years later, he was prepared to set out on his own. With the help of Anthony and a small crew, he launched ABCO, closing the company’s first contract on his 30-year birthday.

William’s son, Timothy Bowe, now owns and operates the company. Timothy works alongside a strong team of engineers, union steamfitters, as well as an in-house staff that keeps the wheels turning in the well-oiled machine of a business.

Among his employees are family members, two sons and a daughter, who are involved in day-to-day operations. While the business started out with a market in bowling alleys and nursing homes, the modern ABCO specializes in interior alterations in existing buildings, including high-rises, shopping centers and specialty hazard facilities, as well as new buildings.

ABCO Peerless Sprinkler Corp.A strong history

As the leader of a multigenerational company, Timothy has a lot of knowledge regarding the history of the industry. He holds this history and the continuing changes to his business in high regard. While his priority is ABCO and the company’s customers, he also makes significant contributions to the industry through a number of trade organizations and associations.

ABCO is an active member of the New York Mechanical Contractors Association. Timothy is also a past metro chapter president of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. Furthermore, he sits on the Engineering and Standards committee for the National Fire Sprinkler Association. As vice chairman for nearly 10 years, Timothy meets with other board members to discuss recent and upcoming changes to the national standards that govern the industry.

“Every time there has been legislation that affects our industry, people have died in fires,” Timothy explains. “The first sprinkler ordinance was in response to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. That law was passed in 1912 and required that any building that had more than 25 people working above the second story in manufacturing had to have sprinklers, exit requirements and lights. In 1973 legislators passed first retrofit law in the country, local law 5, after firemen died in multiple fires in high-rise buildings in New York. This new law deemed that all high-rise buildings needed to be retrofitted with fire sprinklers. People fought it in court, but it was upheld. There were more laws passed along the way, including local law 16 in 1984, requiring sprinklers in all new high-rise office buildings, then licensing laws.

“The licensing law requires all installing contractors to have a license,” he continues. “This went into effect after several people died in a high rise residential property that had a fire sprinkler system improperly installed in a garbage chute. My dad was license number three. He was very active through the MCA in legislation and the city gave him number three because of how important he was in that change for the industry. His efforts were instrumental in creating markets for steamfitters in New York City. Without the urban sprinkler industry, steamfitters would be much smaller than they are now. Fire suppression piping systems account for a third to half of total hours that are worked in the local.”

Happy customers

Timothy is more than happy to work furthering the industry, but where he really shines is in building relationships with customers. He and his team are 100 percent dedicated to the satisfaction of customers, providing efficient work that improves the safety of buildings and the people inside them

Recent work includes a project at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one of most recognized structures in the United States. “We installed a high pressure mist system that operates at 2800 psi,” he recounts. “We were working 150 feet off the ground inside the attic of the cathedral. That building was constructed in the 1850s and it is a huge, beautiful, historic building. There is no elevator up to the 150-foot level, so everything had to be carried up the stairs.”

His crew also wrapped up work at the former MetLife World headquarters at 5 Madison Avenue. “The building is being converted to a Marriott Hotel,” Timothy says. “This was a challenging job because of the schedule and the temporary services required to be maintained during construction. There were a lot of challenges logistically in arranging those temporary services so the new interior could be fitted around that. Then there are always time constraints for municipal filings and approvals. Our work is more than just pipe; anybody can put in pipe. The nuances are in the paperwork and engineering, having everything installed in a timely fashion and ultimately improved.”

Another large project has been at the Tanger Arches, a shopping center in Deer Park, New York. Timothy’s crew was on an 18-month schedule. “This was a design-build project,” he notes. “Through one very cold winter, we continued to work along with other trades. This was a very unique situation the way that it was set up. The tenant spaces were not all developed when the initial job was designed, so after the sprinklers were installed we had to rearrange them to accommodate tenants as they came, in soon after the job was signed off by local municipalities. That also was on a very tight schedule.”

Excellence in operations

Customer satisfaction is the largest performance indicator for the company. Tim explains that all business decisions he makes are to support excellence in operations. He is focused on continuous improvement of efficiencies, which means performing most, if not all, work in-house and reinvesting in technology.

“The more efficient we can be in the field, the more competitive we can be as a business,” he elaborates. “That includes in-house fabrication, in-house engineering and operation that utilize the best technology available to us. This is something we have always done and we will continue to be on the leading edge.”

The company subcontracts very little. With three organizations under one roof, the group of small, privately owned companies can handle engineering, fabrication, installation, inspections, testing and maintenance for an array of systems. Looking ahead, these in-house assets will continue to work in ABCO’s favor. The company meets and exceeds industry standards of safety, efficiency and quality.

Over the coming years, ABCO is on a path of steady growth. As long as customers and end users are happy with a project and safe within their buildings, Timothy considers a project a success. “If I don’t get a phone call, people are happy,” he notes. “I get very few phone calls. Occasionally people will call or send a note to commend my team, but we are focused on getting the work done right and on time.”

With a high level of customer satisfaction, ABCO Peerless Sprinkler Corporation will continue to serve as a strong industry partner and leader in the New York fire safety equipment market.

Published on: July 1, 2015

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