Case Studies

Electric Construction Inc.

Electrical design, contracting and consulting in Dane County, Wisconsin

Established in 1969, Electric Construction Inc. (ECI) is a design-build electrical contractor based in Madison, Wis. With 45 years of experience in the industry, ECI offers turnkey electrical solutions to a range of commercial and municipal customers. ECI employs approximately 50 people, using exclusively union labor. The skilled team includes engineers, project managers and master electricians in addition to a small administrative staff.

Rob Rudolf, a project engineer for ECI, also heads the electrical design department. Rudolf has worked for ECI since 1995 while attending University of Wisconsin Madison. “My dad was an electrical contractor in the Milwaukee area,” Rudolf recounts. “I came to Madison to go to college and started working at ECI to pay my way through school. I like problem-solving and in electrical contracting, every day is solving a new problem. Whether that’s a financial, accounting, workforce or engineering problem, every day requires a new solution.”

Rudolf works alongside a strong management team, including Joseph Robertson, president of ECI; Rodney Howard, head of estimating; and Terrance Doyle, ECI’s service department manager.

“Joe has done a lot to grow this company,” Rudolf explains. “He has brought the business to where it is today by seeking out talent and rewarding hard work. Joe has worked closely with every member of the management staff, providing training and promoting leadership by example. He has hand-picked every officer in the business.”

Every member of the executive team is involved in project management and estimating. Howard handles most of the company’s larger contract projects; he also serves on the National Electrical Contractors Association’s (NECA) apprenticeship and labor management committees. Doyle manages contract projects and workflow on the service end of the business. This high level of manager involvement keeps projects on track while maintaining strong standards of quality.

Always something new

After nearly two decades with the company, Rudolf has worked on a diverse portfolio of projects. Customers rely on ECI for cost- and time-efficient projects through design-build and bid-spec processes. The team’s ability to perform complex contracts well and within schedule has allowed ECI to establish strong relationships with many repeat clients.

ECI works primarily within Dane County, Wis. Clients include commercial retail establishments, such as grocery stores, car dealerships and strip malls, municipal locales, such as airports, as well as institutional customers, such as local schools and universities. Rudolf and his team enjoy the rush of taking on a new project, problem-solving through challenges and admiring a job well done.

Recent work includes electrical contracting for Dupont Danisco, a global food processing company. The team has performed many projects for the company over the last 25 years, including plant upgrades and all of the electrical components for a new facility. The crew also works frequently with the Dane County Airport and most recently performed electrical installation for the airport’s parking ramp expansion and LED lighting upgrade.

ECI has also performed several contracts for the University of Wisconsin, including work on Dejope Hall, a 408-bed residence hall completed in 2012. In addition to providing student housing, Dejope Hall includes eight dining venues for all the Lakeshore dorm residents. The company also took on a second phase of the project, which wrapped up in 2013.

“3-D modeling was a crucial part of the building process,” details Rudolf. “All MEP systems were coordinated in the model using NavisWorks and reworked to avoid clashes. We used a Trimble robotic total station to locate light fixtures, junction boxes, set anchors and slab feeds. Without this technology, it would have been nearly impossible to complete the project according to the schedule.”

Green building technology and sustainable design are a part of nearly every project ECI takes on. Lake Mills Market was completed in 2014 with a commitment to energy efficiency and reduced maintenance. The lighting installed achieves a 50 percent reduction in energy from the current energy code. High performance T8 fluorescent luminaires coupled with LED display lighting, customer sensing controls and LED illuminated signage saves over $12,000 per year in energy cost.

“Our clients come to us for efficient and attractive lighting designs that incorporate proven technology,” Rudolf remarks. “The products installed use lamps that should not need maintenance for over 10 years. Lake Mills Market saves enough energy on lighting alone to power 15 homes per year.”

Strong relationships

The team at ECI has proven time and again to be capable and efficient in the face of daunting electrical construction projects. A reputation for quality keeps customers coming back, though Rudolf says the business did not get to where it is today without some help.

The union provides support and training for skilled electricians, while membership in NECA’s Wisconsin Chapter of has helped the crew build up skills and strategic partnerships while providing the industry with legislative representation.

“NECA gives us access to a skilled workforce,” Rudolf says. “We are able to take on more labor when we need it without having to go through an interview process. We know we will be hiring skilled, experienced professionals. Between NECA and the unions, we have been able to really work on business development in our region. Our resources help us negotiate better contracts.”

Furthermore, NECA also offers community. “For the most part, we are all friendly competitors,” Rudolf says of his fellow members.

Rudolf notes that the expansion of Construction Wireman and Construction Electrician (CW/CE) classifications has strengthened ECI’s ability to compete in the marketplace. “The CW/CE program allows us to gain an advantage over our competitors that consistently use less skilled, lower paid workers,” he details. “This has been one of our biggest struggles, especially in the wake of the economic downturn.”

Growth ahead

Relationships with members, educational opportunities and community engagement have all helped all NECA members maintain stability throughout the recession. Now, Rudolf and his team are looking forward to growth. “We are really excited to see the private sector picking up,” he explains. “I hope that with the investments we made in tech using the Trimble unit and embracing building information modeling will position us for better, more difficult projects. There are other similar-sized contractors that do not have the tools we do. We are excited to be able to tackle more complicated work; those types of jobs bring a lot of satisfaction.”

As the company moves forward, Rudolf has a lot of faith in his team. “We have employees who have been with us for a long time,” he says. “Around half of our staff has been with us for 10 years or more. Our bottom line is important, but our biggest point of pride is our team. Their dedication to our company says a lot about how we operate and we want to keep these professionals around. We strive to keep our employees engaged with challenging work and reward them accordingly.”

With a team that thrives on a good challenge, Rudolf is looking forward to what the improving market has in store for his crew. Looking forward, the company will continue to take on new, complex projects with the tools and personnel to excel. In the coming years, Electric Construction Inc. will continue to chase after new and exciting projects throughout Dane County and beyond.

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