Case Studies

ModernControls Inc.: Diversified Control Services

  • Written by: ModernControls Inc.: Diversified Control Services
  • Produced by: ModernControls Inc.: Diversified Control Services
  • Estimated reading time: 4 mins

ModernControls Inc. (MCI) is an industry leader in full-service building automation, as well as HVAC installation and maintenance. Michael Peet and Dwight Porter founded the company in 1989 with two service vans that were purchased with the proceeds from the first job they completed. In 1991 MCI became an Authorized Building Control Services representative for Johnson Controls, and has been growing ever since.

MCI currently employs over 70 people. “We’re in constant growth mode,” says Bill Schatzman, vice president of MCI. The company has over 50 service vehicles in the fleet, housed in a facility with broad capabilities. Professionals in the shop and in the field include programmers, service technicians, installers, plumbers, pipe welders and sheet metal workers. Between office staff and technicians, MCI has built a business around full-service control work, from materials acquisition to design, installation and maintenance. Retro-commissioning is a big part of MCI’s business, as new energy-saving algorithms are being created.

Schatzman joined the team in 1996. “I came on as a service technician,” he recalls. When Porter retired in 1998 and Peet became the sole owner, Schatzman moved from the field to the office. He took over the service and mechanical departments, bringing with him a push to diversify the company’s services. “We shifted the focus to what the company does well and determined where we were headed from a growth standpoint,” explains Schatzman, as he wanted to align the company’s growth with customer needs.

Relationships Built on Reputation

MCI has taken an approach to business that is supported by good communication between the company and the clients, the contractors it works for as well as its own subcontractors. “We’ve had so much control work lately that we can’t do it all ourselves,” Schatzman explains, although MCI self-performs in the neighborhood of 85 percent of labor. “We talk to our customers; we listen to their needs and expectations.” The team at MCI takes the time to understand each customer’s goals, both on-site and as a business. “We work the same way with our subs,” says Schatzman.

This has allowed the company to build a strong network of the industry’s most reliable subcontractors. Additionally MCI prefers to work with companies with which the team has established longstanding relationships. “We know their work, and we take the initiative to work with them toward their expectations for the future of their businesses,” says Schatzman. “Some of our subs have a dozen guys on staff, and that’s the size they plan to stay for the next 20 years. We work with other companies, maybe the same size, who want to be our size in the next 20 years.”

MCI is known for its ability to complete complex, unique projects with safety, ingenuity and efficiency. These traits allow the team to stand ahead of the competition in MCI’s ability to cover a broad range of work, as each employee holds decades of experience. In addition, MCI’s facilities incorporate a team approach to specialized fabrication and systems design enhancing the team’s reach.

According to Aaron Hanlon, project manager at MCI, the company doesn’t have a niche; rather, it focuses on diversity. “Sometimes our advantage is the ability to handle certain control aspects,” Hanlon explains. “Sometimes it’s our custom sheet metal shop, where we can build that one crazy fitting that someone else can’t because they don’t have the equipment or the experience.”

The company’s service department embodies the same diversity and adaptability as its manufacturing and installation divisions. “We’ve got world-class large tonnage chiller technicians here,” says Hanlon. “We’ve got refrigeration technicians. We have trained professionals with the background to service just about everything related to the HVAC industry.”

Limitless Options

Over the years MCI has built a vast portfolio of complex projects. Most of the company’s business since the construction slump has been through its service division; however, Schatzman and his team have picked up some interesting projects with large price tags. The business travels all over the Mid-Atlantic region to perform projects and service to systems and equipment.

The team is performing an installation for an environmental service company at the State Office Building in Delaware. MCI technicians will be replacing the digital controllers for 650 heat pumps, as well as adding isolation valves for the units. The installation also includes controls for 11 core units and replacement of the complete building automation system. MCI worked cooperatively with the energy service contractor, which had never performed a project with such a vast amount of control work before. The building is remaining occupied throughout the project, bringing additional challenges.

MCI completed another complex project at a specialty polymers company with a U.S. plant in New Jersey. The project aimed to increase the indoor air quality through repairing existing exhaust systems and building additional exhausts. ModernControls is NEEB- and TABB-certified in air and water balancing, which gave the team the ability to certify the results at every step of the process. The project presented several safety hazards, all of which were dealt with through a little ingenuity.

“We were working in a location that required full face respirators in 95-degree temperatures,” explains Schatzman. While dealing with extreme technician discomfort, MCI worked diligently to adhere to the safety standards of both the controls industry and those set by the client. The project required intense training for all technicians and was completed within the customers requested time constraint despite obstacles like limited lighting and occasional power outages.

Peet and his team are innovators, always expanding to better serve clients. The team believes there is always room for improvement. “The reason we have grown is because of our excellent service and customer satisfaction,” Peet explains. “There’s still a lot of potential for growth in our area.”

MCI is chasing those opportunities and has averaged 15-percent annual growth per year over the last decade. ModernControls Inc. has produced many repeat customers, ready to follow an expansion of services into the next generation.

Published on: March 16, 2013

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