Case Studies

Prime Electric Inc.

Continuously improving the electrical contracting experience from the Bay Area to the Pacific Northwest

Prime Electric Inc. (PRIME) is a premier union-affiliated electrical contractor located in the Puget Sound region in Bellevue, Washington. PRIME and its diverse operating groups strive to deliver superior electrical construction, design-build services, outside plant services and cutting-edge industry technology.

PRIME was founded in 1987 by three service electricians and their families, who sought out to build a service-oriented business grounded in the simple principle of customer service above all else. Before 2005 the company mainly provided western Washington with a small commercial service and special project focus.

Prime Electric Inc.

Shortly thereafter, the company was purchased by Eric Reichanadter, current president and CEO of PRIME, who changed the game. Reichanadter brought the company from a service-based contractor model to a division-specific, turnkey provider model, essentially changing the way PRIME does business.

Diversified operating groups

“When we purchased the small service business in 2007, we put in place an integrated business model and a performance-oriented culture, including high degrees of project tracking, by way of monthly job cost projections and variance analysis, all the way to individual project managers,” says Reichanadter. “We regularly examine how we’re doing things today and how we can do things differently tomorrow. This is a top-down thing, which is very powerful and has really led to our recent success.”

PRIME has grown significantly in the Pacific Northwest over the course of the last decade. The company now has more than 300 field employees and sales exceeding $130 million. PRIME no longer has just one small service group, but seven operating groups, four of which perform large project design-build electrical and design-assist contracts. The other three groups are specialty groups: service (commercial and electrical service), technology (low voltage, network services, fiber, structured cabling, security, audiovisual systems and more) and outside plant group (underground work, traffic signalization, ITS systems, variable speed signs). This diversification allows PRIME to cater to changing market demand and economic highs and lows.

“We regularly examine how we’re doing things today and how we can do things differently tomorrow. This is a top-down thing, which is very powerful and has really led to our recent success.”

– Eric Reichanadter, president and CEO of PRIME

The company’s experience spans many industries, including: aerospace, commercial office, high-rise office, municipal, education, institutional, hotel and hospitality, laboratory, medical, life sciences, retail and many more. Although no job is too big or too small, PRIME focuses on commercial clients and multimillion-dollar electrical projects.

A PRIME opportunity

PRIME is now taking things to the next level with the acquisition with AMS Electric from Dublin, California. Over the last decade, the Bay Area and the Puget Sound regions have become increasingly linked by commercial, high-tech and biotechnology firms. Together under the holding company, Prime Group Inc., PRIME and AMS can better serve this large customer base. “It is very difficult to go out and find a company that exhibits PRIME’s obsession with customer service and follow through. AMS clearly shares this passion and has built a very impressive customer following this past decade,” says Reichanadter. “PRIME is driven by a culture of ‘continuous improvement.’ We are always looking for ways to get better at what we do. AMS and its Bay Area clientele provide the opportunity for substantial economies of scale, which will allow us to reduce our costs in serving all of our clients.”

“Joining the PRIME Electric organization was a natural fit because our personnel, procedures and — most importantly — our cultures are so similar,” says Bill Breyton, CEO of AMS Electric. “Prime Electric will allow us to provide our customers the same premium service they have come to expect from us but on a much larger scale.”

Just-in-time technology

By adding AMS Electric, PRIME now has three offices: two in California and its headquarters outside of Seattle. With over 700 employees, many of whom are out in the field manning hundreds of ongoing projects, organization, communication and efficiency are essential to this massive juggling effort. “We have embraced technology to make us more efficient,” says Reichanadter.

Using Prime Logistics, a system that encompasses all steps from prefabrication to warehousing, purchasing to packaging and job site delivery, PRIME’s foremen and project managers are kept informed and up to date at all times. “Prime Logistics is a takeoff from LEAN construction methodology,” explains Reichanadter. “We have also developed a mobile app to track job progress. For example, it announces to a foreman when a truck is X miles from the job site so they can expect when and what materials are arriving. All of these tools are products of PRIME Logistics.”

PRIME is also continuously improving by leveraging programs such as BIM and REVET to create 3-D models and identical project scopes. With these tools in its arsenal, PRIME has tackled major projects such as the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium, the UC Berkeley Art Museum, Seattle Children’s Research Laboratories, and millions of square feet of design-build, integrated office space for technology players such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Satisfaction all around

For PRIME, customer and employee satisfaction are huge focal points. “We’re obsessed with making sure every customer is pleased with our work,” says Reichanadter. “It’s a small pond in construction, so this is important. This year, 90 percent of our revenue will come from return clientele.”

Not only is PRIME pro-customer, the company is also pro-employee, putting employee satisfaction and retention as a high priority. “We’ve grown a lot in recent years, yet our employee attrition rate is less than 2 percent,” says Reichanadter. “This is because we are very fair in terms of pay and we offer exceptional benefits, but most of all we’re not trying to be a corporation that makes people feel like a number. We do many things to take down these walls.” From bring your dog to work day to afternoon employee gatherings every few months, PRIME is invested in its team.

“We have the PRIME Wellness Program too, where we pay for our employee’s health club memberships,” says Reichanadter. “We’re proud to be identified as one of the Best Places to Work in the State of Washington, by the Puget Sound Business Journal, for nearly five years in a row.”

PRIME Electric Inc. continues to be a prime example of how growth can come fluidly and naturally, starting with a solid foundation of exceptional customer service and a leading electrical team.

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