Case Studies

SSM Industries Inc.

A leading mechanical contractor and emerging nuclear specialist

Founded in 1989, SSM Industries Inc. is a full-service mechanical contractor, delivering a range of services to institutional, health care, industrial and nuclear power clients from its headquarters in Pittsburgh.

SSM’s services run the gamut from HVAC, plumbing and refrigeration to process piping, design-build, fabrication and repair services. Working in a range of materials including carbon, galvanized and stainless steel as well as aluminum and PVC, SSM offers a complete suite of CAD drafting and 3-D coordination services, including fabrication and installation for all types of air systems.

The company has applied its range of skills on a variety of projects throughout the years, including correctional facilities, office buildings, food processing clients such condiment giant H.J. Heinz, big name projects such as the 58-story Comcast Center building in Philadelphia and Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.SSM Industries Inc.

In addition to its 150,000-square-foot headquarters outside of Pittsburgh, SSM has offices in Latrobe and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as well as a full sheet metal division at its West Deptford, New Jersey, location, allowing the company to quickly and efficiently serve clients in 23 states. In addition to its work domestically, SSM has supplied specialty materials to projects throughout Europe and Asia.

“We’re pretty diverse in the fact that we cover a lot of markets. We extend into Maryland and West Virginia, but most of the work we do is in the Philadelphia market,” says Jay Davis, operations manager at SSM.

While SSM’s niche is evenly divided between HVAC, plumbing and commercial industrial work, the nuclear power market is presenting a promising expanded opportunity for the company. “The nuclear industry in U.S. has been pretty stagnant for 30 years, but they just recently licensed four new reactors, so our base is growing,” says Davis. “There seems to be a push to grow the nuclear industry in the U.S. along with Europe, which has pretty big growth plans for nuclear.”

Part of SSM’s nuclear strategy is to team with major equipment suppliers such as our 10 year relationship with New York Blower Fan Company to further expand SSM’s presence within the nuclear power industry in the US and overseas.

Fission for new opportunities

SSM started out in 1961 as a Schneider Sheet Metal, a subsidiary of Schneider Group of Companies — at one time the country’s largest mechanical contractor. When the Schneider Group ran into financial trouble in the ‘80s and started selling off assets, Tom Szymczak and a couple partners bought the sheet metal company and renamed it SSM Industries.

The company expanded its geographical footprint in the early ‘90s when it purchased a Philadelphia metalworking company, expanding SSM’s reach and giving it an entrée into the Philadelphia market. Under the Schneider name, SSM had done a lot of nuclear power HVAC work and it continued to grow that aspect of the business in 1994 with the purchase of Chicagobased firm Press Power.

“They were doing a lot of work for South Korea, so we bought them and took over their contracts with South Korean nuclear plants,” says Szymczak, president and CEO of SSM. The company further expanded its mechanical contracting capabilities in 2002 with the purchase of Bryan Mechanical Inc. and now employs 300 across its sheet metal, mechanical, power and spiral HVAC divisions.

While SSM found early success in the health care and pharmaceutical markets, the latter started to dry up in the last decade as big pharmaceutical companies continue to merge. “That market has dropped off substantially, but the industrial and power sectors are definitely growing,” says Szymczak.

As the company continues to grow, Szymczak sees great promise in the nuclear power side of the business. “That could be substantial for us because we’re one of the few contractors who are fully audited by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” he says.

At the moment SSM’s premier nuclear power project is the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Waynesboro, Georgia. Located on the Savannah River 30 miles outside of Augusta, Georgia, the Vogtle plant is adding two new reactors to complement the existing two built in the late ‘80s. Construction began on the Westinghouse-designed, 1250-megawatt Vogtle-3 and Vogtle-4 reactor in 2013 with Vogtle-3 slated for completion in late 2018/early 2019.

Other notable projects completed by SSM include HVAC work on the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, a 59-story, $1.2 billion skyscraper in the heart of Philadelphia that will serve as the headquarters for media giant Comcast. At 1,121 feet, the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center will be the eighth-tallest building in the Western Hemisphere when it is completed in 2018.

Steeling the spotlight

While marquee projects like nuclear power plants and skyscrapers help raise the company’s profile, SSM completes work on a diverse slate of projects outside of the power and industrial sectors, including a U.S. Army chemical defense lab in Fredrick-Aberdeen, Maryland, the Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Farmington, Pennsylvania, Norfolk Southern Railway’s energy infrastructure upgrades in Altoona, Pennsylvania, The Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory, General Electric Aviation additive manufacturing facility and many projects at the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The company also recently worked on a renovation to Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field — home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers — that saw the addition of North End Zone, which included five luxury boxes and 3,000 addition seats. The multimillion-dollar project took six months to complete, but SSM was committed to its customer and used all of its resources to ensure that everything was on schedule in time for kickoff.

While SSM self-performs a majority of its work, the company does sub out insulation, automatic temperature controls and balancing work to a network of trusted subcontractors.

Labor and equipment represent a majority of the cost at SSM and as the industry continues to emerge from the recession, profits are still hard to come by. “A lot of companies had to go deep into their financial backup and a lot are still coming out of that,” says Davis. “We are desperate for work so the pricing is extremely competitive right now.”

While more projects have started to pop up, they’re still not as lucrative as they were pre-recession. “There was very little work with no margins and we’re starting to grow with some more work now, but the margins are still pretty skinny,” Davis says.

SSM was able to survive the recession thanks to its diverse slate of offerings, moving into new areas or industries when work dried up to keep the company healthy through the economic downturn. “Western Pennsylvania might be slow, but the work on the East Coast might be picking up, so we kind of move around with the opportunities,” says Davis.

As the construction market emerges from a prolonged slump and nuclear power projects pick up at a rate not seen in 30 years, SSM Industries Inc. is poised to capture new market opportunities while reaming a leader in full-service mechanical contracting for clients across Pennsylvania and the East Coast.

Published on: June 23, 2016


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