Case Studies

Wiginton Corporation

Piping solutions to fires
  • Written by: Faye Michaels
  • Produced by: Wiginton Corporation
  • Estimated reading time: 7 mins

Wiginton Corporation (Wiginton), formerly known as Wiginton Fire Sprinklers Inc., was founded in Orlando by Joe Wiginton in 1967 and has been a family-run business since its conception.

Wiginton is now transitioning from a closely held family business to a sophisticated employee-owned, multi-faceted corporation. Wiginton is currently headed by Joe’s two sons, Don Wiginton, chairman and CEO, as well as Alan Wiginton, president. The company is in the process of a leadership transition to a third generation of home grown leaders.

Mark Erickson, current executive vice president and COO, is already running all the day to day operations of the company and will assume the presidency in January 2015. Don and Alan have done a remarkable job honoring their father and building Wiginton on the strong foundation Joe created.

The company has more than tripled in revenues since Don and Alan took the helm in 1990; Wiginton has expanded its reach from Florida to the entire continental United States. Don and Alan both grew up in the business and were thrust into leadership roles at the young ages of 30 and 27, respectively, when a large group of the company’s previous leaders left to start two separate competing companies.

Today, Wiginton is one of the most respected and capable integrated fire systems service providers in the United States. There is no doubt in either Don or Alan’s mind that the company that bears their name will continue to grow and thrive under Mark and his team in the years to come.

Currently, Wiginton prosecutes $70 million in annual revenue and employs a team of 360 highly skilled and trained engineers, distributors, installers and service technicians. As a 100 percent employee-owned company, embodying an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) since 2007, Wiginton has built a strong bond of loyalty and quality that is evident with the longevity and expertise reflected in its team. Fully licensed and insured throughout the United States, Wiginton is one of the nation’s safest contractors, with an Experience Modifier Rating (EMR) of 0.77, catering to discerning owners, engineers, contractors and property managers.

“You can’t have a great company without good people who feel trusted and cared for,” Don says. “I am proud to be a part of Wiginton, not just because we provide excellent service and quality products, but because we never fail to do the right thing and actually walk the talk of our stated core values. Dedication: we never fail to be team players and do what must be done. Integrity: we never miss a commitment or fail to tell the whole truth. Quality: we never release sub-standard work or represent ourselves poorly. Innovation: we never fail to find the best way to do things in order to win.”

Storage solutions to problems and good feelings

Wiginton recognizes that customers buy only two things: solutions to problems and good feelings, which is why Wiginton offers a number of storage solutions for industrial, commercial, multifamily and special hazards clients. With a focus on warehousing, industrial and low temp storage, Wiginton knows it cannot be all things to all people.

“So, we focus on what we can be the best in the world at and has established itself as a leader in its market and continue to offer specialty solutions for a very specific range of businesses,” Don details. “However, that doesn’t mean we are incapable of learning new things and expanding that range.”

In 1999, Wiginton began developing additional capabilities in fire alarms, fire extinguishers, pre-engineered systems, non-water based suppression, backflow prevention testing and emergency lighting testing. “We’ve been in the fire protection business for 47 years,” Don says. “In the beginning, we designed, serviced, inspected, tested and maintained fire sprinkler systems, and we’re very good at that. But our customers wanted us to take care of more things related to their fire protection, because that just made sense and reduced their management costs.”

Wiginton took on the challenge 14 years ago and has cross-trained its supertechs to inspect, test and maintain all these various disciplines under one contract and one invoice – putting the company at the forefront of piping solutions to our clients fires.

The company has recently been in the forefront of bringing a very innovative solution to the United States’ market that employs the concept of reducing oxygen as a percentage of a cold storage warehouse’s atmospheric environment. By increasing the nitrogen through nitrogen generators and ducting it into a controlled space, oxygen as a percentage of the atmosphere is reduced and maintained to a predetermined, precise level, thus making the environment safe for humans to occupy but impossible for fire to exist due to simple physics and physiology.

“This concept is particularly interesting to companies who use automated storage and retrieval systems,” details Don. “We are keeping our eye on this new technology and will continue to move carefully toward applying it whenever our customers and our engineers are convinced it is the best solution available.”

Serving Florida and beyond

With nine service locations across Florida, including headquarters in Sanford and offices in Atlanta, Charlotte and Houston, complimented with a group of special forces dedicated to traveling wherever, Wiginton is able to successfully serve clients in an ever expanding footprint, as each office possess the combined ability to design, install and service fire protection systems. “Having offices and qualified workers across the country make it possible for us to provide the best service in the industry,” Mark details.

In addition to service locations, Wiginton operates a fabrication and distribution business serving fire sprinkler contractors who typically do not compete with Wiginton, as well as mechanical contractors who install chilled water piping systems and other mechanical piping. This team stocklists, fabricates, assembles and ships fire protection systems and mechanical piping systems and components throughout the United States and even as far as South America and the Caribbean Islands. Operating its own fire sprinkler fabrication plant enables the company to keep manufacturing costs down while maintaining a consistent flow of products to every project.

The company’s outlook for future growth is promising. “Our backlog is at record highs,” Alan notes. “We’re going to continue expanding throughout the country, one market at a time, and we’re looking to build more locations using the hub and spoke business model that has proven successful and effective, thus far, in serving our clients best.”

Not only does Wiginton attribute its success in keeping projects on time and within budget restraints to its comprehensive network of strategic geographic locations, but also to the company’s experienced team’s attitude and ownership mentality, made real through 100 percent employee ownership.

“When you deal with a Wiginton associate, you’re always dealing with an owner,” Don explains. “Every one of our branch managers started out in the trenches, mostly as pipe fitters. Many of our employees have worked their entire careers with us and it makes us proud to have such qualified individuals on our team. They make it easy to provide outrageous service and quality to our clients on every project. These realities of the Wiginton way are few and far between among our competitors.”

With a dedicated team for its national division, Wiginton has cultivated an impressive portfolio of specialized storage clients and projects across the country. The company has completed low temperature storage for a variety of large grocery chains, food distributors and public refrigerated warehouses, such as Publix Supermarkets, Whole Foods, Sysco, United States Cold Storage and Preferred Freezer Services; dry storage for USPS and General Mills, and most, if not all, major industrial REITS, such as East Group, ProLogis, Liberty Properties, Panatoni, all operating in Florida and the southeast; retail storage for Mercedes and Lexus; and outfitted parking garages across Florida.

One of Wiginton’s largest projects to date is the ground-up building of an expansive distribution facility in Lakeland, Fla., for multi-billion dollar online retail store Amazon. “At 1 million square feet of storage space, the building is just shy of 23 acres,” Don continues. “After four short months on the job, we’re wrapping up now. It will be an impressive building.”

Industry stewardship

Wiginton has always dedicated itself to the industry and its clients. Wiginton has a history of extensive involvement in all the major industry associations responsible for keeping the codes and standards current, making the industry better for all the various stakeholders.

Furthermore, the company holds seats of leadership within the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) and the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA). Wiginton also has a strong standing and national reputation with all the fire sprinkler manufacturers, such as Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Company, Viking Corporation, Victaulic and Tyco Fire Products. As a matter of fact, Wiginton has been acknowledged by Tyco Fire Products as one of its top licensees of the company’s Quell ceiling only, performance based fire sprinkler technology.

With 30 years of experience in cold storage and a committee membership on the codes and standards committee of the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses, Wiginton Corporation is among a very select few with the experience and where with all to serve a niche as diverse and complicated as the high piled storage market.

Published on: April 2, 2015

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