Taking Technical Services to the Next Level
Windemuller provides advanced technical and design services throughout Michigan. The company was established in Grand Rapids in 1954, primarily as an electrical contractor. However, over the past sixty-two years, the company has grown to offer a comprehensive range of services.
Windemuller has an electrical construction division, which performs standard construction; a division for commercial and industrial institutional work; and a renewable energy projects division that works on wind farms and solar.
“We also have a technical services group that does communication-type work and sound systems, security cameras and access control, along with an automation group that works with computer coding and automated processes for municipalities and industrial customers,” says Vice President Jim Rose. Windemuller’s outdoor utilities group performs the high line work of primary voltage installations and substations. In addition, the company’s electrical services group is on constant standby for emergency calls.
Jim says that Windemuller is likely one of the only contractors in the nation that will design, engineer and construct the substation and the collection systems – and install everything from the tower bolts on the ground to the tower wiring. In-house design and engineering crews start with the customer’s concept and provide budgeting and value engineering to get the project approved.
“We work hard at maintaining relationships with the project owners to keep up with maintenance and upgrade as technology changes and advances. The on-staff engineering and design is fairly unique. Our client does not have to go to a third-party, outside engineering firm that really doesn’t have any skin in the game,” explains Jim.
“All of our divisions are handled under one umbrella. There are plenty of electrical, automation, communication and outdoor utility contractors, but not many have all of those divisions under one roof to really provide that turnkey service,” states Jim.
The MacArthur Lock was built in the 1950s and is one of a series of locks that permit ships to travel between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes. Windemuller was awarded a contract with the US Army Corp of Engineers to renovate the electrical and control system as part of a Homeland Security initiative. All departments of the company were involved in completing the project.
The Soo Locks electrical job was a nearly $8 million project, which is large for Windemuller, but the company was well-poised to handle the challenge. Windemuller completely removed the existing system to install a new one, provided all the controls and put in a new panel building and the human-machine interface. Security cameras and fiber optic cabling are also being installed. Once complete, the upgraded lock will operate more efficiently.
Windemuller is utilizing 3D point cloud processing, building information modeling (BIM) and pre-fabrication to streamline the installation process and reduce downtime on the lock.
“At Windemuller, we constantly seek challenges like the MacArthur Lock project to demonstrate the diverse capabilities that set us apart from our competition. Our people never cease to amaze me with their talents and ingenuity,” says Jim.
Windemuller also worked on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge that connects Michigan to Canada. Upgrades included security cameras, license plate recognition and other Homeland Security enhancements. This two-year contract will provide twenty jobs and have a significant local economic impact. The new system has an emphasis on operator safety and reducing vulnerability to terrorism or natural disasters.
In conjunction with Northwestern Michigan College, Jim chaired a committee, Building Tomorrow, that brought together Michigan Works! (state employment agency) with local high school students and their counselors. The group, consisting of electrical contractors, mechanical contractors, general contractors and excavating companies, wanted to encourage young people to consider the opportunities within the construction trades. The Building Tomorrow construction career event highlighted the types of programs, education and funding available.
“Engaging in a skilled trade is a very cost-effective way to get yourself into some real career-oriented jobs, with real pay and benefits consistent with a lot of traditional college degrees. It’s what guidance counselors and their parents should consider pushing their kids towards, and it’s a strong need. A skilled trade workforce is very hard to find, and we are working hard to educate schools, parents and students of the opportunities that exist today in that trade,” explains Jim.
MiCareer Quest is another Michigan Works! skilled trade career awareness and workforce development event with which Windemuller is involved. It will take place in April and will be held in the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids. MiCareerQuest offers employers and educational institutions the opportunity to connect with tomorrow’s workforce.
In an industry fraught with the potential for accidents, Windemuller takes safety seriously. The company’s efforts have been recognized with the Associated Builders & Contractors STEP Platinum award. The company’s average experience modification rate (EMR) has been .676 over the last five years.
Over the years, Windemuller expanded from one small office into seven locations throughout the state of Michigan. The team is now 235 employees strong. What began in Grand Rapids, soon stretched to Kalamazoo. In the early nineties, the company established a presence in Traverse City. Shortly after that, Windemuller started an office in Petoskey, followed by a location in Big Rapids, and two years ago, it purchased a company called Hovey Electric and put down roots in Midland.
“We do a lot of work with Dow Chemical and Dow Corning chemical plants over in the Midland area. We also do projects outside of Michigan, but are pretty focused here on our Michigan customer base. Sometimes our clients take us out of the state, but we do not have operations outside of Michigan,” says Jim.
When questioned about what the company would look like twenty years from now, he believes that Windemuller will eventually expand its reach outside of Michigan and into other states throughout the Midwest.
From sophisticated security systems for the government, to controls and automated processes for environmental cleanups or responding to emergencies on an industrial site, Windemuller is responsive and innovative. The company offers a 24-hour service department that’s available 365 days a year.
“We will continue to grow our technical services’ division. Our focus is much more on the technical side, with difficult projects that other companies might shy away from. So, we are putting an emphasis on technical services and service relationships – going more towards maintenance partnerships and less on the construction side of things,” explains Jim.