Visionary Leadership, Exceptional Construction

KCS West
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Ranked among the top contractors in the U.S., built from the same foundation as Kajima Corporation, a company that has stood the test of time, is KCS West. KCS West is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kajima and has benefited from its parent company’s 175 plus years of experience, replicating its culture of quality while establishing a reputation of its own as an industry leader.
“The core values of quality are very deep rooted within the Kajima Group of Companies, so that focus on quality comes all the way from Japan,” explained Rob Stein, Vice President and Operations Manager for KCS West.

KCS West has maintained a presence in the U.S. market since 1961. Initially founded to support Kajima’s Japanese customers’ U.S. operations, KCS West now services a number of repeat clients in the commercial, hospitality, entertainment and recreational, healthcare, mission critical, cultural and religious, retail/mixed-use, residential, and industrial sectors.

“We have a specialized group of people that does hotels. We have a specialized group of people that does industrial manufacturing. We are also very familiar with commercial, industrial and residential, which is mainly mid-rise and high-rise residential,” shared President Elmond Wan of KCS West’s capabilities. KCS West has also found a niche undertaking high-profile post-production projects in Hollywood.

“One of the things that KCS West excels in and prides itself in is its preconstruction services. From the conceptual estimate through the guaranteed maximum price contract, oftentimes we are deadly accurate in our estimating and our scheduling services,” noted Stein.

This sentiment was reiterated by Wan who explained, “We get subcontractors involved during the various phases of design and construction and we make it a point that the operation manager and myself, as President, will review every one of the guaranteed maximum firm prices during preconstruction, before the price goes out,” a source of pride for the company.

“To me,” Wan continued, “If we spend time on the guaranteed maximum price in preconstruction, I would say 75 to 80 percent of the problems in a job are eliminated. You of course have that 20 percent that will still be challenged by unknown situations.” He provided a recent example where KCS West finished a project under budget and returned money to the client upon completion.

KCS West remains highly client-focused and in doing so truly understands its clients’ needs and project requirements, thus being able to deliver each and every time, developing strong, repeat relationships in the process.

KCS West offers a diverse range of services for a number of market sectors and has the capacity to take on the most complex projects. From remarkable high-rise residential to high-tech manufacturing and highly complex post-production facilities, the firm’s services are nationally renowned and globally respected.

The company provides exceptional general construction, design-build, and construction management solutions for its clients. Whether traditional construction methods are used or design-build services have been selected, KCS West communicates with all project stakeholders throughout all stages of a project, from planning, estimating, logistics, and scheduling, to project management.

KCS West ensures that every project shares the same construction fundamentals, chiefly: cost, schedule and quality control; subcontractor management; safety; and effective communication. There are a number of projects in the company’s portfolio that exemplify its commitment to these fundamentals.

KCS West’s residential work is showcased in the Watermarke, a luxury high-rise apartment located in downtown Los Angeles. This 35-story, 300,000 square foot boutique tower is located in the popular South Park district and boasts 214 units, a fitness center, a pool, a lounge, a game room, 6 800 square feet of retail space and a six-story parking garage.

In 2014, the Watermarke was sold for a record-setting $160.5 million which proves that KCS West helps build value for its clients. The same can be said about the work the firm does in the hospitality sector, such as the Embassy Suites project in Glendale, California.

Contracted for its general construction services on the 12-story, 272-room hotel, KCS West completed the 264,829 square foot building and its nearly 150,000 square foot underground parking structure to spec. The hotel also features a 12-storey atrium, waterfall and pond – an exquisite centerpiece in an exceptional build.

An example of the company’s work which truly proves the team’s ability to satisfy even the most complex of projects is the Whittier College Science and Learning Center. This project required the renovation, seismic strengthening, and replacement of wall components, as well as MEP systems. The project included a lobby and learning hub, rooftop terrace learning deck, teaching and research wet and dry laboratories, classrooms, offices, and study spaces.

KCS West wants to be a single source for development, design and construction for its clients and as evidenced in its portfolio, the team delivers on quality and expertise. Key to its success has been the development of longstanding industry relationships with clients and the extensive knowledge and experience that is contained within its ranks, major points of differentiation for the firm.

The culture at KCS West is also infused with Japanese tradition and it is clear in the mutual respect KCS West pays to its clients and its employees alike. The company prides itself on the creation of a positive work culture, serving as a stable place of employment for many employees who are attracted to the exciting projects that KCS West undertakes.

When asked about the work culture, Stein responded, “We have people who have been with the company 35 years and that’s not unusual… I’m trying to figure out how to put into words what we take for granted every day. There is definitely a family culture even though, ultimately, we are part of a worldwide corporation.”

KCS West is currently undergoing what Wan refers to as a generation change where, “many of our experienced people in the next five to ten years are in the retirement range so in order for us to really train the next generation, it’s the young people that come into KCS West that have a great opportunity versus other large companies where it might take them longer to move up in the company.

“How do we bring in the young, next level of people so that we can train them to take over the next wave of success?” he asked. “We are looking particularly for young people who are energetic, people who are primed for growth, perhaps people who feel stuck at another company. I am looking for those people who want to grow and who are looking to be part of the leadership team.”

Another major impetus of KCS West’s efforts to be an employer of choice is its emphasis on safety. The company puts safety first and in doing so has established an outstanding safety program, reflected in its industry-leading safety records.

Both Wan and Stein credit the people at KCS West and their role in driving quality and safety. As Stein said, “KCS West is fortunate to have a large core of long term employees.” He also noted, “The senior level management, the project executives, senior project managers, they are all responsible for driving quality down through the KCS West staff and upholding it with the subcontractors on site.” He added, “We have quality control managers for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and we have national resources to help with that.”

KCS West’s management team receives mandatory OSHA, first aid and CPR, trenching and excavating, scaffolds, fall protection, and confined spaces training. Wan and the leadership team at KCS West continue to identify, “What is the best way to serve our client? And we are very open to technology, suggestions, recommendations that we can implement.”

In this regard, KCS West benefits greatly from its parent company, Kajima Corporation, and its longevity, expertise and expansive resources. Kajima is undertaking a great deal of research and development related to improved materials and processes that KCS West can leverage for its advantage.

“We have national and international symposiums discussing new techniques and quality measures for construction practices. Kajima Corp. in Tokyo has a research and development complex,” said Stein. “Five buildings of labs and science research just for developing new products and methods for the construction industry. So that technology is shared with all the sister companies around the world.”

KCS West continues to embrace new technologies, such as BIM (Building Information Modeling), to improve its output. “BIM is a very common tool now,” Stein noted. “Ten years ago it was considered cutting edge or new technology and now it has become the norm on complex projects.” Given that KCS West only undertakes projects of complexity, the adoption and integration of technology and innovation is key to its future success.

The Stratford Business Park is another project that exemplifies KCS West’s innovative approach to materials and construction methods. This 1,100,000 square foot facility incorporated a new concrete for the slab that had never before been used in Southern California. “We were the first company to install that product on a major warehouse and ultimately it was one of the deciding factors for Home Depot to lease that space as part of their distribution centers,” explained Stein. “We’re not afraid to take a risk – a studied risk – on new products, and it’s going to advance our position in the market and sell to our clients.”

By treating construction as a service, not a commodity, KCS West continues to serve as a trusted partner on projects, bringing the necessary resources, technical skills, knowledge, experience and financial stability to the table to help visions become reality.



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