JPW Companies, which includes JPW Riggers, JPW Structural Contracting and JPW Erectors, is now celebrating its 65th year in business. Construction in Focus wrote about this ever-expanding entity in August of 2017, but a lot has changed in that short period. The Tompkins Financial Building is completed; a new website is operational; a sales and marketing department was added; and a series of challenging projects completed. We spoke with Co-owner, John Wozniczka and the new Director of Marketing and Sales, Julie August, to find out more.
The Tompkins Financial Building was an intricate undertaking for JPW Companies, but that type of work is its specialty. JPW worked on the structural and miscellaneous steel along with the staircases that were designed and fabricated in-house. JPW also had a glass railing put on the stairs. This job was erected in downtown Ithaca during the winter, making for a tight footprint on site.
“We needed special permits and weekends to set up the crane. We were unable to set up the crane on site and had to assemble it on the road before driving it to the destination. The site itself was too small,” says John.
The Rochester Airport was the most complex job ever undertaken by JPW. It involved a great deal of pipe structure, and the only straight part of the job involved the columns. Everything else was made of curves with compound radiuses of different diameters.
“It is super complicated. We did all the shop drawings in-house which went beyond the normal shop drawing process. As we were doing the fabrication, it required two to three people, full-time on the computer, making jigs and fixtures, just to be able to fit and layout what you drew on the computer,” says John. For the elaborate geometry, three full-time detailers were needed.
This year it gained a job with a new customer called Pall Corporation that sells pressure vessels and filtration systems all over the world. “Just by coincidence, they are forty-five minutes down the road. They do not build their own pressure vessels. They sublet the fabrication and supply the customer with a filtration system and sell the filters that go into these large vessels,” says John.
Pall Corporation gave JPW the concept, the rough size, and volume. JPW’s in-house professional and engineer take that information and apply three-dimensional modeling software. “We designed that vessel for the correct pressure along with all the nozzles and fittings. It is custom designed, and we work in conjunction with our customers who know volume and the number of filters needed for the vessel,” says John.
From there, Pall Corporation indicated that it needs to be designed for 1,500 PSI, and JPW took this information along with the temperature rating on the vessel and designed the thickness of the pipe, head, nozzles, and everything coming off the vessel. It made a final fabrication drawing of the vessel, got it to the corporation which submitted it to its customer for final approval.
“Once that is accomplished, we start fabrication. That job started in April of this year. They just gave us two more, so we are building eight in total, which should be completed in October,” says John.
For the Verizon Building in downtown Syracuse, JPW Erectors supplied and operated a 300-ton crawler crane with luffer for the job. It was a two-level building, with the first part reaching ten stories, with a six-story concrete tower. The tower needed repair as it was delaminating, and the concrete was falling apart.
It was decided that the building be demolished, and JPW worked in conjunction with local engineers and a demolition contractor to take down the tower. A section of the concrete stair might weigh 15.000 pounds, so an engineer had to calculate the volume and the weight before telling JPW and the demolition people where to put the concrete stairwell, which is hanging from a crane 250 feet in the air.
“They would pick every piece individually down. That job took more than six months, which was longer than expected, but there are very few jobs like that, so it was hard for them to estimate how long it would take to cut these concrete stairs as they were full of steel rebar, which slowed things down,” says John.
Once the tower came down, JPW still had to build a steel penthouse on top of the lower eight story building, where the concrete tower started. JPW went up to field measure and fabricate a small penthouse building before its erectors installed it.
“Most of our jobs are pretty complicated, and that’s what we look for. We can do the simple buildings efficiently as anybody, but typically we look for the most difficult projects to utilize the different talents we have here,” says John.
JPW is bidding on a job in its home town of Syracuse. Upstate University Hospital is putting in a ten-story addition which includes 3,000 tons of steel. The company bids at the beginning of August, and it will take three to four weeks before the contract is given out, but JPW has high hopes.
When John started, twenty years ago, JPW was making less than $1 million per year in fabrication and erection services. In 2018, it is on pace to bring in $25 million.
Everyone has issues with acquiring skilled labor, but as JPW grows, it is more competitive in the market with better benefits for its people. It works with local colleges, welding centers, and chapter meetings with the local American Welding Society (AWS) held in Syracuse.
“We are involved with that, so we can talk to the kids. We go to the colleges, the schools and typically get good interns into our shop. We hope that when they graduate, JPW will be a viable option as a career,” says John.
High school graduates can attend the Boards Of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) for a welding program. There is a six-month program at four days a week that is available for welding and there are also four to five, two-year colleges with degrees in welding and fabricating. Out of state, Lincoln Electric has a year-long program as does the Hobart Welding School in Ohio.
Julie and others at JPW worked hard to accomplish the new website. It was brought up-to-date as the company has added so many new services and features over the last ten to fifteen years, so the website needed updating badly. “It was a total revamping from scratch, making it more user-friendly for all of our different services and galleries, for the projects we’ve done. We are constantly adding to it,” says John.
JPW has a new marketing and sales department, which is now Julie’s domain. John and his brother Jody, who run the fabrication and steel erection part of the business, had never previously had a salesman. The company used to just send out quotes for different jobs and follow up on them. This is changing.
Part of the JPW Companies includes JPW Structural, which is its steel erection and fabrication division. There is also JPW Riggers, which does windmill work and maintenance all over the country, but mainly in the northeast for companies such as Siemens and General Electric.
“My father has cranes up to six hundred ton capacity, and they will change out generators, gear boxes, and blades on the windmills if they go bad or if lightning strikes. This week, they are doing one that caught on fire. The whole nacelle (machine head) burned, so you have to hire someone that knows how to hook on to this stuff,” says John.
There are 200,000 pounds of steel in the windmill that must be taken down carefully. John’s father does maintenance and new erections with Mortenson and other big contractors all over the country.
JPW has invested heavily in its business. John’s brother Jody does all his own trucking and oversized hauling and has some beautiful equipment: two-to-three-hundred-ton crawlers and Link-Belt 90-ton rough terrain hydraulic cranes, and tractor trailers.
“My dad’s guys are all Manitowoc-certified crane erectors. They went to school to learn how to assemble these huge cranes. They have 450 feet of boom in them and are monstrous when put together,” says John. JPW has also achieved its certificate from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
In the shop over the last two years, JPW has invested in a fully-automated structural beam line, which cuts, drills, and has a five-axis robotic torch on it. There is also a machine that does etching and layout. This machine puts out the layout line on the beams and pieces from the detailing software of the computers at JPW offices.
“Our water jet is fairly new and is a unique machine with the way it works and its size. We can cut many different materials, anything from paper to steel, granite, and gaskets. It’s just water with a small granular stone that comes out of a nozzle at 55,000 PSI and cuts anything in its path, very accurately,” says John.