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SafwayAtlantic by BrandSafway Chicago poised to build powerful customer solutions
When it comes to the scope and scale of work access as well as forming, shoring and related specialty solutions, few companies—if any—have the inventory of products or the depth of expertise of BrandSafway across the global commercial, infrastructure and industrial markets. At the same time, however, each individual BrandSafway location emphasizes locally based skilled labor and product management teams, delivering the safest and highest level of customer service.
“Each of our locations is focused on doing whatever it takes to deliver excellence to our customers—in safety, products, services and total solutions,” says Bill Hayes, CEO and President of BrandSafway. “Chicago is a perfect example. The Chicago metro team provides outstanding service, expertise and custom solutions, engineered for the unique challenges of each project.”
The Chicago operation is one of the largest in the company, with one of the most comprehensive offerings of services and solutions, from ground-based scaffolding to mast climbers, swing stages, custom hoisting systems and permanent building maintenance products. And now operating from a new and larger location, the Chicago team is building further on its reputation by helping customers find the safest and most efficient solutions for the most complex challenges.
“The idea was to bring everyone—our Chicago-area SafwayAtlantic team, Spider by BrandSafway, and Aluma Systems by BrandSafway—together under one roof,” says Mike Gibbs, Branch Manager, SafwayAtlantic by BrandSafway Chicago. “This way, our customers can work with one knowledgeable, integrated powerhouse team of local experts that is always ‘At Work For You,’ with the most extensive product line in the industry.”
The new facility, located at 5000 S. Homan Ave., is home to all Chicago-based sales staff, engineers, project managers, field supervisors and skilled laborers as well as the entire line of products and services. Closer to the city, it’s both more convenient and significantly larger at 70,000 square feet with a four-acre yard (four times the size of the previous location). The site also includes a designated product demonstration area for customers, and plenty of room for training and testing products.
“From this new consolidated location, we’ve created a more collaborative, synergistic environment to share knowledge and expertise about our extensive line of products,” Gibbs says. “Now, we’re able to work side-by-side, sharing experiences and best practices. We’re more than ready to solve the next generation of challenges for Chicago-area clients.”
One of the catalysts for BrandSafway Chicago’s growth in products and services was the merger of Brand Energy and Infrastructure Services (BEIS) and Safway Group (Safway) to form BrandSafway in 2017. Gibbs, the former Area Director of Business Development for SafeWorks, LLC, transferred to Chicago following the merger and was charged with setting a new course for the Chicago operation.
He and his team have accomplished that goal—and then some. “We have a full array of motorized solutions, managed by Tony Blokel, and backed by the most advanced engineering capabilities you can find in this business,” Gibbs says. “This allows us to design the optimal solution for each customer. We help them safely improve productivity to save time and money.”
He points to Spider, the industry’s leader in powered suspended access solutions, as an example. Other powered solutions offered by BrandSafway include SafCar Personnel Hoists, available in various configurations for high-rise access, SafTran Transport Platforms, ideal for projects up to 500 feet, and the SafRise Climber for safer and more efficient building facade work. Together with proprietary products, like the QuikDeck Suspended Access System, HAKI weather protection and trusses, and edge protection and forming and shoring solutions provided through Chuck Ealy, Sales Representative for Aluma Systems, BrandSafway has the largest inventory in the business.
“Chicago is an important market for BrandSafway,” says Art Eunson, President of BrandSafway Services. “We are making the necessary investment to provide our Chicago customers with the full range of access solutions and services.”
This broadened array of options has led to significant growth for the Chicago operation. In 2018, BrandSafway Chicago more than doubled its annual revenue and is working on some of the most high-profile jobs in the area. “It’s an exciting time for us,” Gibbs notes. “We look forward to working with contractors throughout Chicagoland.” Workforce Adjustment
Along with an increase in demand for powered solutions has come a need for a workforce adjustment. In the past, BrandSafway was largely focused on supplying scaffolding in the Chicago market. With the use of more powered and specialized products that deliver more time and cost efficiency to contractors, SafwayAtlantic by BrandSafway Chicago’s 200-plus workforce needed a modified skillset. Some were worried less labor would be required, but that was not the case.
Jason York, Construction Manager with SafwayAtlantic by BrandSafway Chicago, is responsible for managing the people and processes of the massive Chicago-based workforce, which includes the carpenters, ironworkers, mechanics, teamsters and operators unions.
“There was some initial concern about the increase in powered solutions because of the lower labor requirements,” York recalls. “But we assured our workers that, as a company, we would be better equipped to compete for jobs because of our increased productivity, which would then increase our jobs won. And that’s exactly what happened.”
In fact, a large majority of the field crews that were employed two years ago are working more in the current environment than they have in years.
BrandSafway also draws on its nationwide expertise to ensure its workers in every location have an opportunity to learn and earn certifications. Case in point, the smokestack crew in Chicago was initially trained by mast climber experts from St. Louis, Missouri (Josh Tohtz, Motorized Manager and Ryan Schaaf, Supervisor).
York confirms, “Of course, making sure our crews have the proper training and keeping safety first and foremost are our main goals. Word is spreading quickly among our workforce about new opportunities, morale is high and, just as important, our crews are excited about learning something new. The combination of new equipment and more work is a win-win for everyone.”
A large part of BrandSafway Chicago’s activities are in support of custom applications in challenging workspaces.
The renovation of the retail space at 900 North Michigan Shops, which is anchored by Bloomingdale’s, is one such project. The overhaul, which included transforming an existing atrium ceiling into a digital art installation with images and videos projected on a 184-foot LED display, had to be completed without interrupting or endangering visitors’ experiences.
“The scope of the project rested on the ability to span the atrium, a distance of about 30 feet,” recalls Doug Knapp, a Regional Product Manager at BrandSafway.
The BrandSafway team worked with building engineers to determine safe load limits and develop a solution that would increase efficiency. The solution, designed by a team led by Clint Ramberg, Director of Business Development for the Spider Systems Group, centered around Spider-powered suspended equipment and the HAKI aluminum truss system. The project required about 460 trusses. The crews were able to complete the assembly a week and a half earlier than expected, helping the general contractor, Pepper Construction Company, finish the project on time.
On another project, Chicago-based Berglund Construction looked to the expertise of BrandSafway Chicago to win the major restoration of the iconic Chicago Union Station, which included the preservation of the station’s original barrel-vaulted, 219-foot-long skylight that sits 115 feet above the floor of the Great Hall. Like the Bloomingdale’s project, the owner required that the station remain open throughout construction.
Complicating matters, the skip hoist could not be tied directly to the outside of Union Station because of its architectural significance. In lieu of a full supported scaffold buildup, which would have disrupted passengers, Berglund relied on 22,000 square feet of the QuikDeck Suspended Access System, two Spider swing stages, Systems Scaffold and two Beta Max hoists supported by a custom-designed steel structure.
Gibbs is enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of BrandSafway Chicago, and he anticipates continued change and growth for the company.
“Change will happen,” Gibbs notes, “but we’re equipped to adapt to continue meeting customer needs. We’ll certainly continue to grow through innovation with the introduction of more solutions in the coming years. We have the plan, the technology and the massive expertise to power the future of access solutions in Chicago and around the world.”