2013 November-December Issue

Orlando Plumbing Company finds success ‘The Modern Way’   No job in the Orlando area is too small – or too big – for Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc. (MPI).  On the residential side, the Winter Springs company gets a constant flow of testimonials from customers like Ken, who wrote, “Modern Plumbing is fast, friendly and Read More

Orlando Plumbing Company finds success ‘The Modern Way’

 

No job in the Orlando area is too small – or too big – for Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc. (MPI).  On the residential side, the Winter Springs company gets a constant flow of testimonials from customers like Ken, who wrote, “Modern Plumbing is fast, friendly and gets the job done when they say they will. Prices are the best I can find. They follow up and schedule the work to be done very fast. They are simply the best.”

At the other end of spectrum, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company called on Modern to coordinate plumbing work for the University of Central Florida’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, a 198,000-square-foot research facility. The LEED Silver project included offices, laboratories and a vivarium with more than 24 miles of piping.

When the project was finished in 2009, Modern received an ABC Eagle Award for construction excellence for its work, which included:

• Domestic water, animal water, and laboratory water systems

• Reverse osmosis water systems

• Chemical waste, storm and sanitary systems

• Two natural gas systems

• Lab vacuum, compressed air (regular and high pressure), carbon dioxide and two specialty gas systems

“Regardless of the size of the job, we give our customers the same high level of service, which we call The Modern Way,” said Charles Bracco, Vice President, in a recent interview. “It’s a philosophy based on taking pride in what we do, providing service with honesty and integrity, and doing things right the first time.”

Modern Plumbing is also taking advantage of today’s technology with a dynamic website, including a blog, and a strong social media presence designed to attract service and repair customers. “A large commercial contractor isn’t going to visit our website to see if we can do a $5 million project for them,” said Bracco. “But having an informative and helpful website is crucial for connecting with our service customers, and we will continue to invest in that marketing channel.”

Modern Plumbing also equips its service technicians and project supervisors with iPads that connect with the office as well as the company’s Building Information Modeling (BIM) system. “A foreman in the field can see the complete model right on the iPad,” said Bracco.

 

Nearly four decades of service

Back in 1972, Frank Bracco moved from New Jersey to Orlando and opened Modern Plumbing Industries three years later.  Charles was born in 1977 followed by his brother Anthony. As the boys grew, so did Modern.

“Central Florida was growing quickly in the late 1970s, and my father worked on 600-plus new houses per year for U.S. Homes,” Bracco said. “He got right into the residential housing market, but when mortgage rates spiked in the early 1980s, he quickly saw greater opportunity in commercial markets.”

Frank Bracco built the company to include four business units: plumbing, site work, irrigation and fire-sprinkler. But in the late 1980s, he decided to downsize and focus on the company’s core competency, which had always been plumbing.

By the mid 1990s, Modern was growing again and began to see increases in project size. “Our job size grew from about $100,000 to more than $1 million by 1997 and eventually became the $5 and $6 million projects we are doing today,” Bracco said.

During the recent economic downturn, the company reduced its workforce, but was one of the few contractors that didn’t cut wages, Bracco said. “We had a strong balance sheet, which was a big help,” he added. “Other companies that were highly leveraged with a lot of debt found it very challenging to get through the recession.”

Today, Modern Plumbing has about 70 employees and a well-diversified portfolio of projects, including biomedical research facilities, hospitals, medical offices, schools, offices and hotels. The company serves commercial, industrial, and residential customers in Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties as well as the surrounding Central Florida region.

“One of the big challenges our industry is facing today is a shortage of skilled labor,” Bracco said. “Our company has always been active in apprenticeships in Seminole County. But we have to figure out how to get the kids in high school interested in plumbing or we won’t have anyone to build new projects over the next few decades. While plumbing is hard work, if you get some experience and learn in the field, there are plenty of opportunities to make a good living and move up to being a foreman or manager.”

Modern believes in safety first. Bracco is a strong supporter of OSHA and other safety standards. “We conduct regular training for team members who are in the field, and many of our foreman have earned the OSHA 30 hour certification,” he added. “That emphasis on safety is just one of the reasons that general contractors who focus on quality will call us for a plumbing quote on their projects. We’re known as a company that gets the job done right.”

 

A change in leadership

After 38 years of running Modern Plumbing Frank Bracco moved into semi-retirement this September, still coming into the office, but not every day. This was the culmination of a transition of leadership that began a decade ago.

Back in 2003, Charles Bracco was working in California and Anthony Bracco was at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “We decided to move back home, work with our dad and see what we could do with the business,” Bracco said. “We knew that succession planning is always a big challenge for family businesses, and we wanted to put a structure in place to make the transition from one generation to the next.”

Over the next few years, the three Braccos talked about the direction to take the company and the infrastructure needed to follow that path.  While the recession slowed their planning, the younger Braccos steadily played a greater role in the organization, supported by their father and the company’s long-time employees. Charles is now the General Manager and Anthony is the Director of Sales and Marketing.

“We felt that doing service and repair work provided the critical flow of revenue during the recession, and we mostly stuck with projects within a 25-mile radius of our office,” Bracco said.  “We also took on projects near the homes of our technicians, who live in different counties, in order to minimize their drive time.”

As the result of a lagging economy in Central Florida, Modern Plumbing expanded its geographic scope, taking on major commercial projects like the Vaccine Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) biomedical research facility in Port St. Lucie and the Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach. “We can team up with our general contractors to do work around Florida or at military bases outside the state,” Bracco said.

Looking ahead to 2014, Bracco expects the non-residential markets to pick up steam in the coming year. “Between new schools, hotels, UCF and the theme parks, we think Central Florida is going to be a hotbed of new construction activity,” he said. “To the east, renovation of the Daytona International Speedway and construction of a Hard Rock hotel and retail complex mean a lot of new work in the Daytona Beach area. With a great team in place, we see lots of good opportunities to keep growing our company in the next few years.”

 

Modern Plumbing Industries, Inc.

255 Old Sanford Oviedo Rd.

Winter Springs, FL, 32708
407.327.6000

www.modernpi.com

By Abigail Cantor, P.E., Chemical Engineer and Water Quality Specialist I just finished investigating yet another brand new building with corroding copper pipes.  Fixtures were stained green and the blonde residents had green stains in their hair!  This situation is upsetting every time I see it.  And, it seems to happen quite a lot — on both Read More

By Abigail Cantor, P.E., Chemical Engineer and Water Quality Specialist

I just finished investigating yet another brand new building with corroding copper pipes.  Fixtures were stained green and the blonde residents had green stains in their hair!  This situation is upsetting every time I see it.  And, it seems to happen quite a lot — on both large commercial buildings and in private residences.

But, this problem can be prevented.  This is why I wanted to raise awareness of the problem by writing a series of articles in Wisconsin Perspective in 2012 and then by bringing the articles together into a booklet called What’s Bugging Your Pipes:  How Microorganisms Affect Plumbing Systems.

In short, microorganisms grow in water systems whenever water stagnates or resides too long in the pipes and tanks.  They attach to surfaces with an acidic enzyme that can corrode metal.  This situation is called microbiologically influenced corrosion or MIC.  This can lead to increased metals concentration in the water with possible discoloration as well as pinhole leaks in metal pipe walls.  In addition, with conditions good for microbiological growth, there is an increased risk of encouraging the growth of microorganisms that cause water-borne illnesses.

Excessive microbiological growth can occur anywhere in a water system beginning at the water source, in the water service line, in point-of-entry water treatment tanks, in the hot water system, in point-of-use water treatment devices and finally, in the faucets.  The key is to identify volumes of slow-moving or stagnating water within a water system.

One location of slow-moving water in a plumbing system is in its on-site water treatment.  The best practice is to provide on-site water treatment only when it is absolutely necessary.  There are many possible contaminants in water but it must be determined which contaminants really pose a threat.  Sizing the equipment so that it has a minimum volume and surface area to do the job required is very important.  Finally, there needs to be an automatic clean-in-place system or manual cleaning protocol that can keep the equipment free of microbiological growth.

Proper plumbing design is also critical in preventing MIC.  Many luxury plumbing features, such as multiple-head shower sprays and large bathtubs, increase the required water flow, and subsequently, the pipe size and hot water storage requirements.  Customers must be made aware of the trade-offs in selecting some of these features.  There are ways to use these luxury features with some restrictions and still enjoy them.  The new reality is that a plumbing design should focus on minimizing volume of water and interior surface area in the complete plumbing system.

Another battlefront for MIC is to prevent microorganisms from entering the building’s plumbing in the first place.  Private well owners need to understand the structural and hydrogeological issues of their wells.  Municipal water utilities need to maintain disinfected water of low microbiological activity throughout the distribution system.

Disinfection, typically in the form of chlorine, is necessary in water to prevent excessive microbiological growth.  Once microorganisms attach to the walls, then another type of chemical that can break down the protective “biofilms” around the microorganisms is needed in addition to disinfection.

Routine monitoring must be performed in the water to assure that microorganisms are under control.  One parameter to track is the disinfection concentration in the water to determine if there is “ammunition” to keep up the fight against excessive growth.  This can be done with a relatively simple test kit.  A second parameter to track is a measurement of microbiological activity called ATP.  This analysis can be performed at some water laboratories.

In summary, to prevent MIC from occurring, design the plumbing system with minimum volume and surface area to prevent microbiological growth.  Then, maintain a clean plumbing system by cleaning any treatment equipment and tanks and keeping the water disinfected.  Finally, monitor routinely to confirm that microbiological growth is low and the water is disinfected.

If MIC is already occurring, monitor to determine where the sources of microbiological growth are in the plumbing system.  Make sure that there is adequate disinfection in the water and possibly use a chemical to destroy the protective biofilms around the microorganisms.  Plumbing systems may have to be modified to lower the volume of water stored.  Then, maintain a clean system and monitor to confirm that the problem does not re-occur.

The past articles and, now, the booklet on What’s Bugging Your Pipes was written for plumbing designers, building contractors, municipal water utility managers, and property owners to raise awareness of MIC and suggest ways to prevent and remediate the problem.  The growth of microorganisms in water systems can be prevented with everyone’s participation.

 

So I travel a lot, in the air almost every week.  I am in Atlanta, flying on to Michigan for a few days.  I am a 1K on United, flew over 100,000 miles with them last year, will be about the same this year.  That is a big deal, when I call for help they Read More

So I travel a lot, in the air almost every week.  I am in Atlanta, flying on to Michigan for a few days.  I am a 1K on United, flew over 100,000 miles with them last year, will be about the same this year.  That is a big deal, when I call for help they know my number, ask how is Mr. Hinshaw today?

I am in Atlanta, waiting a gate 15 for my flight leaving at 5:30 PM.  It boarded at 4:55 just fine, I am in 3 C, sat down and promptly fell asleep.  Woke up at 6:00, still sitting on the runway, which is not a good thing.  The Captain comes on, tells us we are heading back to the gate, some sort of mechanical issue.  Full disclosure, I am glad we went back to the gate.  I am confident that any sort of problem on an airplane can be fixed better 5 feet off the ground than they can at 30,000 feet.

When we got back to the gate, the pilot says we are going to disembark.  Get off the plane.  That is a very bad thing, means they are sure that plane is not going anywhere.  So we get off the plane, I look at the surrounding gates, notice that there is a flight going to the same city leaving from gate 14, in 45 minutes, how great is that?

All good until I hear them announce that flight is cancelled due to mechanical problems.  Wow, two planes going to same city, adjacent gates, and both with mechanical problems.  Unbelievable.

I get on the phone, my United agent says, how are you Mr. Hinshaw?  I tell her not so well, she says I know, you are stuck in Atlanta!  She says both the flights to my city are down, she had already booked me on a Delta flight leaving in two hours, exit row, aisle seat!  How great is that.  Gets even better.  At the Delta gate I witnessed the best gate agent ever.

He called out each passenger by name as he checked their boarding pass: how are we doing Mr. Jones, what a great hat Mrs. Smith.  Every customer.  It was amazing.  I was there an hour early, watched him in action on the flight before mine.  When he was finished with the earlier flight, he asked me where I was from.  Told him Colorado, he asked if I could recommend a ski resort.  I told him we had been to Copper Mountain several times, and while we did not ski, we had friends who did and they said it was excellent.  And it is close to Denver, at least compared to some that are a lot further up the mountain.  He actually took notes, thanked me for the reference.

How long has it been since you or someone from your company has delighted a customer?  Where they were not just satisfied, but rather you turned them into raving fans.  Where the experience was exceptional, much better than they had ever imagined.  It may be as a result of a problem that occurred (my experience with United), or the fact that they showed they cared while doing their job, such as Delta.  Either way, it is so rare that a company goes above and beyond that we are amazed when it happens.

So equip your employees to make a difference in the lives of your customers, to provide an outstanding experience.  In most cases our customers have not actually done a project of this magnitude before, no matter if we are talking about a new comfort system, a total remodel of the master bath or a 5 KW solar system installed on the roof.  We may have done 40 jobs just like this in the past, but not in this home.  This may be the first time this customer has ever opened up their home in this manner; they don’t know what is going to happen next.  Make sure your team helps them feel good about it,