Leading Chicago-area HVAC Provider Builds Business on Total Quality — Right Down to the Pipe
Atomatic Mechanical Services has provided HVAC systems and services to the Chicago metro area since 1945. A lot has changed over the years, but the company’s focus on total quality has always been the key to its success and steady growth. While other HVAC providers try to cut costs by using import pipe, Atomatic remains loyal to highquality domestic pipe from Wheatland Tube. “We’re growing because we put quality first and always use the best pipe,” said Nick LaMonto, construction manager at Atomatic. “That’s how we’re different from our competition. And I think our customers respect that. We do it right the first time, so they don’t need to call us back to fix leaks. They call us back for more new projects.”
The Wheatland Quality Difference
LaMonto has seen a lot of pipe since he entered the industry nearly 30 years ago. He’s seen the welding process cause inferior pipe to split along the seam and develop leaks. He’s seen import pipe deteriorate over a span of a year when exposed to the elements. And he’s seen a substantial difference in quality when using pipe from Wheatland Tube, especially when welding, threading or cutting Wheatland’s SureThread™ continuous weld standard steel pipe. “Import pipe acts funny sometimes when you weld and thread it, because the steel can be inconsistent,” LaMonto said. “But SureThread is made of quality steel, so it doesn’t have any hard and soft spots. It’s annealed during the manufacturing process, which makes it much easier to work with.” That’s why he never quotes any other pipe and works with a supply house that keeps Wheatland Tube’s product well stocked. Occasionally, though, the supplier runs out and Atomatic has to use import pipe to meet a deadline. This happened last year, when Atomatic needed to install gas piping on a roof. The crew tried to use the import pipe that the supplier provided, but had such a hard time with the threading that they gave up and replaced all the pipe with product from Wheatland Tube when it was back in stock. Atomatic finished the job easily and knew the pipe would perform well for their customer.
Higher Quality Means Lower Labor Costs
Because the team at Atomatic understands the quality difference between Wheatland pipe and import pipe, they also understand the cost difference. Import pipe is cheaper upfront but costs more in labor when workers have to recut inferior pipes, rethread or clean up uneven pipe ends, and fix leaks.
“We obviously want to be competitive and make a profit on every job, but we don’t want to use inferior product. Leaks are embarrassing and a pain to repair,” LaMonto said. “So we might spend a little more on materials by buying Wheatland pipe, but we make up the difference in labor savings during installation. It’s more than worth it.”
Case Study: Chiller Project for Premier Chicago Commercial Building
In 2015, Atomatic won the bid to install a large chiller plant for River Center at 111 North Canal Street in Chicago’s West Loop. Now known as The Gogo Building, this loft-style high-rise is home to high-profile tenants such as Gogo, Twitter and Uber. Companies like these won’t settle for anything less than the most reliable system to keep their office environment comfortable for their employees and visiting clients. Atomatic used Wheatland Tube pipe for every part of the project — a total of 1,600 tons of cooling, with associated pipe sizes ranging from 1/2–16" and more. The crew set up a pipe fabrication station on-site for cutting, threading and welding, which expedited the installation. With eight pipe fitters working six days a week, plus overtime, they completed the project in five months. The project was a huge success for Atomatic and the property owner. The system has had no leaks, which helped allow the chiller plant to become operational two weeks ahead of schedule.
Looking Ahead for Atomatic
By continuing to focus on quality, Atomatic has earned repeat business and gained many new customers along the way. They plan to leverage new technologies and utilize lean construction principles in order to stay competitive as they grow. The company sees the industry moving toward hydronic and direct expansion systems, and will continue to partner with Wheatland Tube to evolve along with these trends.