Tools of the Trade

The high quality commercial plumbing services provided by Lawton Mechanical Contractors are so well known throughout the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that the McKinney, TX-based company does not even advertise. According to company owner Keresa Richardson, the family-owned and operated company has earned its reputation by using only highly skilled plumbers and by finishing jobs more quickly than the competition.

The high quality commercial plumbing services provided by Lawton Mechanical Contractors are so well known throughout the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that the McKinney, TX-based company does not even advertise.

According to company owner Keresa Richardson, the family-owned and operated company has earned its reputation by using only highly skilled plumbers and by finishing jobs more quickly than the competition. Lawton's specialty, she notes, is working with architects, engineers and general contractors to build restaurants, including chains like Wendy's and Chick-Fil-A.

“For the most part, they're on very tight schedules to build these restaurants. Since our services are usually the first needed when developing a new site, our crews need to be there and install the plumbing quickly so subsequent phases of the operation don't fall behind schedule as well,” says Richardson.

There are currently 20 plumbers and apprentices working at Lawton. When hired, each person assumes responsibility for his own truck, including everything from driving it from his home to work-sites and back, to getting it fueled and serviced when needed. Careful background checks and prior driving histories are obtained to ensure the company hires only good, safe drivers.

The company's fleet includes eight Ford F-350 vans, three F-250 pickups, and four larger UD cabover trucks that are used to carry heavier equipment.

Inside the UD trucks, tie racks have been installed to prevent larger items like 10-ft. lengths of pipe, from shifting in transit. Custom air compressors that can be accessed outside the vehicle were also spec'd.

Every vehicle in the fleet is equipped with GPS. For just over a year now, Lawton has been using Minorplanet's Vehicle Management Information (VMI) system. The system centers around a data collection unit that's designed to continually monitor and record a vehicle's position, speed and distance traveled using GPS technology.

“Our trucks are full of very heavy, very expensive plumbing equipment,” says Richardson. “Between these assets and the trucks themselves, we simply cannot afford to run the risk of theft, so we installed a real-time tracking system that gives us the ability to know precisely where our vehicles are at all times.

“Another benefit of the VMI system is that it enables us to know every time a vehicle is driven outside of regular work hours. Drivers are required to get our permission to use the trucks for personal reasons. By cutting down on unauthorized mileage, we've seen an annual fleet savings of over $4,000. We've also reduced fuel expenses by 20%.”

Richardson notes that the VMI system's routing features have helped significantly to reduce vehicle downtime. Traffic congestion in the large Dallas/Ft. Worth metropolitan area, she explains, is often a major problem for crews trying to get to and from job sites in a timely manner. With VMI, vehicles can be routed around accidents and congested areas very efficiently.

Downtime is also minimized by using on-site oil changing and tire changing services. Drivers, who are responsible for getting their trucks serviced as needed, are empowered by the company to make their own decisions as to when and where they get maintenance done. They carry a maintenance card from Enterprise that tracks everything done to the vehicles over a one-month period; it also serves as a charge card for drivers when purchasing fuel and maintenance services.

“We try to keep employees as close to their homes as possible when assigning them to a job,” Richardson explains. “Most of the work we do is within a 150-mi. radius of our home office; however, we have a lot of contractors who want us to travel to other cities as well. Next year, we're hoping to open another location in the Houston area.”

For now, Richardson says, there's plenty of work to keep them busy at home. Collin County, where McKinney is located, is one the fastest growing counties in the country. So between Lawton's reputation in the field and an attractive building market, it's easy to understand why this plumbing contractor is in such high demand.

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