1Call2Build—Our Blog

Here are some thoughts and insight on our business and the construction industry in general. We update our blog regularly to keep you informed and entertained.

You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter; just click the icons in the upper right corner of our site.

November 30, 2018

Four Decades of Dedication: A Salute to Todd Schnetzer on his 40th Year at Consolidated Construction

OK kids, time to jump in the way-back machine!Todd Head Shot

The year is 1978. Those of us lucky enough to be walking Mother Earth at the time were dancing (Grease), laughing (National Lampoon’s Animal House), and having the bejeezus scared out of us by Michael Myers (Halloween) at the movie theaters. The Bee Gees ruled the radio waves, as disco regrettably took temporary control of the music world. If you were rocking corduroy overalls and wedge boots, you were at the height of fashion. The video game craze was just getting off the ground with the launch of Space Invaders. Gas was $.63 cents a gallon and a stamp cost $.13 cents.

On November 30th of that same year, a young man heard through the grapevine that Consolidated Construction was hiring. He applied for a job, landed it, and began what would become an exemplary 40-year career with the company.

That young man was Todd Schnetzer, and he joined the Consolidated team straight out of high school. Rick Novotny assigned him to a steel crew, where Todd spent 14 years plying his trade and accumulating knowledge, while rising to the level of sub-foreman. It was a good job that he enjoyed, but it wasn’t his passion. That’s when opportunity knocked and Schnetzer answered.

“I was always into cars,” Todd noted. “I really enjoyed my tech and mechanics classes in high school. After I got out of school, I started racing limited late model stock cars at tracks in Kaukauna, Shawano, and Luxemburg. Fixing things is what I love to do, so when a position opened up at Consolidated for a fabricator and mechanic, I went for it.”

He went for it indeed, just as he did as a stock car driver. Todd competed in late model Todd 3races for the better part of six years and modestly admitted to winning his share of contests. After hanging up his driving gloves, he worked as a member of pit crews on late model stock cars (the fastest level of stock car racing in the state) for another 25 years. He also satisfied his competitive nature by racing SuperMod snowmobiles for 20 years. Todd finished his racing career with several Eagle River Class Championships and the coveted SnoPro Series Championship. He was honored by having his name engraved on the SnoPro trophy at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, WI.

Todd got that job, and since that fateful day, “The Shop” at Consolidated has been his home away from home. There was, however, a brief moment in time when it almost came to an abrupt end.

“I was offered a warehouse job with another company, so I came in and gave Rick Novotny my two-week notice. He wouldn’t accept it. He told me I’d hate working there, said we’d talk the next day, and to get the heck out of his office,” Schnetzer said with a chuckle. “We never did talk the next day. He saw me a couple days later and said, ‘I guess you’re staying.’ I said I guess I am. And that was the end of that.”

Fast forward to 2018, and Todd celebrated his 40th anniversary with Consolidated Construction on November 30th. In some ways, it’s a very different place than it was in 1978.

T and Betsy Cropped“You have to remember we were mainly building big metal boxes at the time I started, so we did the drywall, masonry, and some other things in house,” he said. “We subcontracted out the electrical and plumbing, but most of the rest we pretty much did ourselves. Today, that’s hard to do. The buildings are so much more complex and specialized labor is hard to come by.”

In 2006, ownership transitioned from the Novotny family to a group of four employee majority shareholders. As he recalls, “The biggest thing that changed was the market. The economy went in the tank shortly after the transition. I give ownership a lot of credit. They did what they had to do to keep us competitive.”

In some of the most important ways, Consolidated is very much the same as it was in 1978.

“One thing that never changed from when the Novotny’s owned the company to when Rick, Pam, Mark, and Jim took over is how friendly everyone is,” said Todd. “I’ve made so many friends at Consolidated over the years…some of my best friends in life.

Schnetzer’s contributions certainly have not gone unnoticed. As Consolidated CEO Rick Bickert observed, “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Todd for 17 years, and during any encounter with him—whether work related or sharing personal stories—I have always had a positive experience. Todd is a role model for all of us. His positive outlook and willingness to help all who cross his path defines CCC’s Commitment statement and is something we all can learn from.”

Schnetzer will soon be cutting back his hours and spending more time pursuing the things TS Bow Buck Croppedhe loves. Quality time with family is high on the priority list. If it can be done outdoors, count Todd in. He loves to hunt waterfowl and deer, and has taken trips to Canada for the past 30 years. He also enjoys walleye fishing on local waters.

“They say everyone is replaceable,” said Bickert. “Well, if that really is true, when the time comes, filling Todd’s shoes is going to be a tough act to follow! His dedication and service to Consolidated is an inspiration to each of us every day.”


November 1, 2018

Five Reasons to Choose a Design-Build Contractor

Design-Build construction continues to grow in popularity as Owners turn to this streamlined project delivery system to save time, money, promote teamwork, and create more transparency throughout all stages of the building process.

The emergence of Design-Build comes in large part from the Owners’ growing preference for a single point of contact for their construction projects. In this method, accountability for accelerated completion schedules, price guarantees, and a positive partnering approach to the project lies squarely with the Design-Build contractor. No longer does the Owner have to deal individually with architects, engineers, and the contractor and other vendors.

According to a Construction Industry Institute/Penn State University study, Design-Build can result in up to 33.5% faster delivery and more than 6% lower costs than the traditional “design-bid-build” approach.

Here are five distinct benefits of choosing a Design-Build contractor:

Single Source Responsibility
With Design-Build, Owners benefit by having a single point of responsibility for quality, cost, and scheduling. The Design-Builder is accountable to fulfill Owner objectives regarding feasibility, design, budget, and schedule. This allows the Owner to focus on scope, needs, and timely decision-making. Just as important, it keeps the Owner’s budget and schedule in the forefront while eliminating potential finger pointing between the architect, engineer, and contractor.

Built In Quality
90% of project’s success is determined in the first 10% of the timeline when the Owners’ requirements are detailed. The Design-Builder brings architecture, engineering, cost estimating, scheduling, and construction expertise to the Owner’s team at the earliest stages of a project, charting the course for success. If the Design-Builder’s plans or specifications are deficient, it does not create a change order for the Owner—the Design-Builder maintains full responsibility. That responsibility is powerful motivation to manage the process carefully and deliver accurately against the Owners’ requirements.

Faster Project Completion
With Design-Build, the design and construction processes overlap. As a result, competitive bidding can be phased, redesigns are eliminated, materials with long lead times can be purchased earlier, and work can begin before construction documents are finalized. All without risk to the Owner. Design-Build allows construction time to be optimized and these time savings often translate into lower costs and earlier building availability.

Early Knowledge of Firm Costs
Cost information is developed in parallel with the preliminary design, and once the costs are established, the project team guides the design within the budget constraints. As a result, it does not require a significant up-front investment by the Owner to receive a firm cost structure.

You should expect your new facility to change your business world for the better. Having one firm handle design and construction gives Owners and their team of business leaders, departmental heads, and facility managers the ideal opportunity to collaborate on the construction project. The Design-Build team absorbs and values these perspectives and leverages them to deliver outstanding project results.


October 12, 2018

Part 1: Insider Tips for Using Integrated Design and Construction to Boost Facility Efficiency

By Jeremy Walker, Food and Beverage Market Leader

The thought of starting a new construction project for your manufacturing business can feel daunting. Initially, the questions are likely to come fast and furious:

“How much will this project cost?”
“How long will the project take?”
“How will this effort impact productivity?”
“How do we stay on budget?”

Never fear! It’s common to feel a bit overwhelmed at first, however, knowing a few valuable insider tips before beginning your venture will help you understand how and where you can identify cost savings and efficiencies—both during and after construction—and facilitate a more collaborative building process.

Tip 1: Begin with the End in MindAssemble the Right Team Up Front
If you are considering a new construction or expansion for your facility, strategically pick partners that grasp your operation, culture, and values. Referrals are excellent, but due diligence on your part is required to assemble the right team for you. Only through shared vision will you achieve an efficient and modern facility where the environment, process, and products are a reflection of your brand.

Tip 2: Integrate Process Design and Layout with Overall Building Design
Ninety percent of project success is determined during the planning phase, when the scope and layout of your facility are determined. A natural first thought is to get a process engineer on board to propose a plant layout, then follow up with an architect to work out the design details and then get a builder to construct the property. This approach can lend itself to inefficiencies and duplicated efforts. You’ll spend time and resources with an engineer to help with your plant processes. You’ll spend more time and resources with your architect. Then, you must communicate both plans to the builder.

Value the combined effect of the team and consider putting your designer, builder, and process engineer side-by-side. By doing so, you not only create the most effective process to maximize square footage and ensure efficient manufacturing, but also allow for a more cost-effective floor plan and likely a shorter timeline from concept to completion.

The number one goal is to systematically design a building footprint to maximize your product output and deliver the most return on investment. The smaller the footprint, the lower the cost of construction. Pulling in the appropriate talent early on to determine an efficient layout will yield total cost savings throughout the entire design activity—and long after construction is complete.

Jeremy Walker has more than 20 years of experience in design-build construction with Consolidated Construction, including the past 13 years as the strategic account manager servicing the food and beverage and manufacturing markets.

Jeremy Walker has more than 20 years of experience in design-build construction with Consolidated Construction, including the past 13 years as the strategic account manager servicing the food and beverage and manufacturing markets.


Tip 3: Get your Architect and Builder Working Together Early
Getting your architect and builder collaborating from the start, and developing and adjusting the budget in tandem with the design, will help manage costs and expectations.

A good architect will start with a space needs analysis, then design the building using the results of the analysis to lay out your facility in the most cost-effective way possible. The builder’s knowledge of current material costs and utilization keeps the architectural design relevant, focused, and efficient. Together, the architect and builder develop a realistic and functional building product without the sticker shock.

Next Blog: Your up-front planning is in place. Now it’s time to execute the perfect building project for your company. We’ve got three tips to help you do just that.

October 12, 2018

Part 2: Insider Tips for Using Integrated Design and Construction to Boost Facility Efficiency

By Jeremy Walker, Food and Beverage Market Leader

In the initial blog in this series, we looked at the first three things to do to set the stage for a successful manufacturing construction project, whether you are looking to build a new facility or add on to an existing property:

  • Tip 1: Begin with the End in Mind—Assemble the Right Team Up Front
  • Tip 2: Integrate Process Design and Layout with Overall Building Design
  • Tip 3: Get your Architect and Builder Working Together Early

Now, it’s time to get building! In this installment, we look at the three critical steps to ensure your up-front planning results in the building project that best suits your company’s needs for today and tomorrow.

Tip 4: Use Design-Build to Maximize Collaboration and Streamline Construction
Using the traditional process of “design-bid-build,” the project owner completes a design plan prior to bidding out the construction project. Conversely, using the “design-build,” method, owners work collaboratively with one contractor responsible for both the design and construction. Design-build contracting offers the following benefits:

  • Scope and budget that meet the operating pro forma
  • Integrated process equipment design and layout
  • Compliance with safety regulations
  • Strong subcontractor relationships in key divisions, like fire protection, plumbing, HVAC, refrigeration, and electrical
  • Fewer project risks
  • Better overall quality
  • A faster construction schedule

Research from the Design-Build Institute of America indicates design-build projects are constructed 33.5% faster and cost six percent less than design-bid-build projects. Whether you’re looking at an expansion to your existing plant or an entirely new facility, these efficiencies can add up to substantial savings.

It’s key to remember that with a single point of contact where the design-builder is responsible for ensuring quality, cost, safety, and scheduling meet predetermined benchmarks, the likelihood of vendor miscommunication, budget overages, and site condition oversights are greatly reduced.

Tip 5: Be Aware of Industry Regulations
When it comes to a new facility build, following state and federal safety guidelines begins with the design details and ends with proper construction execution. As the plant manager or project owner, knowing these regulations from the start will help this topic stay top-of-mind throughout. Hiring experienced partners who understand these regulations and properly execute construction methods that meet or exceed regulations is critical to pass safety inspections prior to your production startup.

Jeremy Walker has more than 20 years of experience in design-build construction with Consolidated Construction, including the past 13 years as the strategic account manager servicing the food and beverage and manufacturing markets.

Jeremy Walker has more than 20 years of experience in design-build construction with Consolidated Construction, including the past 13 years as the strategic account manager servicing the food and beverage and manufacturing markets.

Tip 6: Design for the Future
Understandably, your priority will be to navigate the design and construction process for the greatest return today. Challenge yourself, however, to consider some forward-thinking questions prior to initiating a new build:

“What happens if your business grows again?”
“What would you do if you doubled your lines in five years? Ten years?”
“Have you master planned your process and the building design together?”

Discussing the future early on can be critical if expansions are ever necessary. Consider this scenario: Your business continues to grow and you need to expand again, but your roof isn’t sloping in the right direction to allow for an addition? Something as simple as this can derail future accommodations for your facility or add unnecessary costs. Early conversations about potential future needs with experience design-build experts encourage consideration of all aspects of your facility and will assist in designing a project that can accommodate your growth.

January 15, 2018

Want to Attract Senior Living Customers? Locate in an Active Area

Ask A Pro_Active Community

Hotel experts know how to attract guests, operate smarter and deliver a great resident experience. So, it’s no accident that the senior living providers offering excellent healthcare in an environment that’s inspiring and cost effective to operate have the highest census and far outperform other communities.

As one of the Midwest’s leading hotel design-builders, Consolidated Construction has had the privilege working with many of these world-class hoteliers. Here’s a lesson learned you may
want to consider when building, expanding or renovating your next senior community:

Locate in an Active Area.
In today’s climate, seniors do not see moving into a senior living facility as a decision to drop out of life. They want to continue their lives and interests well into their 80s and 90s. Instead of locating your facility in a residential neighborhood or quiet street, consider locating near downtown, a college campus, YMCA or popular coffee house.

Keep this in mind when planning your next facility. If you feel like you’re living in a resort hotel,
then life is pretty darn good.

Rinn_croppedTim Rinn has more than 20 years of design‐build healthcare and senior living experience, and has assisted clients throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest. Consolidated Construction’s Assisted Living Team is ready to help you plan, fund, design, build or renovate your next senior living community.