A Modern, Modular Solution

C&B Custom Modular
Written by Claire Suttles

C&B Custom Modular handles a wide variety of modular construction needs. The Indiana based company can build everything from classrooms and dormitories to healthcare facilities, oilfield camps, restrooms and offices.
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Since C&B was established in 1997, the company has been involved in a number of noteworthy projects and sectors, from hydroelectric dams and nuclear facilities to modular buildings for the U.S. Open and banking offices. Over the past 18 years, the close-knit team has grown to include 36 employees and the business has evolved into a multi-million dollar company.

Last year, C&B completed a project for a power plant in Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland. The team built an office complex and security building for construction and camp personnel to utilize while the dam is being constructed. The remote project certainly came with challenges. “The camp is cut right out of the wilderness,” explains General Manager Steve Reynolds. “It is pretty amazing to see.” The buildings had to be constructed to stand up to the rigors of the Newfoundland weather, then driven from the company’s Bristol, Indiana manufacturing facility all the way to Newfoundland, a journey lasting over 30 hours. “And it was in the wintertime, so that created its own challenges.” From ice and snow to hazardous, cliff-lined roads, it was not easy hauling the oversize load into the Canadian wilderness. “It was pretty impressive for a company of our size,” Mr. Reynolds recalls.

There are also differences between Canada’s and the United States’ building codes and this incongruity brought its own challenges, as did the language barrier between the English speaking American team and the French speaking Canadian inspector. “A lot of the challenge was making sure that the product was Canadian certified,” Mr. Reynolds shares. “We actually had the unique situation of another country’s inspector coming to our facility and staying with us until the last modules rolled off our production floor.” The team also had to work closely with their supply chain to ensure that the finished product fully met Canadian standards. “Every day was a new challenge we met head on. We would solve it and move on to the next challenge.”

A recent project for a nuclear plant in Tiverton, Ontario also came with challenges. The time frame alone was difficult enough, because the end user had a “very aggressive” production schedule. The special requirements of a nuclear facility took the challenge to another level; the modular building had to meet extremely rigorous standards, including being noncombustible. As a result, the core components of the structure had to be made of steel, from the studs and flooring to the roof system. “A lot of us haven’t used steel in our factory,” says Mr. Reynolds. “Getting a group of people that are tuned into the wood framing aspects and then switching them over to steel was a challenge.” Yet the team rose to this challenge and met all the requirements within the tight timeline, earning the satisfaction of the customer. “They were very pleased with our buildings,” Mr. Reynolds remembers. Having proven themselves once, the team will likely participate in the project’s next phase, which will keep them involved through 2016. “Obviously, when the customer comes back for a return visit that lets you know what your quality is like.”

How has C&B Construction managed to reach this level of success? “The strategy was just good old fashioned hard work,” Mr. Reynolds states. That work ethic starts at the top. “Chris Chadwick and Pam Chadwick and Jimmy Bishop are great owners to work for,” he says. “It is a good company because of them. They are not afraid to get out and get the work done and to inspire others to do the same. We definitely pride ourselves in getting the customer satisfied and delivering the product in a decent time and quality price.”

Many people on the team worked their way up to management and share an enduring, close-knit history. “The ownership here at C&B have all known each other for 20 some years; we all grew up in the modular industry. I started out as a floor sweeper. It is hard work; it is long hours. We pride ourselves in being an honest, hardworking company; we don’t take any short cuts.” The hard work is worth it in the end, however. “The satisfaction I get is watching the unit roll out the door and listening to the customer on a follow up call.”

Customers appreciate the efficient service as well as the attention to detail present in every C&B building. “We want C&B to be known as a good quality organization, with good people and good product at a reasonable price. We are not always going to be the lowest price, but we do believe that we will give you value for your dollar.” The team’s focus on close relationships ensures good communication, which helps maintain that level of quality. “It is a close group of people working on the same page,” Mr. Reynolds points out. “You have to have communication.”

This communication must go beyond the team to include clients and ensure that the final product is exactly what they had in mind. Communication also extends to the larger community in order to promote the benefits of modular construction and correct some common misconceptions. “Obviously, there are areas that still have the same [negative] impression; they still call them trailers. We are trying to change that perception.” Mr. Reynolds says that the team is working closely with their dealer base to get the message out to end users and that “a lot of inroads” have been made in the sector.

So what are the advantages of modular construction? “First off, all of our materials stay inside, so you are not dealing with the weather.” Materials are not exposed to the eroding effects of weather and construction takes place in a controlled, indoor environment, ensuring that projects stay on schedule, regardless of the conditions outside. “We are able to build in a controlled environment, the building is well heated and well lit so you are not dealing with the elements – the rain, wind, the snow.”

By eliminating construction delays due to adverse weather and implementing efficient, modular construction methods, C&B Construction can deliver the final product much quicker than could be done with traditional construction. “It has been proven that our modular solutions are a lot more effective than the stick built [solutions]. Ours is a faster solution as well.” And, because of the nature of the construction method, the team is able to deliver a faster solution without cutting any corners. In fact, every aspect of the build is carefully monitored to ensure top-notch quality. “We have our third party inspection agencies here monitoring how we store our materials, what processes we use and what blueprints we use.”

Another advantage of modular construction is the flexibility. “The customer actually reviews the prints before we go to production to be sure that what they are envisioning is what we are building,” Mr. Reynolds explains. The constructs of modular building rarely limit a customer’s vision, and gone are the days of cramped, rectangular “trailers.” Today, modular construction is breaking exciting new ground, and the team has built innovative buildings as large as 28 units wide.

Of course, pushing the envelope of modular construction requires skilled workers. As in many industries, skilled tradespeople are in short supply. “It is challenging trying to get enough people in,” Mr. Reynolds shares. “Everyone has trouble with personnel; it doesn’t matter if you are building a modular unit or if you are working at Subway, everybody around here is going through the same thing. You’ve got businesses looking for every occupation imaginable, but the number of people who are willing to come out and work everyday is disappointing.” Bringing young people on board is a priority. “The first and foremost challenge is getting younger people into the workforce. As our workforce ages, that is one of the biggest struggles that everybody in the industry is facing.” The only way to get around the issue is to “just keep hiring until you get a good employee, and then you hold on to them. There is really no secret or strategy.”

Manpower challenges have not hurt C&B Construction’s bottom line, however. From overcoming the recession to finding reliable, skilled workers, the team has managed to stay one step ahead. “We weathered the storm and we will get stronger,” Mr. Reynolds says. “We are going to keep the business model that we have in place, and that is to attract younger people who are interested in learning the trades because there is a lot of talent in the modular industry as far as craftsmanship and if you don’t pass it on to someone else you will lose it.”

C&B Construction continues to build on this talent and expertise, successfully expanding the business in the process. The team plans to continue embracing innovation and driving the industry forward toward an exciting future. “We are not intimidated by the challenges that the modular industry is gearing toward,” Mr. Reynolds insists. From massive structures utilizing tens of modular units to multi-story modular buildings, “we are excited about the prospects.”

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