By Christy Krueger
Sun Mechanical Contracting has seen the industry go from paper-and-pen drafting to computer-generated 3D designs and automated metal cutting. The firm has also seen annual revenues increase from $77,000 in its first year to combined revenues of $225 million 35 years later.
When Scott Candrian opened in Tucson in 1977, the company’s primary scope was plumbing and overhead fire sprinkler systems. He had five employees at a shop on Ventura Street.
Today he owns seven companies across the nation and has offices in Phoenix and Casa Grande. His workforce designs, fabricates and installs plumbing, piping, HVAC systems, fire protection, structural steel and clean rooms. The Tucson headquarters employs 275 people and includes a 35,000-square-foot automated fabrication shop.
Candrian’s commercial client base is so large, it’s hard to name a business that has not used his services. The list includes Intel and Motorola, Raytheon Missile Systems, military bases, courthouses, university buildings and hospitals. He’s currently fabricating carriers, among other components, for the new University of Arizona football stadium north-end-zone addition.
Sun Mechanical’s most unique job was the mechanical work for Biosphere II during its original construction, he said. Contracting with UA also can get interesting, as his crews often operate underground in tunnels that run beneath the campus.
Diamond Children’s Medical Center at UA Medical Center was the company’s largest job at $22 million. Raytheon was close behind when it went through remodeling in 1999 and 2000, at a cost of $20 million..
Each Sun Mechanical job begins with the design process using CAD software. This is sent to the fabrication shop where it integrates with the plasma cutting systems to guide the material cuts. Other equipment handles further production, such as folding scored galvanized steel for ductwork. Candrian tries to keep the fabrication labor to at least 20 percent of total man hours per job.
Modern technology has allowed all phases to become more efficient. Before Sun Mechanical had the benefit of a large fabrication shop and automated machinery, most welding was done in the field, which was labor intensive. “Now one or two welders can do it in the shop and then take it to the job, instead of 20 welders on-site,” Candrian noted.
The company was not greatly affected by the recession, thanks to its long-standing good name and securing large projects such as Tucson Medical Center’s west-wing addition and Diamond Children’s Medical Center. “Those jobs were 18-plus months,” Candrian said. “Because of our reputation, a lot of people want to use us. And we have repeat clients.”
He did see a slight downturn in 2011 revenue. “Because of the competitive nature of the market, it drove prices down. We were off compared to other years – but we still did pretty well.”
Sun Mechanical’s impressive office and fabrication shop on Contractors Way and Columbia Street are big selling points for the company.
“We market the company by bringing potential clients here and demonstrating the value we offer. Our excellent safety record, quality control, the 3D coordination department and fabrication facility – all these add value to a project that others may not provide. It’s pretty persuasive when we get them here,” Candrian said.
He believes that giving customers superior products and service is more valuable than anything.
“Our philosophy has always been that cash is not the only currency in our business. Earning the respect of others – and never compromising quality – is worth just as much if not more than money. If you accomplish those goals, the profits will always follow.”