Richard Cramer Sr. with shop foreman Glenn Lamb.
HOLLY, Mich.-- The tin man who greets you as you enter Dee Cramer's new location here is one more sign that you're in the right place.

But the larger sign, the one you can't ignore, is right on the building itself: Dee Cramer Heating, Cooling and Sheet Metal, in 10 foot high letters clearly visible from the freeway. It is one of the busiest stretches of highway in the state, linking Detroit with Flint, connecting the expanding suburbs of both cities as well as serving as a gateway to many of the state's popular northern recreation areas.

After years of trying to make do with an assortment of building renovations, purchases and expansions, owner Richard Cramer Sr. has the building he wants. The new building is a sprawling 56,000 square feet, which includes a shop area that can easily hold a new 6-foot Engel (St. Louis, Mo.) coil line. That line has three slitting wheels, and a hole punch for tie rod and volume dampers. It has 16 ga. capacity and a wraparound brake.

A six foot Iowa Precision Cornermatic dual head inserts corners for Pittsburgh and TDF duct, according to sheet metal shop foreman Glenn Lamb, who has been with the company for about 10 years.

The shop opened with a new $68,000 Vicon (Plasma Automation, Hicksville, N.Y.) double plasma cutting table. The double table allows metal to be cut at one end while the other is being used for setup. The operator can also leave the machine once it is running.

The six foot tables are becoming more and more popular, said Jim England, regional sales manager for Plasma Automation. Cramer also purchased the InteliCAD software package with it, which makes for a seamless download to the plasma table. Otherwise a worker would have to manually take it off and give it to a person to input the fittings in at the plasma table. "That was one thing Rick White wanted, because it's a big time saver," he said. "One other reason was single source support. Rick wanted one single source support, and this accomplished that for him." A Quote Soft estimating package is also being considered, to ultimately tie a software estimating package in with Intelicad and the coil line.

Trucks and vans drive right into the warehouse to pick up parts and load equipment: no longer do the service techs and installers have to shiver outside or work in the rain while they load up between jobs or before heading out for the day?s service calls.

There are skylights to help in lighting the shop area, and the concrete floor is sealed to keep it clean. "It's good for employee morale to have a nice place to work in."

Customers who first enter the building are surprised at how quiet it is. "We had a professional lay it out for us," Cramer says, giving the grand tour. "We realize now how good a job she did. You can move from one area to another without walking through and disrupting other people."

That's important in a company that has as many as 175 employees, down slightly now, due to the softer economy, all working out of one single story location.

Directly behind the receptionist's desk is a spacious, comfortable showroom with several natural gas fireplaces up and running, along with Trane and Lennox furnaces and air conditioners, air cleaners, etc. The tasteful brick, metal or wood surrounds are complemented with home decor items, carpeting and track lighting. Even the fire logs are separate and can be viewed for burning: "They all burn differently, and it's helpful to see them burn when you?re buying," Cramer says. "It's a personal taste, like the color on a car."

Project managers have their own cubicles to work in. Before, many had to work out of their vehicles since there was no place for them to set up. The modular cubicles keep the space flexible, in case needs change. Even e-mail is a recent addition, another way to communicate now with enough internal wiring and computers to support it. Recent work has included duct for a new Toyota plant in Indiana, a couple of universities and a new elementary school.

Cramer is enrolled in national SMACNA's College of Fellows and serves on the Board of Directors and several committees, and is also active at the state level. He is a former SMACNA Snips Contractor of the Year. Son Rich Cramer serves on SMACNA's Technical Resources Committee. Son Matt is also involved in the business. Dee Cramer, Richard's father, was national SMACNA president from 1954-55. Rick White and Valerie Warren are vice presidents of Dee Cramer.