Todd W. Hill, Scott M. Smith and Dennis T. Monaghan share an equal partnership in Ventcon Inc., a full-service, union sheet metal shop headquartered in Allen Park, Michigan. Originally established under a mechanical contracting firm in the ’70s, the trio is the third generation of leaders for the company.
“The way the story goes,” says Hill, who serves as president of the company, “the owner was going to be done with sheet metal. At that time, three sheet metal workers got together, approached the owner and purchased it in 1977. Those three guys were three partners very similar to our model.”
With an update on that model to fit today’s sheet metal fabrication market, the partners are paving a new road to success. After taking over Ventcon’s operations in 2010, Hill, Smith and Monaghan quickly invested in sheet metal machinery to grow the company’s businesses operations from burgeoning to bustling.
“New machinery and cutting edge technology has always been a focus and continues to improve,” says Hill. “Even going back to some of the original CAD machines we had back in the ’80s, we’ve always kind of had a culture of keeping up with the latest and greatest of a lot of things. I’d like to think we are going to continue to do that moving ahead.”
Ventcon counts automotive brands Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler among its major clients and regularly logs the most union man-hours for its county. However, a shift in retiring labor has left a dearth in leadership for the company’s workforce, which hoovers around 140 depending on the time of year.
“Our main challenge has been a shortage of job site leadership. Numerous leadership retirements and company growth have both contributed to this,” Hill says. “The good news is we have had great success with the newer apprentices we have employed and things look promising for the future.”
Updating the sheet metal machinery on the company’s shop floor is part of the solution. Last summer, Ventcon invested around $1.5 million in sheet metal machinery from Mestek Machinery to improve its efficiency and quality as a full-service sheet metal contractor.
“Up until that point we were growing; so the growing started even before the machinery,” says Hill. The three owners worked with Mestek for more than a year to find the right fit for the company when it came to machinery. “We outgrew our old machinery, and it was time on a lot of stuff. So in combination with growing and new machinery, I believe the timing was perfect for the whole thing.”
New to Ventcon’s shop floor include a Full Iowa Precision Coil Line, Conermatic II Whisper Loc Combo, a 20’ Vulcan Laser Max 1.5 with coil feed, a Vulcan Waterjet Table, a Cornermatic Plus Versa, a pair of Pittsburgh Machines and additional shop updates.
“It really started from a consulting perspective, and then we just started pulling a list of the equipment they needed replacing and went from there,” says Mike Bailey, vice president of sales for Mestek Machinery. “I ended up coming to Michigan to visit with Todd and see their process from the cad side to the hardware side.”
From start to finish, it took about three months for all the newly installed equipment to settle into Ventcon’s shop workflow. Since then, it’s been smooth sailing for the company’s operations. That is, until Michigan’s recent shutdown of construction projects to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Operating on skeletal labor, Ventcon laid off most of its workforce so they can collect unemployment. But the company is counting the days until their state and the country is back up and running at full power.
“I think we are going to continue to make appropriate changes to keep up with the changes in the industry,” says Hill, thinking about the company’s next 50 years. “I don’t know if we ever talk about an exact plan to specifically grow. I think it is just what we are doing, the machinery we are buying and the technology we keep.”