Old Yankee Ingenuity

41_old_yankee_newA commitment to quality craftsmanship is the cornerstone of success at Yankee Remodeler of New London Inc. The business operates as a general contractor offering commercial construction and residential services, both of which include custom woodworking jobs.

The expertise of the 32-member team, combined with the shop's highly automated machinery, allows the company to offer clients a range of services that really does include it all.

40_old_yankee_02Shop supervisor Mike Mahoney gave an overview of how it all works. The commercial side, which accounts for about 60 percent of Yankee's work, includes general contracting, new construction and remodeling. The company's residential services include full-service remodeling work, small repairs, kitchens and baths and more.

"A good balance for us is 60 percent commercial, 40 percent residential because most of the people that work here are in the commercial sector. It doesn't take much work to keep the guys busy here in the shop year-round," says Mahoney.

A team of carpenters, painters and laborers work in the field, while a crew of three to five work in the shop. Estimators, administrative personnel and an interior designer complete the staff.

The rather tight 2,600-sq.-ft. woodworking shop is dominated by an Omnitech Selixx 5x10 CNC router, which was purchased in 2003. Most projects start and end with a single drawing, generated on an office computer with Cabinet Vision software.

All in the name

40_old_yankee_01Yankee Remodeler of New London Inc.

Location: New London, Conn.

Owner and president: Karl Bagwell

Shop supervisor: Mike Mahoney

Years in business: 39

Number of employees: 32

Shop size: 2,600 sq. ft.

About: Yankee Remodeler is a full-service remodeling company providing services    to residential, commercial, industrial,     government and non-profit agencies. It is licensed in Connecticut and Rhode Island for residential work and holds a Connecticut Major Contractor License.

Yankee Remodeler was founded in 1971 when original owners Harry Mantzaris and Fred Bolles needed a maintenance crew for their various rental properties. They named the business Yankee Remodeler to signify a conservative and industrious company. Amid several different locations, the shop has always been based in New London, Conn. In 2008, Karl Bagwell, who has been with Yankee Remodeler for more than 25 years, took over as president.

Early on, the company primarily serviced residential customers. Today, it has expanded to include commercial and industrial work. Much of Yankee's success is owed to its company name and reputation. And while the company's Web site has brought in its fair share of business, the company's logo - the silhouette of a Colonial gent - is even more popular, especially with employees.

"We advertise through truck signs," says Mahoney. "The employees can have their work vehicles lettered with vinyl lettering or a magnetic sign that has the company logo. They're reimbursed by the company monthly. It's one of the added benefits employees get. About 20 of the employees do it. Many times when new customers call, they say 'We see your truck signs everywhere.' "

Most of Yankee Remodeler's commercial business is drawn from the industries, hospitals, non-profits and government agencies prevalent in southeastern Connecticut that have had long-standing maintenance and repair contracts with the company. Some of the larger industrial clients have in-house workshops staffed by Yankee Remodeler employees.

The company prides itself on meeting and exceeding its commercial contract obligations. For instance, if a job has an urgent deadline, additional workers are dispatched quickly. Yankee employees tend to be proficient at high-end carpentry and fine woodworking, but are also familiar with the tools of a drywaller and painter, for example.

The company also specializes in Americans with Disabilities Act compliance renovations, such as the installation of custom ramps, grab bars and automatic door openers.

Custom woodworking

43_old_yankeeThe Yankee Remodeler's shop contains about $300,000 worth of machinery, including an SCM T130 shaper and Olympic K203 edgebander, OMGA chop saw, Hoffmann Hauncher, Blum hinge machine, Extrema central dust collection system and RazorGage face-frame system.

The shop's most recent purchase was a SawStop cabinet saw.

"The goal here is to keep the company on the competitive edge, increase productivity and take on more complex jobs," says Mahoney.

The Omnitech CNC router, in particular, has helped with that objective.

"When we first got it, we could not keep up with it," says Mahoney. "It could produce a cabinet in seven minutes, where it would take us three hours to do it manually, so with every cabinet we're saving time and money."

The company's Cabinet Vision drafting program is also tied into the RazorGage, using Planit's Template CAD software, which was recently purchased for $30,000.

"We had a great year in 2008 so we decided to make the investment," says Mahoney. "We can build a face frame in minute versus hours. This allows us to produce a better product and control cost using the newest technology available.

"For years, we used Cabinet Vision to produce estimates, shop drawings and to optimize these drawings to be sent to the CNC machine. With the newest technology, RazorGage and Planit have developed software that will output the face frames to the RazorGage.

42_old_yankee_01Mahoney explains how the RazorGage system works:

"If the cabinet has a standard face frame, you will see on the touch screen a cut list and description of each part of the face frame. Simply select a part and the fence will move to the proper location for you to cut the part to length. If your cabinet has a beaded face frame, the same cut list appears.

"After the face frame parts are cut to size, you select the haunch machine on the touch screen. Each part will be listed. Select a part and the RazorGage fence will move to the correct location for the first haunch. The RazorGage will locate every haunch for that part. When you have completed that part, you select the next in line. A standard size face frame takes about 20 minutes to cut to size and haunch.

42_old_yankee_02"This software also allows you to design a beaded face frame on the screen. This is great when you are only building face frames."

Shop pride

With a history of completing more than 13,000 projects, there's something to say about the experience offered by the company's craftsmen. Their multiskilled abilities allow the company to accomplish nearly any task, simple or complex. Throw in the state-of-the art shop and that's how the company keeps its competitive edge.

Mahoney says the company has always prided itself as being built for its employees. They receive healthy benefits, including a generous 401(k) program with a 5 percent match to contributions, paid vacations ranging from one to three weeks and health insurance for which the company pays up to 75 percent.

42_old_yankee_03The shop segment of Yankee Remodeler is currently focusing on becoming more proficient with all the technology that has been installed. This is a long-term goal and will take many years of training and application to building a better product.

"Our business plan is to maintain our markets, increase service and invest in capital equipment and more training. We want to maintain our current staff size of highly skilled and motivated employees to continue to service our customers and provide a positive work environment well into the future," says Mahoney.

Contact: Yankee Remodeler of New London Inc., 95 Truman St., New London, CT 06320. Tel: 860-443-6646. www.yankeeremodeler.com

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue.