Contractormag 2887 Emduggan

E.M. Duggan still relies on safety, quality and family

Feb. 4, 2016
E.M. Duggan invested heavily in their prefabrication facilities.  Now, they are operating three facilities with over 120,000-sq.ft. of space dedicated both to prefabrication and to their coordination group.  The coordination group makes sure all the different trades are working from the same playbook. The process provides a level of control that maximizes both efficiency and safety. 
Len Monfredo and Vince Petroni.

CANTON, MASS. — It’s a rare company here in the 21st century that can trace the origins of its success back to the 19th. In 1891, Edward M. Duggan hung out his shingle on Shawmut Ave. in Boston as a residential plumber.

Today, E.M. Duggan is a more than $175 million company operating out of four buildings in Canton and another in Boston. [Ranked No. 38 on CONTRACTOR’s 2015 Book of Giants.] Their success has been a family project that has brought the business to the 125th year anniversary mark.

All in the family

Len Monfredo, executive vice president of Operations, LEED A.P. with E.M. Duggan should know; he’s the fifth generation in the business. Edward M. Duggan was his wife’s great-grandfather. The company first passed from Edward M. Duggan to his son (also an Edward), who expanded the business into commercial work. In the 1940s Edward Duggan II took over and turned the company into a union shop.  

“Then we get to the 4th generation,” Monfredo said, “which is my father-in-law, Vince Petroni, who married Ed Duggan’s oldest daughter [Maureen] and purchased the company from him some 20 years ago.” Petroni was promoted to vice president and treasurer in 1983, promoted to executive vice president and CFO in 2009, and since 2010 has been president, CFO and CEO.

Len Monfredo was originally from New York, where he had his own general contracting company, Creative Engineering, Inc. He married a Duggan, just like Vince Petroni did before him. “I’m the son-in-law of the son-in-law,” he cheerfully explained. Monfredo came to the company seven years ago, and the transition of ownership is currently underway to him and his wife.

Quality through expansion

Monfredo credits Petroni for the company’s amazing success over the past three decades. Still, his seven-year tenure has seen dramatic changes.

“What we figured out is,” Monfredo said, “you’ve got to take a page out of Walmart and Amazon. We looked at a lot of our distributors, we looked at their facilities, we looked at how they moved materials, and we took a manufacturing approach to prefab.”

To make that happen E.M. Duggan invested heavily in their prefabrication facilities. When Monfredo first joined the company they had a single, 24,000-sq.ft. building as their prefab shop. Now, they are operating three facilities with over 120,000-sq.ft. of space dedicated both to prefabrication and to their coordination group.

An E.M.Duggan tech works on a prefabricated section of piping.

All three buildings are interconnected with roads and stairs so they operate for all intents and purposes as a single facility. “There are fiber optics between each building,” Monfredo said. “We have backup servers at the facilities so they can’t go down, each building has a generator; we’ve gotten very sophisticated.”

The coordination group makes sure all the different trades are working from the same playbook: building information models (BIM) made in AutoCad and Revitt. Those same computer generated models are the ones used by the prefabrication shop.

“Everything is bar coded, everything is intelligent,” Monfredo explained. “We literally have prefab made at a table, it gets loaded right at that table on to a stackable pallet. That pallet has a bar code for every piece of prefab; where it goes, where it belongs, when it was made, when it was tested… we made a custom dolly so that can get loaded onto a truck, and basically be wheeled into the building.”

At that point the plumber, the pipefitter and sprinklerfitter can all take their pieces out and put everything together like Legos in the field. The process provides a level of control that maximizes both efficiency and safety. “Today,” Monfredo said, “we’re told by our vendors and our subs and our clients… that we’re five steps ahead of any of our competitors.”

People make the difference

Monfred credits the success of E.M. Duggan’s expansion to getting an initial buy in from everyone involved. “We have a very collaborative culture,” he said. “That involved all the men and women that work in our prefab shops… You get people to buy into things and ideas. Once you tell them they have a say, it’s unbelievable.”

For example, back in 2012 all testing for prefab assemblies was done at a testing booth. When the second building in the complex was built, processes were re-examined and employees suggested testing right at the bench they were finished at, and it turned out to be a more efficient way to work.

So where do these high-quality, collaborative, knowledgeable workers come from? Again, that goes back to the 125 years of history E.M. Duggan has backing it up.

“A lot of the people we’re talking about… have been here for 10, 15, 30 years,” Monfredo said. “They’ve had their careers here. They’ve grown up in the business, so to speak, at Duggan.”

It isn’t just the owners who have had five generations with the company. Cousins, brothers, uncles, sons and fathers, mothers and daughters have all made their careers with the company over the past one-and-a-quarter centuries.

“Obviously they like working with us,” Monfredo said, “that’s why they want to have their relatives come and work here… At the bottom, everyone wants to work with us, everyone wants to succeed. It’s a great culture that’s been created over the years and decades and it’s just been amplified and continued over the generations.”

Mantra for success

The long story of E.M. Duggan has been a series of successful relationships; with employees, vendors and clients. “Giving our clients the highest quality product in the safest way possible,” Monfredo said. “That’s our mantra. It’s been our mantra for the last 50-plus years. It’s only gotten more defined over the last decade.”

And while delivering on that promise, E.M. Duggan tries to make itself as easy to work with as possible. “We are willing to work with our clients,” Monfredo said. “We don’t change-order people to death. The relationships we have with those clients are very important, so we will bend where we have to bend… we fix things where we have to fix things. If we can help a sub out we’ll help a sub out… and we don’t nickel-and-dime people.”

As a result, E.M. Duggan has left an indelible mark on their community, through hundreds of high rises, hotels, sporting arenas and condos they have helped to build and continue to maintain through their Mechanical Services Department. In 2014 they created an E.M. Duggan Special Projects Division located in the heart of Boston so they could extend their expertise to smaller buildings projects. 

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