In It for the Long Haul
EPS Iron Works Inc. toasts 20 years in the steel business
EPS Iron Works Inc. (EPS), structural steel fabricator and erector located in Mineola, New York, has proven it has staying power. Contractors and developers in the Northeast have come to know that EPS is in business for the long haul.
Founded in 2001, the 20-year-old company is run by President Philip Strocchia and Philip’s father, Edward Strocchia, CEO. EPS has been joined by Phil’s son Salvatore Strocchia, who serves as the company’s Vice President of Operations.
The EPS portion of the company’s name is formed from the first letter of the first names of the father, son and grandson—Edward, Philip and Salvatore.
EPS fabricates steel to create structures using beams, trusses, hollow sections, angles and plates.
Philip says every connection point of a steel frame must be verified so that each steel member’s length, fitting and components are fabricated exactly as they were designed, long before assembly and construction can begin.
EPS’s shop fabricates these steel pieces and components and, finally, its field crew erects the steel pieces at the building site.
Accuracy is Critical
To address the need for accuracy in the way it approaches its work, EPS has adopted “No problems, only solutions” as one of its guiding principles.
“When we come across any errors that may cause delays in steel fabrication, we scope them out and correct things as quickly as possible,” Philip says. “Being accurate also makes us more cost effective when we rent construction cranes, which are critical pieces of equipment in our construction process. Consider that costs for renting a crane and its crew can range from $4,000 to $15,000 a day, depending on the crane’s size. We don’t want a crane and crew sitting around waiting because of a delay on our part."
“We need to eliminate any possible downtime, and this requires us to have very good detailers and checkers at our office,” he adds. “In fact, details are the most crucial aspect of any job we undertake. It’s a true team effort among the architect, engineer, fabricator and erector. It’s a great accomplishment when we see the building’s steel erected.”
Many companies might envy EPS’s staying power, particularly in a challenging market like New York. Philip offers some thoughts to help explain how they’ve been able to operate for two decades.
Experience, Relationships, Reputation
“We’ve completed so many jobs over the years. I think our vast experience, great relationships with builders and contractors and our impeccable reputation are the reasons why we’ve been in business for so many years,” he says. “We take great pride in our work. Our workers are well aware of our reputation, and they work hard to maintain our quality so we can continue to attract more work.”
EPS’s reputation and solid expertise are evident by its prominence in the industry and by its leaders’ contributions in helping others in the industry. One such example is when Edward Strocchia was recognized by the New York chapter of the Association of Indians in Construction Industry with an Award of Excellence.
EPS takes on projects in a wide range of industries, such as hospitality, retail, warehousing, health care and residential housing. Philip says that it’s the structures themselves that call attention to EPS’s quality.
Philip recalls when EPS erected a 22-story hotel located on John Street in New York City, which in 2004 was the tallest building his company had erected.
“Erecting the building was challenging because we were working in such a confined space—it was located so close to surrounding buildings. Each day, it took us at least an hour to set up the crane in the street used to hoist the steel. And it took another hour to take it down at the end of the day."
“So, we were only able to work with the steel for about six hours a day,” he says. “We knew we had to be accurate and work quickly because we were restricted as to the number of hours we could keep the street closed below.”
YMCA Project an Honor
EPS was honored to be selected to fabricate and erect the steel structure for the Patchogue Family YMCA, the newest addition to Long Island’s YMCA facilities. The company was awarded the project because of its close working relationship with the contractor on the job. The project required EPS to work for about eight months on the 54,000-square-foot structure in 2009.
“The two-story building is an impressive design, featuring a suspended indoor running track, workout rooms and classrooms, locker rooms and a pool,” he says.
Over the years, EPS has fabricated and erected steel for more than 120 affordable housing apartment projects within the five boroughs of New York City. The company continues to construct about five of these projects each year.
“These are great jobs for us because each of the buildings requires a lot of structural steel. They’re really built to last,” he says. “Typically, they range from 10 to14 stories in height. Constructing these buildings also makes us feel good because we know we’re building projects that people really need and will appreciate."
“Just think about it; one of those projects can generate work for up to 18 different trade companies. One building can help feed a lot of families,” he says.
“Our workers are well aware of our reputation, and they work hard to maintain our quality so we can continue to attract more work.” Philip Strocchia, President, EPS Iron Works Inc.
Philip notes that operating EPS today is significantly different from the company’s earlier days for a number of reasons.
“The rules and regulations in the building industry have changed dramatically over the years. The New York City Department of Buildings now requires companies like ours to maintain additional insurance and ensure that all our field labor is certified before we take on a job,” he says.
At EPS, certifications are mandatory for workers who perform welding, fire watch, scaffolding, rigging and other crafts, he adds.
When asked what innovation has impacted the construction industry most, Philip quickly replies that for EPS it’s been the computer.
“Computerization has truly changed our industry by making things easier and allowing our work to go much faster. However, accuracy still depends on the person inputting the information,” he adds.
Increasing innovations in the machinery used to fabricate steel also have improved the company’s ability to be accurate. “Newer machinery definitely makes the fabrication process more precise,” he adds.
While EPS applauds the computer-driven industry improvements, EPS is one of those companies that has not relied on a computer-based website to help drive its marketing efforts.
“I don’t think we need one. We have a great clientele, and many of them are repeat customers. We rely on good word-of-mouth referrals, and we work hard to maintain great relationships with contractors and developers,” Philip says. “We’ve also maintained our presence in The Blue Book Building & Construction Network®. What we’re doing seems to be working.”
Keeping Edward’s Vision Alive
“Our company operates with an old school mentality in terms of building and maintaining working relationships and paying attention to detail on all job sites,” Philip says. “We attend to each of our projects as if it were our very first one. I think our reputation speaks for itself. And, we’re proud that we’re advanced in our use of technology. We’re always on the lookout to upgrade our equipment, and we do that whenever new machinery becomes available. Speed is an important part of our approach; we are driven to produce steel faster,” he says.
Speed, attention to detail and a solid reputation are some of the reasons Philip says EPS has been able to maintain steady growth. The company proudly reports that gross revenues have increased 10 percent to 20 percent every year for at least the last 20 years.
He also praises one of his employees, Luis Calzadilla, who has worked at EPS as Estimator for 18 years. “Luis is a good example of an employee who gives his all every day. He’s dedicated, hard-working and respectful. He’s a real asset to our business,” he says.
Philip goes on to describe what the company looks for in an employee. “We like workers who are ambitious, on time, respectful, safety conscious, loyal and able to perform their work in a timely manner,” he says.
With the company’s emphasis on quality work and its great customer relationships, it’s understandable why EPS will be able to celebrate its 21st year of operations next year. Marking the milestone will be eight employees in EPS’s main office and up to 25 field ironworkers.
Edward Strocchia had a vision in 2001, and he is pleased that his vision is still alive and well today. He’s also pleased that Philip and Salvatore are continuing to maintain the family business and the sterling reputation EPS Iron Works enjoys.