Conewago Manufacturing, LLC
A natural progression
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Conewago Manufacturing, LLC for our focus on the Precast Construction Industry
Nestled in the heart of America’s snack capital of Hanover, Pennsylvania is Conewago Manufacturing, LLC, an industrial concrete manufacturer of insulated sandwich panels, architectural precast panels, and hollow core plank. A second-generation family-owned business spun out from parent company Conewago Enterprises, the company takes pride in its high-quality products, safety standards, and an unrelenting commitment to helping clients turn their visions into reality. Conewago Manufacturing’s precast concrete products can be found in medical centers, environmental projects, distribution centers, churches, gymnasiums, hotels, hospitals, office complexes, theatres, retail shopping centers, and warehouses across the Mid-Atlantic states.
“While we supply a broad range of concrete and steel products to the general contracting market,” says Richard Prendergast, Lead Estimator for Precast at Conewago Manufacturing, LLC, “around 80 to 90 percent of what we do are wall panels. As versatile building blocks, applications include warehouses, distribution centers, fire stations, police stations, and wastewater treatment plants.” The company also manufactures floor planks and wet-cast products like precast columns and beams.
When it comes to clients, Prendergast notes, “It’s an interesting mix. Although we have a lot of general contractors who buy from us, we also have property owners contacting us directly to place precast orders outside of their general contractor’s contract.”
“Conewago Manufacturing’s history is best described as a natural progression or evolution,” says Eric Smith, Director of Sales at Conewago Manufacturing, LLC. Its parent company, Conewago Enterprises, Inc., was founded in 1956 by Donald B. Smith, Sr. as a general contracting business. At the time, the company focused on CMU construction, but as this trend changed, they decided to change with the times, switching to concrete by setting up a precast division. That division, initially set up to supply Conewago Enterprises, eventually became Conewago Manufacturing, Inc. in 2017 – a standalone company that supplies both the mother company and the broader general contracting market.
Smith reports, “As a separate entity, Conewago Manufacturing focuses on precast products, an important step in ensuring each business grows in its own right while making strategic investments that do not dilute other parts of the business. Conewago Manufacturing has around 120 employees based at our Hanover, PA headquarters.” As a family-owned business, the company still maintains a tight-knit culture, investing heavily in its workers to ensure the best possible product quality. Delivering exceptional results that drive repeat business is at the heart of all the company does. “Our core values are commitment, a can-do attitude, and creativity,” says Smith. “By living and embodying these three factors, we generate up to seventy-five percent of our revenue from repeat business.”
Prendergast elaborates further on why clients keep coming back, “From top to bottom, everybody has the same passion – making sure our customers are taken care of. We share our customers’ passion for their projects, which brings many of our customers back to us because they know that if they get excited about a project, we get excited alongside them. It’s a hand in hand thing.” Operations-wise, Prendergast adds a bold statement about Conewago Manufacturing’s quality, “We offer probably the best envelope of insulation in precast compared to some of our competitors.”
But this is not just an empty claim. The company guarantees its product quality by going the extra mile with certifications and automation. According to Prendergast, “Alongside PCI, erector and plant certifications, our quality control personnel are certified up to a level that is close to an inspector level of certification, so everybody is on the same page regarding the quality of the product we are producing.”
On the automation front, the company has invested in a concrete plotter, a step both company executives admit will increase the efficiency, safety, and throughput of their plant. “All the investments we make into our operations have one objective,” says Smith, “and that is to ensure that when a customer works with us, they are so thoroughly satisfied with the work, they want us to do all their future work.”
As a supplier to general contractors across Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, the company’s precast products can be found in hundreds of structures across these states. Besides quality, offering a wide variety of panel sizes is perhaps one significant reason behind such a broad footprint. “We work closely with our customers to design panels around their requirements,” says Prendergast. “Our solutions stand out because we can make a wide range of panel sizes, while most of our competitors have limits as to how wide they can make a panel. For clients willing to pay extra, we can make it wider to accommodate their needs, and we do that a lot. At the same time, we retain a rich quality and finish of the product.”
As a company that relies on usually scarce trade skills, Conewago Manufacturing is fortunate to be in a part of the country where such skills are still relatively plentiful. While this availability of talent solves part of the equation, the company is solving the other half through automation, something both executives see as a viable path for future growth. “Automated services are the future of concrete,” says Prendergast, “which is one of the reasons we invested in a concrete plotter. As we continually invest in our people, we are also investing in technology and automation, so our overall throughput as a plant can rise in response to the ebbs and flows of demand in the construction industry.”
Smith admits, “The pandemic affected our business at the beginning of the year when some projects were put on hold. But fortunately, our industry is considered essential, so we had the mandate to continue working even as other industries were undergoing restrictions. With most of the delayed contracts now back in play, we are operating at full capacity to help our clients meet their end of year targets.”
Keeping its workers safe during the pandemic has been a top priority for the company’s leadership, a fact Richard Prendergast is quick to point out. “Our performance during the pandemic has been largely due to the efforts of the company’s owners and senior management who made decisions and pulled triggers on things that they didn’t have to, but they did anyway, which helped everybody out. These swift actions kept the business rolling at a time when a lot of people were slowing down.”
Looking ahead five years from now, both executives are clear about one thing; the company will not have compromised on the quality of its product, safety of its workers, and ensuring its customers’ visions become a reality. Regarding automation, Smith conveys the following message: “Our investment in automation will not result in a reduced workforce. Our outlook on this is to give us the capacity to ramp up production quickly, especially when repeat customers come with new projects. In such cases, it is challenging to scale up a workforce quickly, but with the right automation in place, we can easily increase capacity.” The company also hopes to increase in size and reach more customers in the area, something they plan to do without sacrificing their core values.
AT A GLANCE
Conewago Manufacturing, LLC
What: Precast concrete manufacturer
Where: Hanover, Pennsylvania
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