Corbins Electric is on a journey to change the electrical manufacturing industry forever. A company with more than 40 years’ experience, Corbins certainly knows its terrain well. Not content for the business to rest on its laurels, however, COO Justin Martin is determined to radically rethink assumptions around people and processes. We speak to him in-depth to understand more about how this is being achieved, as well as how the company’s commitment to technology is reinforcing these changes.
“Corbins Electric started in 1975 as an electrical service contractor and grew into electrical construction,” Martin explains. “We are a company that offers four complimentary but distinct services: Electrical Construction, Electrical Service, Virtual Construction and Fabrication.”
Corbins Electric’s industry leading virtual construction, building information modelling (BIM), and 3D modelling capabilities, is one of that many advantages that sets them apart from the competition. Although these are facets of electrical contracting that are already tech-heavy, Corbins is keen to continuously develop its technology capabilities. Using eVolve™ workflow to leverage single-click automation for fabrication, material ordering, and detailed as-built drawings, Corbins is able to deliver efficient virtual construction services to contractors, engineers, and architects. We don’t just do modelling to support our own projects – we also do this to support others. This is a need that our industry has – not everybody can accelerate that functionality quickly enough. We have some unique tools that help contractors prefabricate - that’s something we are able to leverage worldwide.”
“It’s our virtual construction and prefabrication that makes us stand out in the marketplace,” Martin says. “We’ve also implemented a lot of lean manufacturing practices including value stream mapping to continuously drive waste out of processes.”
Corbins also provides market-leading fabrication services. Its state-of-the-art 23,000 sq ft lean fabrication facility provides a number of technical functions including conduit bending, racking, as well as TIG, MIG, and ARC-certified welding, and custom labelling, among many other complimentary activities. The company is also able to offer clients consulting services ranging from lean manufacturing, modelling, fabrication and even mobile app development to help drive efficiency in the field.
Corbins initially entered into the market with a variety of electrical construction services, an aspect of the business that continues to go from strength to strength. Having worked in the industry for so long has enabled it to gain crucial experience across a broad number of different sectors, including healthcare, manufacturing, commercial, and aviation. These segments and more benefit from elite electrical construction services such as design/build, design/bid/build, construction manager at risk (CMAR), subcontracting, and job order contracting (JOC). Corbins also offers electrical services tailored to the needs of facility owners and property managers, including troubleshooting and repair, lighting and energy management, and preventative maintenance.
As with many people that have spent their entire career in the industry, Martin has an intimate understanding of the problems it faces. But unlike so many others working in this space, he has a plan to not only survive but thrive by rethinking the fundamentals of the corporate culture.
“There’s been a huge focus on undoing the stigmatisms in the industry in regards to how people are treated and developed,” he explains. “What’s glaringly obvious is a lack of leadership. I see on LinkedIn all the time how people post articles about millennials and how horrible they are. I even bought into it for the first few years and thought ‘this is going to be a real challenge.’
“But as we hire and intentionally developed them, their contributions to our business have continued to propel us forward,” he adds. “Now when I read these articles I see that a bunch of baby boomers who haven’t figured know how to manage millennials and are still whining about it.”
“We have some of our most innovative ideas and some of our best leaders coming from a generation that people are saying can’t work,” Martin adds. With the age of an electrical construction journeyman averaging out at around 55 and, with 40 percent of the electrical workforce slated to retire over the next 10 years, the industry is facing a demographic challenge. While attracting a younger, more tech-savvy workforce is part of his strategy to combat this, it is only part of the story.
“I don’t buy into the idea that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” he laughs. “Some people in the last years of their career are adopting and implementing the technology just as quickly. When you get down to what helps them to do their job and accelerate the experience they already have they get on board – I have been impressed by how they have accelerate that so well.”
“I would call myself the ‘chief culture warrior’,” Martin adds. Passionate about both people and process (in that order) he has worked in the electrical construction industry since he was 19. Persistently bothered by what he saw as invisible walls between the various functions of the industry, he is keen on identifying where changes can be made.
“I didn’t think there needed to be lack of communication and unnecessary tension between field and office, preconstruction and operations, operations and accounting. A lot of times people defaulted to a people issue when there was a process issue - that was driving the disconnect.”
Having doubled down on making sure that Corbins has workface fit for a rapid, multi-faceted transformation, Martin then set about implementing new technological solutions. In a short period of time, Corbins was able to significantly reduce payroll administration costs, while improving accuracy and speed – all because of mobile apps and automation. “We have launched 80 independent functional mobile applications since October 2015,” he says. “Instead of buying canned software, we decided to develop those in house, and partnering with Catavolt, utilizing their platform to develop apps that meet our workflows.”
Corbins has without doubt set about a sea change in the electrical construction industry. By innovating its corporate culture and technological capabilities, Martin and his team have strengthened the business, ready to meet the evolving needs of clients across the US and the world. Encouraging the next generation of workers to realise their full potential, while ensuring that more experienced workers benefit from the same fresh approach, Corbins’ status as a top employer in the industry has grown ever stronger.
Martin concludes: “We are really committed to the success of each other and the functions and departments – there’s a lot of alignment in that. It’s hard to grow a company to more than 600 people and have all the leadership going in the same direction. That wouldn’t have even happened if we didn’t have a leadership team that was completely aligned and bought into each other with that level of trust.”