The Panel Shop Then and Now
By Evan Coulter
The notifications popped up on my LinkedIn profile this month: “Congratulations on 16 years at UCEC!” To be honest, I was a little surprised. Career-related anniversaries aren’t usually on my radar.
In April 2000, I walked through the doors of UCEC as a temporary worker. My mother was the company’s receptionist, and so I had an “in” for extra income. I knew next to nothing about panels, so I pretty much did what anyone told me. I drilled pre-marked holes in back pans at first. Then, I started to learn wiring, and it turned out I was pretty quick at wiring PLC cards. I just kept working at my craft and soon, I was moving up into a full wireman position where I could take a job from beginning to end on my own.
Around 2004, Mark Inboden stepped into the CEO and President role after helping out UCEC’s former owner (Chris Kitsos, Mark’s father-in-law) for several years. That’s when I moved into the front office at headquarters and helped with purchasing as a Production Coordinator. I was able to use my experience and knowledge of part numbers and what parts went with what jobs in my new role. I kept adding responsibilities, eventually becoming an Operations Manager with full responsibility for quoting and production. Then, I moved into the VP of Operations role, and last year, I became VP of Business Operations.
A few pictures from 2004:
And what the shop looks like in 2016:
When I first started in 2000, UCEC was a very different company than it is today. Our shop was nicknamed the “Foundry” because it was very dark. We used rolling fluorescent lights to illuminate our work. At that time, the shop wasn’t split into assembly and wiring like it is today. One area for improvement was standardizing our panels so they all appeared the same.
Our current shipping and receiving departments didn’t exist yet, so we all pitched in and checked in parts when deliveries arrived. Quoting was done by the owner, and computers had yet to make their appearance in the office. With about 20 people company wide, we were producing about half of the panels we do today.
Sixteen years later, UCEC has implemented new technologies, best-in-class accounting systems, divided the shop into two main competencies and improved on our already very good customer service. We have all of the departments of a well-functioning panel shop: quoting, shipping and receiving, purchasing, accounting, warehouse, HR, quality control and more. We work with a marketing partner, maintain a blog and create content for social media accounts. Best of all, we’ve doubled our production capacity and now employ 33 people plus five temporary workers.
Throughout these 16 years, I have seen the core culture of UCEC stay the same, and that is great news. We still strive to get the best products to our customers at the best price. Internally, we’ve gotten better at taking care of the needs of the employees and the business. We make every effort to hire, train and retain the best people on our team.
One more thought is that I’ve personally seen the growth UCEC has enjoyed as we took on different industries. When I started, we did a lot of water and wastewater projects. Years later, we’ve become experts in so many other industries such as Oil and Gas, Energy, Beverage, Packaging and Recycling.
I’m glad I “walked into” this career so many years ago. I look forward to the next 16 years with UCEC!
Evan is VP of Business Operations for UCEC.