High-End Entryways For Complex Properties
Originally in Business In Focus, September 2019
Dawson Doors specializes in prestige entranceway doors for the high-end building market, in stainless steel, brass, or aluminum, and is established as a world leader in precision balanced doors.
Dawson Metal Company (DMC) was established by the Dawson family in 1946 as a small, family-owned, precision sheet-metal fabricator. With more than 70 years in business, Dawson is a leader in the fabrication and finishing of metal products, including everything from the enclosures for grocery-store self-checkouts to the steel frames for railcar seating.
Dawson Doors is the architectural products division of DMC and is well established as a world leader in the manufacture of precision balanced doors.
“It’s a family-owned company in the third generation of ownership. The Dawson family has owned it since 1946 – right after World War Two. Father and son decided they’d start making precision sheet-metal parts, and it evolved into what it is today. When you talk to contractors about balanced doors they’re going to say Dawson is the best,” says Phil Harrington, Architectural Sales and Marketing Manager at Dawson Doors.
Spray Tech Finishing and Assembly is the painting and powder coating division of DMC. When Dawson Doors has completed the fabrication process it will send the components over to the Spray Tech team for finishing when a powder coated finish is specified.
Dawson’s focus is on major entrances for high-end construction projects. Dawson doors are usually found in high rises and commercial properties in cities like New York, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and more, and in city, state and federal structures. They are imposing and eye-catching, and they set the tone of the building for any approaching visitor. A lot rests on Dawson’s craftsmanship, but the company’s commitment to quality has, over the years, made its architectural products an asset to both the buildings and their architects: consistent quality equals peace of mind.
Having established its position beyond any doubt in the United States, Dawson Doors has achieved great success in international markets. The company has worked with clients in Israel, Brazil, the Middle East, China, and further afield. “It’s because we do balanced doors. That’s one of our specialties and there are few companies in the United States that do that,” says Tad Henderson, VP of Engineering at Dawson Metal. Dawson advanced products are trusted by a customer base that spans the globe.
Across all divisions, Dawson employs roughly 115 people who work in a state-of-the-art 145,000 square-foot manufacturing facility. This is where the fabrication, powder coating, painting, and assembly equipment resides. In a fiercely competitive environment, Dawson has been able to keep its edge by focusing on continuous improvement of this facility and its manufacturing capabilities. The management works consistently to improve product quality and time to completion, while controlling costs.
Over the last few years, Dawson has made key investments in new equipment. It has upgraded its manufacturing plant with new laser cutting machines, press brakes, sanding equipment, spot welders, and more. The company is constantly investing in strategic upgrades and additions to lift quality while driving efficiency.
“If there’s an opportunity to cut an hour out of the construction of one door assembly then we’ll make the investment to do that. In the long run, we know that if we can pass that cost saving onto the customer that will ultimately help us win more work,” says Harrington. This dedication to customer satisfaction is key to the Dawson Doors approach to business.
A trajectory of growth
As a result of this commitment to continual improvement, Dawson has seen consistent growth over its lifetime. Like any company connected to large scale construction, its earnings fluctuate with the economy, but in a typical year the architectural side of the business sees growth of between 10 and 15 percent.
This success is largely a result of the exceptional quality of Dawson products and the customer satisfaction that follows. But also, by steadily improving its operating efficiency and reflecting the savings in the costs to client, some of Dawson’s success has to be a simple matter of sheer good value.
Dawson is a choice partner for an architect who has a grand vision for the entrance to a building and knows that Dawson Doors is the one to call on for the most challenging and complex of designs. “They send the drawings to us and we find a way to build what they’re looking for. Architects, general contractors, glaziers – they’ll come to us when nobody else wants to do the job. We have a knack for taking a complex vision and making it a reality. All of our jobs are extremely detailed and that’s where we find our niche,” says Harrington.
Dawson’s portfolio of high quality work has earned the confidence of many key clients who trust the company to build complex, high-end entryways for landmark properties.
These include upscale high rises such as the new One Vanderbilt Place in New York City, the Capitol Crossing real estate development in Washington, DC, and the state of Georgia’s new Judicial Complex in Atlanta.
The company also does a lot of historical restoration. For example, when the iconic entranceway of the Federal Reserve Bank had come to the end of its useful life, Dawson Doors was asked to undertake the renewal project. Being entrusted with the restoration of this historical landmark is a clear demonstration of the confidence Dawson’s customers have in its workmanship.
Dawson’s focus on unique custom designs brings many challenges with it. With the increasing demand for green solutions, clients often ask Dawson to provide specifications related to sustainability. Because every job is unique this information can be hard to deliver. To take a design all the way from the architect’s vision through to a satisfactory delivery, these hurdles must be overcome. Dawson has demonstrated an ability to evolve alongside the changing needs of its customers.
Further, because doors are often the last component of a project to be implemented, changes that have been made throughout construction need to be accommodated in a very short time. Dawson has structured its manufacturing procedures around this need for flexibility, stressing nimbleness and readiness to adapt and adjust. “We find ways to overcome those hurdles and get their products built and delivered in time to complete the building on schedule,” says Harrington.
Besides quality, the primary concern for the company is customer satisfaction. In both cost of product and delivery schedule, Dawson is committed to ensuring that the customer gets exactly what they were promised. If a delivery is behind schedule the client will be notified well in advance. On the subject of cost, according to Harrington, Dawson doors aren’t the cheapest; they’re the best.
As a family-owned company, Dawson Doors operates on a foundation of family values. Ensuring that each and every employee is treated with respect, and as though they’re members of the Dawson family, is a priority. As a result, Dawson employees have a dependable work ethic, a positive attitude, and a great working relationship with each other and management. The sense is that the employees work as a team toward the success of the company, putting both themselves and the company at the top of their field. Dawson expects to maintain its year-on-year growth rate of 10 to 15 percent.
After more than 70 years of building monumental entranceways, Dawson Doors has developed an expertise that is unmatched in the industry. The quality of its work and its commitment to customer satisfaction will open many more doors into the future.
Dawson maintains this level of flexibility because of its unrivaled capacity for teamwork. The company’s expert team is made up of long-tenured employees who have been working together for 20 to 30 years or more. Many of Dawson’s employees arrived straight from high school and college, and have stayed their entire working careers. With such minimal turnover, the Dawson team has the experience and the collaborative capacity to navigate any challenge.
Custom work is Dawson’s specialty, and it is how the company has set itself apart from competitors. While it’s common for many companies to offer commodity-style pre-made products, Dawson builds products to the client’s unique specification on every job. In general, the more difficult the entrance to be built, the more likely it is that architects will call on Dawson, because they have learned that they can trust the quality of the product. “Quality is top of the list. We don’t let anything go from engineering to production or from fabrication to shipping without it being checked and double-checked. That’s number one,” says Harrington.