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50 Most Admired Companies of the Year 2022

Serving since 1987: Pro Services, a Top-Rated Skilled Trades Contractor, Continues to Lead from the Front

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“We pride ourselves on our teams’ round-the-clock availability for customers’ demands and rapid response times.”

Pro Services is a multi-skilled trades contractor that provides contract mechanical services to industrial, commercial, and residential customers alike. The company has consistently provided dynamic solutions with safety, integrity, and efficiency from its headquarters in Southwest Michigan.

Pro Services was incorporated in 1987.

The Silicon Review contacted Mike Vandemaele, CEO of Pro Services, who spoke about how the company is making a difference in this segment and plans to stay at the forefront. Below is an excerpt.

Interview Highlights

Q. Pro Services has provided skilled trades and maintenance technicians to multiple industries nationwide. How did Pro Services continue to adapt over the years and what inspired the creation of the company?

The genesis of Pro Services goes back to my youth when I was fresh out of high school and entered the U.A. apprenticeship program to become a certified plumber, pipefitter, and welder. After completing the program, I worked at several companies as a skilled trades professional and recognized more often than not, I was not equipped (information-wise and/or toolkit-wise) to deliver the full value my customers sought. This realization burrowed deeper into my mind when I experienced the multiple trades and steep prices my clients had to stomach to restart their operations after an equipment/process failure. Ironically, I come from a family of skilled labor professionals and paper manufacturers. So, the disparity that existed between the need for efficient maintenance operations and the lack of cost-effective solutions did not sit right with me. Therefore, I started Pro Services as a mechanical skilled trades contractor with a mission to ensure impactful and cost-effective maintenance-related resources to the pulp and paper industry. Subsequently, when more and more customers began pleading for Pro Services to assign (on a semi-permanent basis) its team of seasoned skilled trades professionals for their mounting maintenance needs, I began to dig deeper into the problem.

Finally, intended as a longer-term solution to the problem, I launched my company’s training program called “Pro U” and developed an apprenticeship program to educate multi-crafted reliability and maintenance personnel equipped to handle the full breadth of critical industrial maintenance nuances. Despite my epiphany, it took years of development effort for Pro Services to get its curriculum approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, as most apprenticeship programs at the time took at least four years to complete; while Pro Service’s apprenticeship initiative is based upon two-years of coursework. We leveraged leading educational practitioners, developed our technical curriculum in-house, and backed it all with studies performed by leading training organizations to ensure alignment with the latest industry trends and regulatory mandates, which further increased our chances of gaining approvals from relevant entities.

Q. Advancement, learning, and the adoption of new technology are required to continuously serve your clients better. How do you work for your clients smarter?

Pro Services continues to invest in leading-edge technology training and development materials. We ensure our technicians are outfitted with the best tools and training to perform world-class maintenance on both legacy systems as well as the world’s leading equipment technologies.

Q. What are your core values? And what characteristics do you look for in employees to represent those values?

Pro Services is built on four core values — safety, integrity, pride, and teamwork. Our core values dictate everything, be it hiring or promoting personnel, taking up a new customer project, or managing existing clientele. We believe that as long as this company continues to do this and we make our customers understand the mission behind our approach to maintenance and skilled trades projects, Pro Services will sustain itself as a leader in the industry. At the same time, Pro Services is a learning organization focused on continuous improvement based on our customers’ advancing technology. Put simply, we work for you, harder and smarter.

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Q. How skilled is the Pro Services team of experts? And how do they bring value to the company?

Pro Services employs industry renowned expertise. Our in-house expertise brings value to our company through solving our customers’ most difficult and pervasive issues by tenaciously applying their experience, knowledge, and skills. Besides, we realize the impact of our core pillars through the example of our diverse executive management team, which comprises leaders hailing from various backgrounds, including core manufacturing, construction management, pulp and paper, and more.

Pro Services’ culture of safety, integrity, pride, and teamwork enables our C-suite to seamlessly collaborate and ensure maximum value to our clients. Additionally, we pride ourselves on our teams' round-the-clock availability for customers’ demands and rapid response times. Our pillars also influence our maintenance apprenticeship program as it does not just test an individual’s skills but also ensures that they are effective in managing and mitigating client needs before validating their certifications.

Q. What strategies are in place to encourage innovation in your company?  

Pro Services embraces technology and innovation at every level of our organization. Our innovation process is a cornerstone of daily operations and our operating system. Employee innovation is captured through continuous improvement initiatives led by individual employees and championed by the executive leadership team.

Q. In what industries are your clients? Can you provide us with one or two success stories describing the challenges your clients faced and how your solutions helped them overcome those challenges?

We serve paper and packaging, food and beverage, power and energy, pharmaceutical, brewing, plastics, foundry/extrusions, and automotive. Pro Services has a proven track record of dramatic equipment reliability improvement for our customers.  We drive these reliability initiatives through equipment failure mode science, operational data, and world-class maintenance techniques. These types of improvements create additional sales revenue capacity and lower operating costs to our customers. We have case study data for a couple of the most significant turnaround scenarios that can be shared. 

Q. What do you think are the biggest challenges your industry will face in the next five years? And how do you plan to counter those challenges? 

Unquestionably, the most significant challenge industries are facing and will continue to face over the next decade, is the lack of skilled labor. There is a systemic shortage of adequate training pipelines available to the workforce. Pro Services has invested millions over the past decade engineering a Department Of Labor-endorsed technical training platform for Industrial Reliability Technicians. We have the only program of its kind and we continue to invest in the exponential growth of our unique offering.

Q. Is there anything else you want us to highlight that we might have missed? 

Our ultimate quest is to do all we can to preserve the strength and competitiveness of US-based domestic manufacturing.

“Our core values dictate everything, be it hiring or promoting personnel, taking up a new customer project, or managing existing clientele. We believe that as long as this company continues to do this and we make our customers understand the mission behind our approach to maintenance and skilled trades projects, Pro Services will sustain itself as a leader in the industry.”

“We realize the impact of our core pillars through the example of our diverse executive management team, which comprises leaders hailing from various backgrounds, including core manufacturing, construction management, pulp and paper, and more.”

“Put simply, we work for you, harder and smarter.”