Posted on February 15, 2022
“The one thing I love about R.E. Dimond and Associates is they work really well with the customer. I take care of the maintenance side of things and they come to me to ask questions like, ‘What do you think would work best?’ They take everybody’s input into what they’re designing and it’s a better end product for everyone.”— Matt Knipstein, Senior Director of Campus Facilities and Maintenance, Sweetwater
Read more about Sweetwater’s work and ours in Building Excellence’s March 2022 edition
“We keep talking about how when you walk through Sweetwater’s campus, it doesn’t look like any office building; well, this new space is going to be that on ste- roids,” Wood said. “By doing a light ren- ovation, we’re getting a lot of bang for our buck and some much-needed growth capacity as we’ve grown by double digits again since last year.”
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Highlights of Sweetwater’s challenges and results
- Needs quiet, comfortable work environment for sales and distribution centers
- Fast and efficient climate control to protect inventory and staff
- Keeping operations running 24/7
- Creatively placed MEP systems to reduce noise
- Natural gas facility generators capable of giving back to the grid
- A secure, redundant “fiber ring” of networking around the campus
- First-of-their-kind HVAC systems
- A quiet, comfortable space for all employees and valuable inventory
- Lower long-term costs from reduced resource usage
- An engineering relationship that works as an act of friendship, not business
Challenges in warehousing and sales
Ensuring pro audio equipment is in top condition and sold at scale
Most people have no idea the country’s largest pro audio and music retailer is nestled in northeast Indiana. Founded by Chuck Surack, Sweetwater took off in the mid-90s when, as a small music recording operation, he began making location recordings of local bands from the back of his VW bus—which sits in front of their corporate HQ today.
In 1979 Surack began mixing recordings from his VW bus and inside his living room, soon after he put up a small website. Backed by a talented sales team, Sweetwater redefined customer relationships, shipping, and returns. This combination unique among music stores put Sweetwater on a growth trajectory not just in sales, but with customers, too.
All of their growth means Sweetwater needed an expanding line of networking equipment and distribution facilities with backup redundancies to ensure constant operation.
“It’s paramount our HVAC system works everywhere in our building to keep the instruments and audio equipment we have safe from humidity and weather damage,” says Facility Directory Matt Knipstein. “We have to control humidification to around 40-45%, which is a challenge in the Midwest.” Sweetwater stocks small equipment, instruments, and over 12,000 guitars that can warp, fray, degrade, or get out of tune, and arrive in customer’s hands damaged.
To add to those HVAC challenges, a team of professional musicians and audio engineers are hyper-aware of noise. Sweetwater wanted a way to reduce the typical hum and background noise of HVAC and other Mechanical Engineering and Plumbing systems so their engineers and customers never hear it—even over the phone.
Solutions in reducing resource usage and failure points
Cutting-edge MEP systems, layouts, and creative placement
R.E. Dimond’s V.P. of Electrical Engineering Tim Hill along with a vast team of electrical engineers with local and regional power and natural gas companies worked together to build two massive natural gas parallel generators on-site. “Throughout the year we’ll get a call from REMC to go off-grid,” says Knipstein. “This allows us to run off the grid, saving them precious resources. And whatever power we’re not using we push back to the grid.”
“We did a chilled beam heating and cooling system that’s fairly new to the industry,” adds Knipstein. “It was a roll of the dice but it’s worked well for us through a couple of seasons now.”
Equally important was a redundant “fiber ring” of Internet networking that circles their campus. The “ring” layout ensures no single device failure brings down everything in the line. Likewise, if an Internet service provider fails, a second ISP can be activated to pick up the bandwidth.
“And if something’s not right they’re always willing to jump in,” says Knipstein. “They’re one of the best consultants I’ve worked with in fifteen years.”
“I’ve called Tim when we had a problem in the distribution center where we lost power. It was one of the first times something happened and none of us were familiar with it yet. We called at 1 a.m. and he answered his phone and walked us through a fix.”— Matt Knipstein
Results that drive the music business and pro audio sales
Better customer relationships, safe and comfortable work environments for employees, and responsible resource usage
The company’s campus has expanded to 600 sales engineers housed in hundreds of spaces, and can house up to 900.
The whole space is surrounded by HVAC units that run nearly silent, with distracting noises and hums obfuscated away from the sales engineers and their customers.
Unlike most warehouses that shiver and swelter with the weather and barely have insulation, Sweetwater distribution center employees work in some of the most comfortable environments of any warehouse anywhere in the U.S.—a boon for talent recruitment and retention.
The mezzanine, office spaces, cafeteria and stage, coffee bar, and a 30,000 SF retail expansion, plus acoustically-isolated music laboratories, a marketing addition, training center, and an employee wellness center with locker rooms and salon are all connected, comfortable, and designed to sound and work perfectly.
“Dan [Dimond] is President at R.E. Dimond and Associates, and I bet I could send him a text and I’d have a response within ten minutes. They’re all very personable. Dan hands out socks every Christmas and when you see someone’s socks you say, “Hey you got the Dimond socks on!” With them, you’re building more of a friendship than a work relationship.”— Matt Knipstein