Ray Ramos – Raymond Engineering-Georgia
He knew he had the skills and expertise and was confident his business would grow—and, one day in 2010, the globally recognized aerospace, arms, defense, information security and national corporation Lockheed Martin wanted his advice.
One of the company’s sites had an issue with a roofing contractor that was going out of business—during an ongoing project. Ramos was retained by a surety firm to assist in assessing the status of the current work so that a finishing contractor could be retained to complete the work. During this process, he met the person at Lockheed Martin who handled all the roofing and structural components for that site and spoke with him at some length.
He remembered Ramos the next time a roofing and waterproofing project came up and decided to hire him. Ramos recalls that the work was of such high quality that Lockheed Martin became a loyal client. Raymond Engineering currently has at least five years of projects lined up with the company.
“We’ve grown so much, and I credit it to the skill, talent and dedication of every person who works here,” Ramos says. “Sometimes I cannot believe I started this company with a computer running DOS, a phone the size of a small suitcase, a dot-matrix printer, a fax machine and an infrared camera—and now we’ve spent the last few years integrating AI.”
Tech and how less is more
Rapid expansion necessitates a better, more efficient use of technology, according to Ramos.
As of the summer of 2023, the Georgia-based company employs over 100 people across five states: Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Virginia. With an estimated revenue of $19 million, the now full-service firm has expanded beyond roofing engineering and waterproofing to provide consultations and services in engineering and architecture, which includes everything from architecture, interior design, structural, civil, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering to construction management and facilities commissioning. The client list has also grown, adding names like the U.S. Department of Defense, Veterans Administration and various school and higher education institutions across the southeast.
According to Ramos, technology is an avenue the company can take to continue growing without having to hire several more people. This way, he says, the company is better insulated against another economic downturn, yet the workload will actually decrease through the implementation and use of artificial intelligence.
The company isn’t starting from scratch, though—his son, Michael Ramos, has extensive expertise in the area. Not only does the younger Ramos have a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s in biotechnology from Tufts University, but he also obtained a certificate in innovative design in 2012 from MIT’s professional program.
With input and advice from his father, Michael Ramos has invested over five years in creating and enhancing software to simplify processes.
“I know ChatGPT recently hit the world, but it didn’t introduce AI; it just showed us what’s possible,” Ray Ramos tells Blueprint. “At Raymond, we’ve been leveraging AI for years.”
Through the younger Ramos’ extensive efforts, artificial intelligence has helped the company become more efficient in a variety of areas. This includes simplifying how reports are created and the submission of “requests for qualifications” documents to public and government entities. These qualification documents could take nearly a month to create, but with AI, they can be completed in a matter of minutes—reviews are still an important step in the document development process, Ramos says.
AI can also tackle more tedious tasks like creating surveys, providing answers to common questions and managing the data from inspections.
Ramos and his son are also in the process of using AI to assist in how the company develops design documents because they already have substantial historical data they can use. He’s even hired a software engineer to keep the company advancing and to better manage its sizeable database of information.
“We’re growing constantly, but we need to be responsible with our resources, human and financial,” Ramos says. “Technology is helping us do just that.”
A base of tech and a roof of expertise
Ramos says his company has not yet implemented AI in its design work, but it is being beta tested on several federal projects.
“We expect AI will help us in pursuing more opportunities since it will definitely improve our productivity in responding to the numerous requests we see weekly, especially on the federal side,” Ramos says.
In fact, the firm just won a contract with Naval Facilities Command-Southeast and another with Naval Facilities Command-Washington, as well as a nationwide contract with the VA. He says the joint ventures played a crucial role—much more so than any technology—in landing these contracts.
“The good news is that we’ve won a lot of work; the somewhat bad news is that everyone is trying to copy us now with joint ventures,” Ramos says.
Raymond changed the landscape of how the industry functioned by pursuing joint ventures, and, as a result, winning a contract as a prime or sole contractor is nearly impossible now. Ramos’ efforts won the company the Small Business Award from the Society of American Military Engineers in 2022.
“That award was a boon to developing and furthering relationships; we proved at the conference that we’re working with clients of all sizes, stature and influence,” he says.
Ramos isn’t even close to stopping, with either his company or his innovative ways of approaching the industry. He’s looking at expanding into other states and gaining more non-federal contracts. However, as much as he’s enjoying the solid ground Raymond is on, he sometimes laughs at the irony of starting the company to escape the corporate world, as he’s having to deal with some of the same challenges with the growing firm.
“As I think about my legacy and my son Michael coming to stand at the helm of Raymond, we’re working together to set the company up for the next 50 years—or century—of success,” Ramos says. “We want to maintain consistent, sustainable growth through the smooth and the challenging times—and we believe AI and deep relationships will be equally critical and key to achieving that.”
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