Builders Steel Company of North Kansas City, Missouri, which specializes in structural steel fabrication and erection, can trace its roots back nearly a century. If there a ‘secret’ to the longevity of Builders Steel Company – besides doing excellent work – it would likely boil down to two main things: collective ownership and a customer focus.
“We’ve always been an employee-owned company. We’re not a family-owned company, but we treat each other as if we were family-owned,” explains Executive Vice President Brent Herzberg.
“We also have a high level of service-oriented people here. I think we go over the top in making sure that our customer receives the best possible product he can. It goes back to trying to work out problems and conflicts early in each job. We’re a customer-service oriented company rather than a tonnage, out-the-door, mass-production kind of company,” adds Vice President and Sales Manager Barry Neill.
The firm operates a 70,000-square-foot structural steel shop and 30,000-square-foot shop for miscellaneous and ornamental fabrication work. Fabrication shop assignments might involve “miscellaneous stairs, hand-rails, spiral staircases, you name it,” says Shop Fabrication Manager Dennis Freed.
The fabrication division uses three computer numerical control (CNC) machines but does not use laser welders. The company prefers to do “free welding,” says Freed. Laser welders are expensive, and since Builders does so much custom work, it would be time-consuming to set up a laser welder for individual, specialized assignments, he explains.
The steel erection division primarily works in the Kansas City region of Missouri. All ironworkers at the firm are unionized and belong to Iron Workers Local 10. Builders’ officials like this arrangement because it means any ironworkers brought on board are going to be well-trained and industry-certified. Partnering with a union also gives the company a reliable pool of talented laborers to tap into whenever workloads increase. The union connection goes farther than just iron-work too; the company uses truck drivers who belong to the Teamsters Local 541, and shop employees who belong to Shopmen’s Local 853.
Last year, revenue was split, with roughly thirty-one percent coming from steel erection and the remainder coming from fabrication. This is largely a reflection of the nature of steelwork, rather than company priorities. “The reason for the offset in those percentages is it that it takes more dollars and hours usually to produce the material than it does to erect it,” explains Neill, who notes that material and shop costs can add up quickly.
Achieving an even split between steel fabrication and erection “is not feasible for us at this time,” he continues. “Every job has a two-thirds, one-third type [of ratio]. It’s just the way our product is.”
Builders does high-end work regardless of whether a job involves “a piece of handrail or a large structural project. We treat them all the same,” Herzberg states.
The company takes on jobs in a variety of sectors including retail, academic, and commercial. Of these, commercial would be the largest in terms of revenue brought in, says Herzberg. Regardless of the market involved, the company’s work is self-performed.
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