When starting a new commercial or residential project, you will want the right structural steel fabricator behind you. While there are different types of fabrication materials, structural steel frequently comes out on top when it comes to strength, ductility, and durability. But, it’s not just about the material; for project success–especially when it comes to complicated projects with multiple stakeholders and tight deadlines–the fabricator you choose matters. With inexperienced fabricators, small glitches can snowball into more significant issues. Here are ten things to look for in a structural steel fabricator.
Kloeckner Metals is a full-line steel supplier and service center. Download our structural plate spec sheet to learn what Kloeckner Metals routinely stocks.
When you’re looking for a structural steel fabricator, experience matters, and the first thing you’ll want to check is their current and past projects. You want practical, hands-on experience, and to guarantee it, you’ll want to see examples of their work. Can they point you towards similar projects?
You will also want to vet everyone involved in those projects. You’ll want to see:
Vetting structural steel fabricators is a two-part process that includes understanding what they’ve done and who you’ll be working with.
It is essential for complex architectural metal fabrication and industrial metalwork projects that structural elements arrive at just the right time, demanding close collaboration from detailers, erectors, and fabricators. How does the structural steel fabricator break their process down? For complex projects, you’ll want to see a detailed breakdown that covers costs along the way. You can ask:
If the structural steel fabricator brushes over any questions or requests for higher specificity and accuracy, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
How does the steel fabricator plan to communicate each step with you and other stakeholders throughout the project? For challenging projects, small failures of communication can snowball into big issues. Ask the steel fabricator:
You’re looking for easy, transparent communication with a fast turnaround. If the structural steel fabricator doesn’t have an established process for communicating with customers that meets all three needs, you should look elsewhere.
What certifications does the structural steel fabricator you’re considering have?
In structural steel fabrication, it’s not about general experience, it’s about project-specific experience. Does the structural steel fabricator you’re considering specialize, or are they big enough that they’ve successfully completed different types of projects? If not, they may stumble over the project, leading to setbacks and financial pitfalls.
Structural steel projects can be so large and multi-faceted, that they require an attention to detail that only an experienced fabricator can give. It’s important to find a company that can handle the grade, type, and gauge of metal needed for your project, any additional fabrication required, as well as any coordination and communication required.
It should go without saying that any structural steel fabricator you take on for your project has the capabilities to do it, but many may subcontract part of the project out. This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker as long as you make sure that the company you choose can handle the project from start to finish. If they are sub-contracting work out, do a background check of the sub-contractor as well. Whoever is working on your project should have the equipment, skilled staff, materials, and production capacity to complete your project on time and within budget – whether or not you’ll be working directly with them.
Does the structural steel fabricator have the capacity to meet your needs? One recurring issue of smaller steel fabricators is their inability to meet the high supply-demand of their clients. If you have a massive project, you’ll need a minimum workforce and allocation of facility tools and equipment. A company may employ 30 employees, but only a fraction of them may be qualified to provide the services you need; similarly, a company may have the right equipment, but they may have concurrent demands from other clients. Ensure that the structural steel fabricator you’re considering has enough specialists and equipment to meet your needs for the duration of your project.
Speaking of tools and equipment, does your structural steel fabricator have the right ones for your project? Ask the fabricators to give a tour of their facility and workshop so you can see firsthand their tools and equipment. For tough fabrication jobs that require accuracy and expertise, you will most certainly need advanced tools and equipment. A tour is also another opportunity to make sure you have a rapport with your fabrication partners.
Do you feel like you’re at the center of the steel fabricator’s attention and that they’re committed to your satisfaction? No matter the fabricator’s size, look for guiding principles that include customer service at the heart of their organization. For this, you can assess your treatment during the vetting phase and validate your impressions by checking with references – great steel fabricators won’t hesitate to send a few references your way.
Finally, does your steel fabricator take safety seriously? Ask the fabricator:
It is also possible to look at recent OSHA citations in the metal fabrication industry to better understand how fabricators are focusing their compliance efforts.
Not all structural steel fabricators are created equal, so do your research when choosing a fabrication company. Large or small, contractor or subcontractor, there’s a lot to consider! Use these 10 considerations to help you choose the best fabricator for current and future projects.
Kloeckner Metals is a full-line steel supplier and service center. Kloeckner Metals combines a national footprint with the latest fabrication and processing technologies and the most innovative customer service solutions.
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