American Fabricators, Inc. (AFI) is a Kloeckner Metals fabrication shop located in Nashville, Tennessee, with many different capabilities. The facility has lasers, punches, brakes, and also does spot, MIG and TIG welding as well as other types of assembly work. It is also the only Kloeckner facility that is 100% dedicated to sheet metal fabrication.
“We’re strictly fabrication and value-add,” said Quality Manager Curtis Rowlett. “We can produce a lot of different types of parts and do it in a short period of time.”
Recently, AFI has been doing more large assembly welding. They are producing a lot of base frames and other assemblies which are large and complex. To assist with this work, they are getting a new large-scale, welding manipulator. This will allow parts to be turned essentially 360 degrees for welding. AFI has also recently got a new panel bender which is currently being used.
“Ultimately what makes us successful or not successful is meeting customer requirements,” Curtis said. “That’s what drives us: customer needs and requirements and producing quality parts on time.”
Being in a competitive industry like metal fabrication, AFI is continually trying to improve on this ability to meet customer needs. The goal is simple: customer satisfaction. However, achieving that goal is sometimes challenging. It means continually improving internal processes to increase efficiency. Sometimes it means getting more done with fewer people. Other times it means investing in new equipment to meet a new need. Ultimately, it is about giving the customer the quality part they need on time, at the best price. As a Kloeckner company, AFI also has the advantage to offer one-stop shopping on everything from the material to the finished part.
“All of that is taken care of for them and basically they just have to order parts and receive them at their facility,” Curtis said.
Even though the ability to meet customer needs is important, safety still remains at the forefront at AFI. Recently, they celebrated passing their record for the longest time without a lost-time accident at over 90 days. Contributing to this success has been a strong push to improve safety. The push has included the SafeStart program, as well as improving close-call reporting. Pre-shift safety meetings have also helped to keep everyone’s mind on staying safe.
“We’re in a challenging environment as far as safety goes,” Curtis said. “There is metal everywhere that is sharp with a lot of exposed corners. We are cutting pieces of metal that have burrs on them. You’ve got press brakes going up and down constantly with people’s hands close to those things. I think by discussing and emphasizing it more, people talk about safety and it maintains it as everyone’s number one priority. When employees see things that are potential hazards, they are now more likely and empowered to take action.”
For employees at AFI, the future is looking promising. There are many opportunities, not only at AFI but also across Kloeckner. The culture at AFI is being transformed to include and value employee input. In addition, longer term employees are also focusing on assisting newer employees in professional growth. These steps have significantly reduced employee turnover over the past year. Overall, Curtis describes the atmosphere at AFI as challenging, but rewarding.
“Challenging from the vantage point that we’re not a huge company, so a lot of times you have to wear several hats,” Curtis said. “You have to be able to manage several different things simultaneously. It is also rewarding when you get emails or positive feedback from customers. A new customer recently communicated that our facility did an excellent job and helped support them during a very challenging time.”
Customer satisfaction like this is a testament to the hard work of each and every employee at AFI and points to a bright future.
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