The metal roofing and wall system business of manufacturing is more than rollforming panels. There has to be quality in every aspect of the corporation, from the front office to the production lines. There must be a commitment to the business philosophy that is intermingled in operations planning. Expertise is a requirement-in design, engineering, fabrication, customer service, sales and marketing. And without innovation, a manufacturer isn’t advancing to the next level.
Twenty-five years ago, the metal manufacturing industry began to increase its visibility of metal construction products. Since then, the equipment, engineering, manufacturing and product diversity have been enhanced with improved process flows, software, colors, finishes, cool coatings and design options. These advancements are the result of the efficiency of the modern production process and the savvy of the manufacturers that continue to raise the bar on quality and innovation.
Manufacturers of factory-formed panels have used technology to improve quality control while accelerating delivery. They have also implemented systems to further improve quality and efficiency, such as LEAN manufacturing and Continuous Process Improvement.
“Since we began to implement LEAN manufacturing and Continuous Process Improvement methods nearly five years ago, we respond to customer needs more quickly and execute orders faster by eliminating waste in the process. It’s amazing how our staff continues to apply their experience to all areas of engineering, production and delivery. We’re all more conscious of being efficient and green, just like our products,” says Jim Andreas, vice president of operations for Fabral, a Lancaster, Pa.-based manufacturer of metal roofing and wall systems for residential, architectural, industrial, commercial, post frame
and agricultural applications.
The Continuous Process Improvement mindset encourages employees to make changes to their daily practice and responsibilities that ultimately has a positive effect on the customer. LEAN manufacturing is more structured and focuses on eliminating waste in every step, including over-production, waiting time, transportation, processing, inventory, motion and scrap. All this ensures customers receive quality products in a timely manner.
Ensuring the high quality of factory-formed panels, however, begins by purchasing only prime coil and paint. “We have always used our national buying power to pick the best materials, which may not always be the cheapest, and be sure no secondary or rejected products are ever used on our line. This allows us to maintain the highest quality on a wider variety of products because we have the engineering capability to manufacture more than one product at a time to meet a variety of customers’ needs,” Andreas notes.
The emphasis on quality in purchasing and manufacturing transfers to quality on the finished project. Choosing a company that has a track record for quality and a long-term support system for its warranties is essential for both contractors and architects.
As more building owners and municipalities make high performance and sustainability standards integral to their projects, contractors need to be in line with those expectations and know their options.
Contractors also need to address how efficiently the product is manufactured, any on-site construction waste that might be created, logistics and any other green benefits the manufacturer might offer. Most of these are solved by working with a national manufacturer with multiple locations nationwide. Fabral, for example, has multiple facilities in North America featuring diverse product offerings. Then, by having panels made to exact
specifications by the manufacturer, contractors help eliminate costly construction waste and help reduce installation time. In addition, a company such as Fabral incorporates sustainability practices, such as: recycling scrap; utilizing energy-efficient lighting; optimizing freight logistics; and ordering product support materials printed on Forest Stewardship Council certified paper.
To make certain the panels are designed and manufactured to meet project specs, contractors should be able to access a team of highly skilled engineers. They know the products and warranty specifications, as well as have field experience.
The engineers are part of a much larger team offered by most panel manufacturers. And while field rollforming equipment has improved and offers more features, engineering experience is essential to meet the unique needs of each project.
“The alliance of our knowledgeable engineering team and seasoned sales force puts Fabral in a unique position to serve customers large and small, and provide on-site field support and technical advice. The training and sophistication of all our employees adds a professionalism to the services we provide and our customers’ projects in the end,” Andreas says.
With a 40-plus year history in the industry, Fabral is an example of a highly responsive business with solid relationships with industry-leading suppliers, such as U.S. Steel and Valspar. These industry relationships help meet customers’ needs quickly as part of a well-running supply and support network that offers a unique combination of benefits for contractors.
Daisy Lilley is marketing manager for Fabral, Lancaster, Pa. Visit www.fabral.com for more information.