Four million hours worked without a lost-time incident. That is quite a commendable number for a contractor working with structural steel and preengineered metal. But Sure Steel Inc., South Weber, Utah, has done that. This outstanding achievement is the result of some of the founding fundamentals Sure Steel was formed with and that has propelled it to be one of today’s top nationally ranked steel contractors.
Sure Steel’s founding core competencies have made it a successful steel and pre-engineered metal building contractor
In 1993, Sure Steel started as a small steel erection company in Sandy, Utah, and now specializes in the design, fabrication and installation of structural steel, pre-engineered metal buildings, architectural metal panels and associated components. In 2011, Sure Steel outgrew its facilities in Sandy and relocated its headquarters to South Weber. A satellite office was opened in Dallas in 2014 to serve clients in that region, and in 2018 Sure Steel expanded to Raleigh, N.C., establishing a firm presence to work closely with partners in the region.
“We now have over 300 erectors and we work from coast to coast,” says Matt Brower, business development manager at Sure Steel. “We do large, medium and every size project now. We’ve got a few projects near the $40 million range. We went from doing $10 million to $15 million a year to being on pace this year to do $130 million to $140 million.”
Four Million Safe Hours
How did Sure Steel accomplish its stellar safety record? It has a full-time safety program, field safety managers and regional safety managers. “It’s not just a superintendent, we have a safety team and that’s what they do,” Brower says.
Also, the company has its roots in the heavy industrial mining world, where there is a higher expectation of safety. “From the top down, our executives have made safety their passion about everything we do,” Brower says. “We look for ways to build the projects safer. [With] iron workers and erectors, it’s a ‘rough and grindy’ business with a lot of hard-working people. There’s a lot of different ways to do things, a lot of ways that have been around for years, but just because that’s the way it’s always been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done. We are always looking at how we can work in a safer manner and we have a safer approach to limit exposure to falls by working more on the ground. This requires more planning and more management. The result is a safer job site and employees go home every day safely.”
Trust is a major component of Sure Steel’s operations and one of the reasons for its success. It implements a trust model and this model goes upstream and downstream with its suppliers, its contractors and all of its stakeholders.
“We want to be a company people trust and will feel confident that if they go with us they will have a successful, safe project,” Brower says. “We will do what’s expected of us. We spend a lot of time building relationship of trust with our clients so that when they hire us, they don’t have to worry about us. They can worry about somebody else. That’s a big part of our growth. We have established a reputation for being one of the most trustworthy and one of the most professional steel contractors in the country.”
To ensure success, Sure Steel uses earn value reporting. When the company does its take-offs, it counts every bolt, every weld, every beam and connection. It has man hours assigned that establishes how long a certain task should take. Throughout the week Sure Steel’s field management team tracks those quantities being placed, so it has an estimated versus actual value. This tool providesleading indicators versus what was estimated. These indicators tell if the company is ahead or behind schedule and tracks productivity. From that information, it can give bonuses on performance.
“Earn value reporting allows us to manage schedules way more efficiently and more accurately,” Brower says. “It helps us narrow in our costs. The next time we have a project we are finding that this could be done quicker than we thought and we can be more competitive on the cost side.”
Sure Steel works on complex projects from different aspects because it does Division 5 projects, pre-engineered metal buildings and many projects with insulated metal panels. The company looks at potential projects and asks, “How can we make this process better? Are there details we can change? Can we switch the detail out and make the total installed cost more efficient?”
Brower says Sure Steel gets involved early in the construction process in a design-assist role. “The advantage we have as an erector is how are we going to build from this standpoint? From the ground up? How are we going to get this done? On a Southwest Airlines hangar project in Houston, we saw a big box girder running across the whole front of the structure to carry the big box trusses front to back. Those box trusses are very heavy and we were able to redesign that to a single truss design instead of box trusses. That saved several hundred tons of steel, making the buildings lighter and more efficient. It took some thinking about it in a different way. We’re always looking at how we can improvethe design, not only from a structural standpoint but also from an erectability standpoint.”
A Sophisticated and Professional Industry
The above Sure Steel tenets will not only continue to accelerate its strategic growth, but also positively affect the industry. Brower asks, “How can we change the industry and how can we make it more updated and streamlined, and more efficient while bringing safety into it? Our goals have been to grow the company and change the perception of what a steel contractor can be. We are trying to change how people view the metal construction world. This can be a sophisticated and professional industry and trade.”