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Leo Neyer: Developed numerous standing seam roof systems and established a market for manufacturing licenses

2017 Metal Construction Hall of Fame

Leo Neyer Nov17 1
Leo Neyer

Leo Neyer’s work was indispensable to the advancement of metal roofs. His efforts on standing seam roof systems changed the market, brought people with diverse areas of expertise together and contributed to the industry-wide improvement of metal roofs.

Identifying Opportunity

In 1958, Neyer began his career as a laborer at Butler Manufacturing’s facility in Kansas City, Mo. He moved up the ranks over the course of a decade and was exposed to the intricacies of developing metal roof products. “My 10 years at Butler were very formidable in understanding the importance of product performance and how to sell it, how to sell their quality,” he says.

During the 1970s, Neyer continued cultivating a deep knowledge of standing seam roofs in several positions at metal building companies in product development and sales. In 1979, he joined Encon Consultants in Oklahoma City, where he worked with numerous manufacturers to develop and introduce standing seam roof systems to the market. As Neyer worked on the products, he started noticing an opportunity to market standing seam technology to a greater number of manufacturers.

“In dealing with those component companies, I learned there were a lot of companies making frames and buying panels; there was a huge amount of them,” Neyer says. “They were selling buildings, but they were not making the roll formed portion of the building, and they needed access to a good standing seam. But they didn’t have the technical knowledge to develop the product.”

In addition to technological requirements, developing a standing seam roof system was a cost-prohibitive process for many companies. Costs for designing, tooling and testing a single panel were as much as $1 million in the 1980s and 1990s, Neyer says.

Centralizing Development

Instead of designing a separate standing seam roof system for each company, Neyer determined he could offer licensing agreements to manufacture and introduce a system to the market. Additionally, he could provide technical support services. Neyer identified two markets for licenses: framing manufacturers and metal building system manufacturers with annual revenue between $25 million and $30 million. Neither type of company had the financial and technical resources to introduce a standing seam system to the market on its own. By offering licensing agreements, regional suppliers could compete for standing seam orders with larger, national and international metal building manufacturers. When Neyer founded Building Research Systems Inc. in Edmond, Okla., in 1994, it was one of the first companies to offer such licenses. “We became the [research and development] group for the licensees that we had,” Neyer says. “We now have 34 licensees throughout the country, including China and Canada.”

“The most important thing is the industry has done an excellent job of providing a continually increasing quality product, in both performance and appearance, and has used technology to keep the cost of metal buildings competitive with other forms of construction.”

Leo Neyer, CEO at Building Research Systems Inc.

One of the licensees was SBI Metal Building and Components in Hot Springs, Ark. David Bunn, founder at SBI Metal Building and Components, says when his company signed the agreement in 2001, the U.S. market for standing seam roofs was dominated by national companies. “They pretty much had a lock on it,” he says. “If we got a building with standing seam on it, we had to go make a deal with them and buy their roof. [Neyer’s] main contribution is he opened up that market to a whole lot of us that weren’t in it.”

Rob Roberts, founder at R&M Steel Co. Inc. in Caldwell, Idaho, another of Building Research Systems’ licensees, says standing seam panels round out his company’s offerings. “It’s a great relationship,” he says. “[Neyer] and his crew have just made it so great in terms of us being able to produce the panel, and we ship it all over the West. The standing seam panel completes our building system; it’s a really important part of it for us.”

Merging Disciplines

To achieve success with his licensing plan, Neyer took on the role of a creative supervisor. “I was not an engineer, but I was creative,” he says. “I used my ability to find and attract good, technical engineers that had enough creativity that they got excited about developing something new.

Developing standing seam roofs that meet codes and other necessary criteria required an awareness of multiple industries. To get an effective sealant to work with a standing seam roof, Neyer brought together experts in chemical processes and structural engineers.

“We were merging different disciplines into standing seam,” Neyer says. “Up until then, [metal panel development] was mainly a metal forming process. With the standing seam, it became an integration of a number of techniques: how you fold the panel and make it tight, how you roll form it so it’s consistent, how you put sealant in it in the factory, and what kind of steel do you use. Those things all involve various disciplines.”

In January, Neyer retired from day to day responsibilities at Building Research Systems, but retains the title of CEO. He is proud of his efforts on metal roofs and the metal construction industry’s improvements during the last six decades. “The most important thing is the industry has done an excellent job of providing a continually increasing quality product, in both performance and appearance, and has used technology to keep the cost of metal buildings competitive with other forms of construction,” Neyer says. “It’s a real pleasure to see the industry has grown from a shade and shelter to a quality product that outperforms other roofing methods. It always made me very proud to see the advances we made, that I was part of it, that what I was doing was valuable and important.”