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Monday | 03 November, 2008 | 2:28 am

Steely integrity

Michigan Steel Fabricators solidifies reputation, emphasizes customer service amid growth

By Lisa Rummler

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Michigan Steel Fabricators solidifies reputation, emphasizes customer service amid growth

In today's economy, it sometimes seems that keeping your word ends up taking a back seat in the drive to succeed and turn a profit. But some companies consider honesty and honor to be the cornerstones of success.

This applies to Michigan Steel Fabricators Inc., Flint, Mich., a family-owned company with about 13 employees that's projected to grow 25 percent by the end of 2008. Chris Webster, vice president, says Michigan Steel Fabricators has grown or maintained its growth for nearly all of the past eight or nine years.

"We do what we say we're going to do," says Webster. "And if we screw up, we fix it--we take care of our own problems. That's part of why we've been doing so well. In this kind of market, and in our industry, almost everyone around us is struggling, from the suppliers to the vendors to our competitors. But we've been going through growth."

Webster says the company's reputation for integrity has contributed to this phenomenon. Recently, it helped Michigan Steel Fabricators successfully bid on a multiyear project.

"This is such a large and intricate project, but they're comfortable knowing that, regardless of the issues, we'll get it done, and it'll be done right," says Webster. "They know this because we've proven to them in the past that we can overcome any obstacles--financial, technical or managerial--and get the project done. Our main concern is that any job we do comes out exactly as planned and to the satisfaction of our customers. We've had projects that haven't gone as planned, but because of our commitment and integrity, we gain respect--and more work. We've picked up a project 10 times the size of our previous largest job because we've proven to them that we'll take care of it."

This particular project is set to run through the end of 2010, and Webster says even if Michigan Steel Fabricators were to do no other work during that time, the company would still grow. And it won't be idle in the meantime.

"We've never had this much work on the books," says Webster. "We went for a long time of having a month or two of work on the books. We did that for years and years because it was just the nature of the beast. But when we purchased Michigan Steel Fabricators, we moved into a couple of months on the books. And now I have work stretching until the end of 2010."

Changing direction
Michigan Steel Fabricators began as Steel Fab, which was founded in the mid-1990s. The company mainly did production welding, subbing a lot of work from a Tier 1 or Tier 2 automotive company up until the end of the decade. At that time, the company purchased Michigan Steel Fabricators.

"That's the fundamental shift that got us out of automotive because [that company] was strictly a miscellaneous and structural steel fabrication business," says Webster. "Once we bought them, we got that work, and we turned our focus away from the material handling and automotive and put our efforts on the structural and miscellaneous steel while keeping the good parts of automotive: the plant support stuff. We've just ran with that this whole time."

Michigan Steel Fabricators processes steel, stainless steel, aluminum and fiberglass-reinforced plastics, and its capabilities include cutting, welding, sawing, press brake work, shear work and CNC plasma. Webster says the company's area of expertise spans the structural and miscellaneous steel arena, with an emphasis on plant support products, especially automotive and water and waste water treatment plants, as well as water tank fabrications.

Webster says the company ships water tank equipment, which is its most common item, to customers across the United States. This has contributed to the company's growth because it doesn't depend on just one economy.

And no matter where its customers are, Michigan Steel Fabricators aims to provide all of them with strong customer service, which also makes the company stand out and helps it grow, says Webster.

"In our industry, the typical response to a lot of quotes and work is, 'Here's my price. It's what you get,' no matter whether they see issues," he says. "So what sets us apart is that we take more of a customer-service approach. That's really opened up a lot of doors for us." FFJ

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Last modified on Wednesday | 22 February, 2012 | 4:19 pm

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