ith 2010 being the 40th anniversary of The FABRICATOR , we’ve decided to do something new. Because we can’t take everyone skydiving, we’ve
decided instead to create an editorial feature opportunity that highlights the readership. We’re calling it the
FAB 40, a list of some of the most aggressive and successful shops in the magazine’s subscriber base.
Before we go any further, please be aware that we
know this list isn’t definitive. We targeted selected fabricating operations in the publication’s readership and
those that identified themselves as being part of the fabricated metal product sector, as defined by the North
American Industry Classification System. OEMs involved
in metal fabricating were not included as part of this in-formation-gathering exercise. We asked company management to fill out questionnaires, which we then used
to compile this list. Only companies that replied to the
questionnaire are included in the FAB 40. (For more information on how this list was put together, see the
“Pulling Together the Information“ sidebar.)
To our knowledge, no other magazine has attempted
to put together such a list. We also realize that this list will
be very fluid as we hope more companies want to be a
part of this public effort to highlight the economic impact that metal fabricating has on the U.S. economy.
Let the sparks fly. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, The FABRICATOR has decided to share its FAB 40 list of successful U.S.
metal fabricating operations. Photo courtesy of Rodney W. Good,
Artistic Photography, Harrisonburg, Va.
You can see that the list reflects the varied nature of
the metal fabricating industry. For instance, No. 1-ranked
Drake-Williams Steel, Omaha, Neb., is a structural steel
fabricator that is also involved in installation of its fabrications. In its 300,000-square-foot facility in Omaha, the
company has a highly automated shop floor that produces more than 30,000 tons of structural steel per year.
At No. 2, Robinson Metal Inc., De Pere, Wis., traditional
sheet metal fabricating activities make up the bulk of the
company’s sales, but even it has a diversified business
model that includes a custom enclosure division and an
HVAC company. The No. 3 company, LAI International
Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz., which has manufacturing locations
all over the U.S., is a contract manufacturer of precision-engineered components for advanced-technology industries. Look further down the list and you’ll find traditional
stampers, ornamental metal fabricators, and job shops.
Despite their differences, all of the companies have
two things in common: They fabricate metal products,
and they aren’t likely to be fabricating the same thing
from one job to the next. In a sense, they are all job shops,
even if one company’s revenue is 10 times that of another.
The FAB 40 not only gives the metal fabricating companies—those on the list and perhaps those wanting to
be on it—a chance to see how they compare with other
companies, but also provides a glimpse into where the industry is headed. It’s not a scientific survey by any means,
but we hope it does provide a snapshot of what some of
the companies in the metal fabricating field are thinking.
Everyone knows that 2009 was not a great year for
metal fabricators, especially when we reflect on the days
of 2007. Company leaders of the FAB 40 think 2010 is the
beginning of a slow climb back to those gangbuster days.
The FAB 40 reported $618.8 million in revenues in
2009. They expected that to improve to $637.4 million
this year. Only 15 of the responding companies on the list
believed that this year’s revenue would be down or flat
when compared to 2009.
So what have these companies been up to during the
economic slowdown? Like any good business, they didn’t
sit around waiting for rainbows to appear outside their
windows. They went to work by:
• Investing in new and used equipment to bolster cur-
• Strengthening relationships with current customers
to see if they could create new business with familiar
• Targeting new sales efforts in new markets to diversify the customer mix.
• Looking for internal opportunities to root out waste
to improve bottom-line performance when margins were
as tight as ever.
One company even admitted to looking for acquisition targets. In short, most of the FAB 40 have been conducting business in such a way that they hope to exit this
downturn in stronger positions than their competitors.
Probably the most telling note from the survey is that
none of the companies on the list indicated that they intend to hire people anytime soon. In fact, most boasted
that they had taken steps to expand productivity without increasing labor costs.
“I have a mixed outlook for 2010,” one fabricator said.
“We are seeing an increase in activity both from RFQs and
from former and existing customers. My assessment is
that low inventories are creating new orders from existing
customers. Existing companies are considering changing
suppliers to improve cost considerations, quality, and de-
livery performance. I am also seeing an increase in start-
up companies that I believe is a direct result of the
So 2010 may not be the year for a full-blown eco-
nomic comeback, but maybe it’ll be the birth year for
hundreds of exciting new businesses. If the FAB 40 proves
anything, it’s that a little entrepreneurial spirit goes a long
way in increasing one’s odds of survival. FAB
Editor-in-Chief Dan Davis can be reached at dand@the
To create the inaugural FAB 40 list, The FABRICATOR sent a direct-mail piece in February to 1,000
readers who identified themselves as being a part
of the miscellaneous metal fabricating sector. The
letter asked recipients to fill out the form and fax
it back to The FABRICATOR or use an online form
to fill in the same information. Two follow-up e-mail blasts, one in March and one in April, reminded participants of the editorial opportunity.
Companies are ranked according to 2009 self-reported revenues. Because all of the companies
are privately held, independent verification of reported figures was not possible.
The FABRICATOR recognizes that this is not a
complete list of the largest metal fabricating operations by revenue in the U.S. If you wish to be notified about future FAB 40 listings, please contact
Dan Davis at dand thefabricator.com to be added
to the contact list.