An Intertwined Campus
“We don’t have belts sitting on the shelf. Almost
every customer conveyor is a di;erent length and
So said Franck LaBiche, Laitram’s human re-
sources director, during a presentation before the
tour at the Leadership Summit in March. That state-
ment applied to every operation attendees toured
that morning. To build everything to order requires
some serious collaboration.
For instance, when walking into the machine
shop, attendees saw a plate fixtured in a vertical machining center. The plate edges were being
milled to a machining-level tolerance so that the
conveyor sha; it holds won’t wobble. That part will
be used in conjunction with toothed parts that drive
The toothed parts didn’t come from the machine
shop. They were laser-cut at Laitram Machinery.
Sure, lasers don’t cut to machining-level tolerances,
but they’re faster than machining centers. When
used in conjunction with milled plates from the machine shop, the laser-cut parts help drive a conveyor
At Lapeyre Stair, attendees witnessed a welder
adjusting a telescoping jig holding components
for an alternating tread stair (ATS). The jig could be
adjusted to any length as well as one of several inclination angles—very steep, since most use an ATS
to make climbing easier in tight spaces. The welder
had no drawings. He just looked at a few specifications that showed him where to adjust the jig,
locked it in place, and started tacking and welding.
“We make [ATSs] in carbon and stainless steel, as
well as aluminum, and we make them in any height
up to 20 feet, to any fraction of an inch thereof,” said
Chuck Selsor, production manager for Lapeyre Stair.
“We have a hardware engineer, and we also have re-
sources we use from our sister companies. They’ve
all helped us make a lot of tools that streamline our
This help includes not only a jig for welding, but
also an automated tube cuto; system that, a;er a
worker scans a bar code attached to a job, adjusts
to any length. A;er a cuto;, the tube is formed on a
unique rotary draw bender with a 30-foot bed, long
enough to handle the company’s largest stairways.
The only component Lapeyre doesn’t fabricate in-house is the actual tread plates, which are sourced
to a local custom stamper. Other than that, raw
stock comes in and within hours or a few days, a
painted ATS emerges. “And most of that time is for
baking in the powder coating process,” Selsor said.
Like its sister organizations, the stair company’s
origins go back to one of J.M.’s ideas. This one didn’t
come directly from shrimp processing, but instead
another fixture of the New Orleans economy: oil
rigs. Before J.M. launched his stair company in 1981,
rig builders were forced to use narrow stairways designed for ships.
J.M.’s idea: People use only a small cross section
of each tread when climbing a stair, so if space is
an issue, why have those treads extend all the way
across? With the ATS each step extends only halfway
across the stair width.
When Selsor joined the company three years ago,
the stair fabricator had 18 people running the floor
over one shi;, “if we were lucky,” he said. “Now I’ve
got more than 45 people on the floor running two
shi;s, and at least some of our equipment is running
24/7.” This includes a 2-D plasma cutting system
with a 30-;. table, long enough to cut the stringers
for the company’s longest stair assemblies.
The uptick in business is thanks in part to Lapeyre Stair’s expansion into conventional stairwells.
In e;ect, the company applied its quick-response
fabrication for ATS to traditional welded and bolted
stairs. During the tour, Selsor pointed to a stair being prepped for shipment. Thanks to a multitude
of tabs, slots, and bolts, the entire stair was put together without an ounce of welding wire.
“This also requires no field welding,” Selsor said.
“They can install a flight of stairs from one level to
another almost as fast as they can take the stairs o;
Intertwining the Unique
Perhaps nowhere is Laitram’s “roux” more apparent than at Laitram Machinery. With a TRUMPF laser, a Bystronic press brake (and another brake on
the way), deburring equipment, and welding cells,
the place looks a lot like any custom fabricator—
until you look a little closer at the work that’s flowing
through the shop.
Leading a group tour during the Leadership Summit, Vasseur began by describing just how many different jobs the shop manages. “Our core business
A seafood steam cooker at Laitram Machinery incorporates parts from Laitram Machine Shop as well as conveyors
A worker at Laitram Machinery puts together a turnkey assembly for Intralox.
The alternating tread stair (ATS) has treads on only
half of the stair width, allowing for installation in tight