Tekla PowerFab Yields Big Results

Technologies within all industries are constantly evolving, and, of course, steel fabrication is no exception. Steel Service is constantly seeking new ways to leverage those technological advancements as they relate to enhancing productivity, reducing waste, and most importantly, improving safety. Steel Service’s transition to Tekla PowerFab does exactly that.

What Is Tekla PowerFab?

Steel Service President and CEO, Jim Simonson, provided details. “[Tekla PowerFab] is a comprehensive production management, estimating tool which allows the company to better track inventory and production control.” 

Tekla PowerFab also takes 3D models of structures and feeds the data directly into Steel Service fabrication equipment, providing the most accurate information possible for the layout cuts, holes, welds, etc.

The software replaced an older software technology previously developed by Steel Service called Steel 2000. The decision to move onto new software was not made hastily. There was over “ten years of research and development” put into the selection and implementation of Tekla PowerFab.

Big Improvements to the Process

Saving Time

The impact of Tekla PowerFab’s integration was felt almost immediately. The time saved by Tekla PowerFab has been game changing for Steel Service’s productivity. “Before, we were having to input everything manually from start to finish. But now we can input straight from the model. It’s a huge step” said Brandon Cothran, Pre Production Manager. The software has helped automate several systems, for example purchasing and CNC, which has helped streamline previously slower tasks. Dan MacGregor, Steel Service’s Information Technology Manager continued, “Some people had an entire day’s worth of work, now they have only an hour.”

Saving Money

“It allows us to do more with less. We’ve become more efficient in departments, so as we grow as a company, we can do larger and more complex projects,” explained Mr. Simonson. In addition, Tekla PowerFab’s integration with Steel Service’s fabrication software is reaping savings with reduced material usages.

A Smooth Transfer To Tekla

Overcoming Inventory Challenges

Like any successful company, when something isn’t broken, why fix it? Because Steel Service is, and pardon our pun, on the cutting edge. 

Any problems met when transitioning over to Tekla PowerFab were met head on. Getting Steel Service’s inventory into the new system proved to be the toughest challenge to overcome. The company’s inventory stretches between fabrication, production jobs, and Steel Service’s in-house warehouse. “You’re talking about an inventory that’s 15,000, 20,000 tons of material,” Mr. Simonson added.

Employee Impact

“The training and development was planned out. It was much easier than we thought it would be.” And so, staff working with the new system have adapted rapidly, according to their President and CEO. Steel Service brought in a trainer who walked staff through basic set-ups and showed each department how to operate Tekla PowerFab as it related to their specific needs. From there, the trainer provided multiple examples of the different ways Tekla PowerFab can solve company problems. Between the training and the regular updates to the software, Tekla PowerFab is becoming an integral part of the staff’s process. 

Impact on Safety

Tekla PowerFab is just one of the many steps Steel Service has taken to upgrade and update their manufacturing processes. Steel Service has two PeddiBots in use in addition to multiple Peddinghaus plate machines, angle processing equipment, saws, multi spindle drills, and material handling systems all meant to reduce the risk of injury to their staff. “There are many enhancements with the technology, not just [Tekla] PowerFab,” Mr. Simonson explained, “but through so much equipment throughout the plant, making it a safer environment for workers.”

Steel Service continues to enhance productivity, reduce waste, and improve safety. This helps them as a company, their customers, and their employees. This transition to Tekla PowerFab checks all the boxes, and Steel Service continues to look forward to more opportunities.

Project Gator Spotlight

Steel Service recently topped out Project Gator in Calvert, Alabama. Setting the final truss on this 23,000-ton project marks an impressive milestone by the company that was a team effort. From the award of the project, through months of engineering, procurement and fabrication, to the start of deliveries on site, every department at Steel Service, including vendors, suppliers, and erectors contributed to make the project a success.

Project Gator Grows

Project Gator is a new melt shop being built in Calvert for AM/NS Calvert and will house the latest technology in steel making. Steel Service is not only contracted for both the fabrication and erection of the entire structure, but also the sheeting installation, touch-up painting, column grouting, and third-party inspection. However, it’s the size and scope of the project, something that’s not realized until you witness it in person, that has people talking.

Steel Service Site Project Manager Lenny Joiner said, “The first thing I would say, the thing that always jumps out to me when I walk outside, is just the enormous size of it. It’s impressive. I mean, it’s just a massive structure and the thing that really stands out are the crane girders.” The building required 144 crane girders, four of which were over 140 feet long and 131 tons each. Simply bringing them on site was truly a feat in itself.

Upon completion, the structure will be among the heaviest in Steel Service history, which stretches back more than half a century. Steel Service is no stranger to projects that push into the tens of thousands in terms of raw tonnage.

Challenges of the Build

A project of this magnitude does come with equally massive challenges. “I think the greatest challenge has been the scheduling,” says Mr. Joiner. The wide flange beam material was procured from the owner’s European mills resulting in ocean freight and port logistics. In addition, AM/NS directed changes to the erection paths and directions to accommodate their other contractors, making for an ever-evolving erection scheme.

Working on a project near Mobile, Alabama has presented unique safety issues as well. “Mobile’s reported to be one of the rainiest cities in the country. So, we have numerous weather issues—mainly lightning, if it’s detected within 10 miles. This requires us to shut down the project once lightning starts striking anywhere near. That becomes pretty frequent.” 

Of course, any kind of outdoor work during the summer months in the southeast can be dangerous, as Mr. Joiner explains. “You’re also talking about the Deep South, where the heat and humidity make for an extreme environment.” To combat the heat, Steel Service has modified work hours, with some crews working at night.
Completing a project safely is always a challenge, and at Steel Service safety is paramount, no matter the size of the project. When it comes to safety, Steel Service’s attention to detail is award-winning in fact. Steel Service’s work on Project Gator will continue throughout the year and into 2024.

Work With Steel Service

Contact Steel Service to learn more about working with Mississippi’s safest AISC steel fabricator.

AISC Fabricator Award of Honor Given to Steel Service for Perfect Safety Record

Steel Service Receives AISC Safety Award for Third Year in a Row

In construction and manufacturing, equipment can be replaced—people can’t. That’s why caution and preparation aren’t just parts of our job, they’re critical aspects of the way we work. At Steel Service, safety is always paramount. The American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) has awarded us their most prestigious award in recognition of that commitment, the Fabricator Award of Honor. 

About the AISC Fabricator Award of Honor

The AISC Safety Awards recognizes members with commendable safety records, and the Fabricator Award of Honor is presented for a perfect record of no disabling injuries, or a zero “DART” rate. DART (Days Away, Restricted or Transferred) measures of the number of recordable lost work cases per 200,000 man-hours worked. Steel Service, with no lost-time accidents in more than 1,200 days, has received the AISC Fabricator Award of Honor three years in a row: 2020, 2021, and 2022. 

Steel Service President and CEO, Jim Simonson, spoke about how Steel Service’s company culture directly impacts DART, “We’ve got core values, honesty integrity, caring, sharing, and family, that we try to strive for. Sometimes, in the business world, it’s hard to live up to your core values every day, but we strive to do that.”

Steel Service’s Commitment to Safety

Steel Service is proud to be the only steel fabricator in the state of Mississippi to receive the Fabricator Award of Honor from the AISC. This is due in no small part to our continued focus on safety and its importance in day to day activities. We maintain a culture of safety beyond our safety manager and active safety committee.

Toolbox Talks

Workplace safety is the first topic of discussion at the beginning of each shift at Steel Service. Simonson added, “We do daily toolbox talks. We bring employees together, and the foremen talk about safety topics of the day, just to keep that as the first thing we talk about.”

Safety Training for New Hires

Steel Service’s commitment to safety manifests in various processes and procedures designed to keep every work environment free of injury. Safety is a large part of training as new employees are onboarded. In fact, every new hire gets a red hat for their first 90 days. Simonson explained that, “new hires are the most susceptible to having some sort of incident or accident, based on them not being here very long or new to the company. The red hat allows co-workers to keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not doing something outside our procedures.”

Quarterly Safety Luncheons

Each quarter, Steel Service holds a company-wide safety luncheon. The most recent gathering included a celebration for their award. Simonson explained, “This is the third year in a row we have gotten this award for zero lost time accidents. So, that’s why we had a fancy cookout. Outback Steakhouse was brought in to cook steaks for the employees, and we gave them a bunch of swag. It was a pretty big milestone for us.” 

The next safety luncheon will include an unveiling of their new safety slogan. “We’ve had a safety slogan that’s been around for around 10 years: Always Alert, Nobody Hurt. We have challenged our employees to come up with a new slogan and offered a $1,000 prize for whoever comes up with it.” This blindly judged winner will be presented at the July gathering along with banners and t-shirts displaying their new safety slogan.

Quality Working Environment

Simonson remarked that working conditions directly impact a company’s safety record. “Personally, I think it goes down to making sure your employees know that you care about them. If you give them lousy washrooms and a lousy place to eat lunch, and then you preach a lot of safety, I don’t think you get much bang for your buck. Show you care about the conditions they work in. Give them a nice lunch area and nice restrooms. We bring in unlimited fresh fruit for all the employees. We have bottled water on the plant constantly. I think you have to show you care about people for them to be serious about caring for themselves.”

Safety Reviews

Another important component to Steel Service’s safety culture is the review process after near misses. Simonson explained, “We try to concentrate on near misses, what almost happened, and what could have happened, and make sure we eliminate those as they arise. We continually strive to keep a focus on safety and review what we’re doing.” 

Steel Service is grateful to the AISC for their recognition of Steel Service’s safety precautions, initiative, and focus. Additionally, we’re proud of the Steel Services team for maintaining a culture of protection and camaraderie day after day.

Work With Steel Service

Contact Steel Service to learn more about working with Mississippi’s safest AISC steel fabricator.

2015 Steel Service University Graduation

Steel Service had seven employees graduate from their certified FITTER/WELDER program on November 3rd, 2015. The dedication these employees showed not only to work, but to this class is something we are very proud of and the employees should be extremely proud as well! The FITTER/WELDER program is a certified class and can actually be counted towards college credit hours. Anyone that is employed with Steel Service can take the class. The classes last 6 months and include classroom time as well as on the job training. Congratulations to these employees! We look forward to watching your success grow within the company!

The 2016 Steel Service University class kicked off on April 12, 2016. The students will take a 36 week course and if completed successfully, will graduate in November of 2016. We are very excited to see these employees grow in their skills and learn on the job training right at their place of employment.

2015 Large Industry of the Year

Steel Service was selected as the 2015 Large Industry of the Year at the Rankin County Chamber’s Annual Luncheon. Receiving this award was a great honor and we are proud to be in Rankin County and look forward to many more successful years at this location.

Steel Service Large Industry of the Year