The Zeman Z6 Arrives at Steel Service

At Steel Service, we’re constantly looking for ways to innovate the steel production processes to make it faster, safer, and more cost-efficient. Our new robotic assembler, the Zeman Z6 SMA (Steel Beam Assembler), code-named Pegasus, is a perfect example. The journey to acquire, assemble, and implement the Pegasus has been a long one for Steel Service, but one that’s proven to be well worth the time and effort.

Getting It Installed

The Pegasus is currently the only robotic assembler of its kind in the entire state of Mississippi, and that quality comes with a price tag of over four million euros. The Pegasus is capable of handling a wide variety of steel beams weighing up to 11,000 pounds. Handling material of that size meant a few changes at Steel Service’s production floor in Flowood had to be made.

Preparation for the Pegasus installation began with a complete concrete re-pour, making the floor under the machine over eight inches thick to reduce vibration. After getting shipped from Europe in six different containers, a dedicated crew from Austria worked to get the Pegasus up and running. Steel Service VP of Plant Operations, Doug Fiorilli, described the three-month process as “seamless.” 

From there, some of Steel Service’s most trusted employees were removed from the line to work exclusively with the Pegasus. Another Zeman crew from Europe worked with the tasked Steel Service crew during a two-week training program to get everyone up to speed with the assembler. The Pegasus can be operated with a two-man crew, one acting as the machine’s operator and the other as the runner for material.

A Rise in Production

The Zeman Z6 boasts some rather beefy stats in terms of upping production. The complexity of each project means the time to complete will always vary, but Steel Service has seen an increase in efficiency when using Pegasus of 3-to-1. Features like an integrated profile turning device are what makes this possible, allowing the Pegasus to rotate a beam 360° for continuous processing.

Software like Pro-Fit means the Pegasus isn’t just fast, but incredibly accurate. This precision has left many veterans of Steel Service particularly impressed. Production Manager, Brandon Cothran, explained, “The accuracy of the machine is really impressive. I think the accuracy of this machine will be huge for the company.” 

Of course, when an automated system is brought into a workforce, there’s always some fear of job loss, but Mr. Fiorilli stressed that was never the mindset of Steel Service when purchasing the equipment. “The Pegasus is not intended to replace people, but to subsidize the workforce. There hasn’t been a single job lost in the transition to using the robot.”

Added Safety That Comes With the Zeman Z6

Steel Service understands that adding a machine like the Zeman Z6, of course, comes with added productivity and speed, but there is equal excitement about the increase in safety as well. Mr. Cothran explained, “The less someone touches a beam, the smaller the [chance of] error.” 

Mr. Fiorilli further emphasized safety, “We want to enhance what we have. This machine makes us faster and safer. It’s all about getting fewer touches (handling of the product). More product out the door equals more value, but it also equals fewer touches. It’s a win-win in terms of efficiency and safety.”

The Future of Zeman Z6 at Steel Service

We plan to utilize the Pegasus six days a week, with scheduled shifts of nine-hours during the week and eight-hours shifts on the weekend. Our goal is to safely maximize the Pegasus’s output, with the room to increase to a ten-hour shift should a project require more output. The Pegasus is just the beginning in terms of Zeman robotic assemblers, as there are plans to add two additional machines. The Pegasus is currently working on beams and girders for the Amazon Distribution Center in Virginia.

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. Our 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,” said Simonson. And so, staff working with the new system have adapted rapidly. 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 our 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 our 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 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 us as a company, our customers, and our 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 our 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 the 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 our 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 the 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.” 

We are 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