A Family of Steel
Macuch Steel and Shewmake Steel Erection
Macuch Steel has been a leader in the steel fabrication industry since 1948. Over the past 68 years, the company has grown and expanded to include a family of companies specializing in structural steel fabrication, detailing, erection, and more. Macuch Steel President Gary Cowart shared with us about the company’s services as well as its history and plans for the future.
Macuch Steel Products provides comprehensive solutions for structural steel manufacturing. From initial planning through final installation and finishing, Macuch is a full service shop. Macuch specializes in a wide range of products including metal grating, specialty access stairs, ladders, anchor bolts, and embeds. The shop performs a variety of fabrication processes.
Macuch’s Rebar Division, meanwhile, offers reinforcing steel for commercial projects as well as pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete manufacturers producing products to go into a finished project.
The Macuch Steel Service Center provides a range of different products and types of steel to meet the needs of customers, with large quantities of carbon steel in stock. The Steel Service Center offers many options to meet customers’ specifications, including cutting, bending, welding, and painting. Primer, galvanizing, and special finishes are also available. The Steel Service Center serves walk-in customers and fulfills orders of all sizes, and specializes in serving small local contractors and fabricators in Augusta and the surrounding area.
Based in Lavonia, Georgia, Southeastern Stair & Rail produces stairs and rails for Macuch’s projects as well as standalone orders for stair and rail products including ladders, platforms, hand railings, and guard rails. All the division’s products are carefully constructed and comply with all requirements of the Life Safety Code, International Building Code (ICC), NAMM Standards, AISC, AWS, ASNT, and OSHA.
Em-Co Metal Products, a structural steel fabrication plant located near Savannah, Georgia, specializes in heavy welding and non-automated work, primarily on structural steel. Em-Co’s projects include fabricating launch pads for NASA.
Shewmake Steel Erection specializes in installation and erection of Macuch’s fabricated structural steel. Shewmake prides itself on quality workmanship. The company operates cranes, forklifts, boom lifts, crew trucks, and welding systems working with carbon steel in various forms, and Shewmake also specializes in detailing.
Based in Augusta, Georgia, Shewmake also has detailing operations in Metro Atlanta and Romania. The company recently acquired Dessinatech, located in Montreal, Canada. Dessinatech will continue to operate independently, providing high-quality detailing work for Macuch as well as other companies.
A family of steel
Macuch Steel came from humble beginnings, when founder John Macuch and his sons established the company in Augusta in 1948. “They literally performed all the work. They did the estimating, sales, fabrication, delivery and installation – all the functions of the business,” Cowart explains. CEO Bill Macuch represents the third generation of the Macuch family to lead the company, and family members of the fourth generation are employed there as well.
To be sure, family is deeply engrained in the culture of the company. “We call ourselves a ‘family of steel,’ says Cowart. “In many ways we are like a family. I think our employees appreciate that quite a bit,” he says.
“Many things have changed from when we were a 25-person company – but the family feeling and the care for our employees, we try not to lose that and we understand that every employee is a part of our family, and also has a family of their own, and we respect that,” Cowart states. The company has grown to include more than 100 employees under the Macuch Steel umbrella.
Unlike many of its competitors, Macuch Steel offers full service for all of its clients’ needs. “What sets us apart from our competitors is the fact that we self-perform almost every aspect of steel construction. We have solutions from estimating, to detailing, to our project management and our shop fabrication, right on out to our installation in the field. Most competitors subcontract all of their installation and detailing, whereas we have control of the detailing process by having our own resources for detailing,” Cowart explains. Managing every aspect of the process enables Macuch to ensure quality work at every step.
Macuch also offers logistical services, including the provision of trailers, tractors, and other delivery vehicles. “You want the materials to arrive on site at the appointed day and time that it’s needed, so we can make that happen.”
Macuch has undertaken a number of successful projects across diverse sectors. “The Augusta Convention Center was an extremely wonderful project to be a part of, in that it was an historic building that needed to be preserved,” Cowart shares. This project included salvaging the outer walls of an old building. The general contractor on the project enlisted Macuch to install extensive bracing in the building’s basement and a structural steel framing system for the building’s roof.
Macuch has also worked on numerous high schools in the Fulton County school system in metro Atlanta. “Those are usually quite interesting because you have basic construction, and then you have large auditoriums or gymnasiums, so you have some challenges there,” explains Cowart. “Many times we have to bring in large cranes because of the size of the trusses in those gymnasiums. We would partially fabricate those trusses in the plant, and then we would complete the fabrication of the steel truss in the field, and then erect it with a crane. The sheer size of those projects makes them interesting, and we’re proud of being able to handle that.”
When Zoo Atlanta recently remodeled its Amphibian and Reptile Experience facility, Macuch fabricated and erected the structural frame supporting the building’s glass walls. The project presented many unique challenges, as it required the crew to work in a confined space without disturbing the animals and patrons in the surrounding facilities. These and other projects illustrate the breadth of Macuch’s experience and its consistent dedication to quality.
Challenges in the industry
The steel industry currently faces a number of challenges and changes, and Macuch Steel is committed to proactively addressing them.
Following the Great Recession, steel pricing had become commoditized and the prices of fabricated steel had been deeply depressed. Macuch has turned to a value-added approach, differentiating itself through the quality and service it offers, rather than competing merely on low prices. “We’ve become more of a partner with the contractors rather than simply a supplier,” Cowart says. “We’re a part of the team.”
Another challenge the company faces is staffing skilled and experienced workers for its steel detailing operations. “Many companies have become reliant on outside detailing sources, but you put yourself at risk for delivery. We are working diligently to mitigate that risk and put ourselves in a stronger position to deliver the quality that our customers look for,” Cowart explains.
Certainly, the shortage of skilled labor is an industry-wide challenge. “We’ve done a poor job, as an industry, of educating the public about steel detailing as a career. So there’s an opportunity there, working with local community colleges and trade schools. We’re working on bringing in bright young folks and training them in our company.”
Looking to the future, Macuch anticipates continued growth. “With our detailing and installation capabilities and the different plants that we have, we will be able to support continued growth. We have set ourselves up for success, and now we’re at the point of execution. We have excellent customers and we’ll continue to develop more,” Cowart shares.
“Right now our economy is looking good,” he says. “We’re in a good place in terms of opportunities for work. As long as the economy stays strong, we’ll have lots of opportunities.”