Building on its Strengths

Structural Steel & Plate Fabrication

Structural Steel & Plate Fabrication (SS&PF) has built upon its strengths to become a trusted steel fabricator for customers in the mining, petrochemical and potash industries. While most of its work is domestic, demand for its capabilities comes from around the world, especially for proprietary pieces of equipment.
Founder and President Ron Dean explained that SS&PF can ship anywhere. “Right now, we’re doing a job in Osaka, Japan. We’ve shipped to South America. We’ve shipped into Mexico. We’ve shipped into Russia. We’ve shipped into Africa,” said Dean.

“Our business is the plate business, which is vessels, ducting, chutes and hoppers, things like carbon columns, and we do structural steel which they use in buildings. We also do our own miscellaneous steel which attaches to the structural steel. In the industrial market, we do the complete package; we’ll do all the plate work, as well as all the structural steel, plus all the miscellaneous steel,” explained Dean.

“To be competitive in the workplace, you need to have the tools to do it in a timely fashion, and we probably have more tools than most people because we have to be able to control our own destiny, and if we subcontracted everything out, we wouldn’t be able to do that,” explained Dean.

SS&PF can control price, timeline and quality by not having to rely on subcontractors. Its machines can lift, bend, roll, cut, position, sandblast and paint. All materials are pre-blasted before fabrication and brush blasted before coating.

The company’s 80,000 square foot facility is impressive, equipped with five bays and the tools, equipment and talent to complete projects of various sizes and intricacies. It runs two shifts a day.

“We have a lifting capacity in bay five which we can lift over 100-ton part thirty-one feet in the air. We have turning roll capacity up to 400 tons. We have four sets of plate rolls. Our largest plate roll will pre-bend two-inch-thick plate, and we have all the welding equipment including sub arc welders. We have manipulators and positioners,” said Dean. The largest of which can turn a 50,000-pound part and is the largest of its kind in area.

SS&PF also has substantial machine tool capabilities with mills, lathes and drill presses. “We have two burn tables. One is called a plasma drill. It has a [computer numerical control] drilling head on it, and it will predrill the plate and then come back and plasma cut or oxyacetylene the parts out. The other machine is a 12-foot by 42-foot burn table with true hole technology.”

“We can put about 40,000-plus pounds on the transfer tables on one end of the machine, and then we have the same capabilities after the machine has drilled the parts and marked them from the saw. We have storage of another 40,000 pounds just on the drill line itself before it goes into our saw.” There is also a computer-operated angle line machine.

SS&PF is a certified fabricator with American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC). The certifications ensure that its customers’ projects are completed to the highest standards and in compliance with industry regulations.

“We’re an ASME code shop, and we manufacture pressure vessels with our U-stamp. We repair pressure vessels with our R-stamp. We have an S-stamp which is used for the manufacture of boilers and boiler related parts, and then we have a PP-stamp which is used for pressure piping which is used in the refinery business,” said Dean.

“We’re also an AISC-certified shop, and our certifications are for structural steel, and we have a certification for bridges and highway products, and then we also have a paint endorsement through AISC for the application of paint processes and coating systems.”

Dean explained that quality in the industrial market is critical, “especially when you are working with pressure vessels. We are very diligent with our quality control. Our ASME code engineer works with all our project managers, and he does all our vessel work. We try to keep one person on our vessel department doing nothing but vessels, and he does a great job.”

SS&PF assigns dedicated project managers to be present throughout a project’s lifecycle. Project managers at SS&PF not only remain active within a project from start to finish, but they are also in close communication with the quality assurance team.

“When they get the job, they know the job. They do the take-off, and they are very familiar with it, so they go ahead and manage it right through. We have a level-three inspector, and we have a level-two inspector, and we have two certified welding inspectors in-house because we do an awful lot of quality assurance work,” explained Dean. This is why customers like Kennecott Copper have longstanding reliance on SS&PF’s service.

“I was involved in another business from 1972 through 1976, and we were doing work for Kennecott Copper and one of their mines in Utah, and when I left that company and started Structural Steel, we started doing work for Kennecott Copper right off the bat. That was one of our first customers,” said Dean. Kennecott Copper remains a loyal customer today.

While the volume of work changes, last month, one million dollars of work was completed for Kennecott Copper. “They’ve always been a good vendor to us,” Dean stated. “We started doing work at their old smelter and manufactured a lot of proprietary pieces of equipment for them for their Noranda reactors in those days. We were one of the few companies that could make the parts that they needed.”

Even after Kennecott Copper’s first smelter was shuttered and a new one was built SS&PF continued to perform maintenance work at its operations. For customers like Kennecott, Dean notes that it often comes down to service and price.

Employees are equipped with the tools, knowledge and opportunity for advancement. Cross-training is available for those who demonstrate the ability for advancement. “If they’re a good welder, we make them a better welder. We try to teach them a lot more than just welding. If they’re capable of it, we’ll teach them all the layout and how to read drawings and try to move them into a better position,” explained Dean.

The company also works to improve the industry. Dean was one of the founding members of the Utah Steel Fabricators Association (USFA) which is dedicated to education and increasing workforce participation. Both Dean and his sons have served on the USFA board, as well as the Davis Applied Technical College Foundation Board of Directors.

SS&PF is an employee-oriented company. Its long-term workforce is a testament to its efforts, as more than sixty percent of its employees have been with the company over ten years and some for more than twenty years.

Dean credited his employees as being, “a tremendous workforce of loyal and dedicated people,” who have “made the company.” Employees deliver output of the highest caliber that has led to SS&PF being selected for high-profile projects like the Los Angeles Ram’s new stadium.

“We were just asked to do a bunch of rush work for a good friend of mine. It’s a large structural steel plant, and he knew that he could trust us. The quality had to be there. We just did a big job in California for the new Ram’s stadium for him. That’s a huge project, and he needed help on it, and we were one of the few people he felt comfortable with.”

SS&PF seeks continuous growth. “Of course, all companies want to grow and that’s our intent. As we try to grow, we want to increase our facilities, add more shop space and grow, and I think, over this next year, we’re going to make a big investment in some more computerized equipment that will help our production,” said Dean.

Dean’s sons are currently engaged in the business. “They’ve already made a huge difference with how we’re doing things. My oldest boy graduated from the executive MBA [Master of Business Administration] program at Notre Dame and has brought a lot to the table, and as age creeps up on me, they are taking more and more of the responsibility.”

Dean notes that his sons are doing a good job, and the future of SS&PF is secure. Customers that depend on it for high-quality industrial fabrication can rest assured that the standard will be sustained for years to come.

More Than Just a Trend

The construction industry is typically slow to evolve. Despite the existence of countless new innovations and technologies, and safer, better ways to do things, it is an industry where tried and true construction methods and long-accepted materials are seldom replaced by a new product or approach.

April 19, 2021, 11:10 AM EDT