A Reputation 15 Years in the Making

J & M Steel Solutions

Headquartered in Lehi, Utah, J & M Steel Solutions has become a leading erector in the Western United States. For the last fifteen years, through repeat performance of excellence, a culture of safety and unparalleled expertise, it continues to be selected to take on bigger and better projects.
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Some of the new projects that J & M Steel Solutions has undertaken have tested the company’s limits, challenging the team to exceed project sizes and confronting them with new challenges that were previously thought to be outside the scope of their work or expertise.

With projects in the gas and energy, mining, industrial, government, aviation, commercial and retail sectors under its belt, J & M Steel Solutions continues to capitalize on opportunities in the market, which is how the company was founded and why it continues to excel.

J & M Steel Solutions was established by Craig Madsen and Scott Jeppson, who together saw an opening in the market and took full advantage of it. By staying true to their values and principles, they set out to drive customer satisfaction in new ways. As a result, J & M Steel Solutions has been a leader in the market and in the community it calls home.

According to Owner Craig Madsen, “Our reputation is such that the companies that we work for say, ‘Hey! These guys are productive, they’re safe to work with and they enjoy working with the personalities we have,’ which is not typical of iron workers,” who are often considered the bullies on site. This was by design.

“We tried to instill in our foremen and our crews that the better off we are working with the client and the other companies on site on each project, as far as being part of a team on a project, the more opportunities we’re going to have to work on a client’s next project,” explained Madsen.

While the market is opportunity-rich, J & M Steel Solutions has not grown significantly in response. A business decision was made to sustain the growth of the company in the interest of remaining at what Madsen described as, “a good, manageable size for us… We’ve found a sweet spot as far as optimal size in terms of being able to take care of our customers and still be productive and manage the jobs efficiently and effectively,” he said, making it clear that the company is not taking on more than it can handle.

One of the reasons J & M Steel Solutions has decided not to grow much larger at present is the skilled talent shortage that is stunting growth potential across industries throughout the United States and Canada. As Madsen explained, “it’s hard to control the quality and safety with the available workforce that is out there.”

To address the challenges associated with a weak labor pool, J & M Steel Solutions has developed a mentorship program to generate its own talent pipeline and it is having exceptional results. The mentorship program improved employee retention by thirty percent last year. Every new hire is assigned a mentor, sometimes two, who works side-by-side with them to answer questions, provide guidance and introduce them to the company culture. The program is monitored and evaluated and includes bonuses as incentives to ensure employee success.

As a non-union company, J & M Steel Solutions does not have access to apprenticeship programs and journeyman programs that union contractors would, so it developed its own apprenticeship program that has received United States Department of Labor and State of Utah Labor Department approval as an accredited program.

Outlining the requirements of the program, Madsen said, “They have to have 4000 hours of on-the-job training; there’s classroom training involved with that. Part of the incentive we have for this is if people haven’t got their high school graduation certificate or GED, we’ll help them get their GED or diploma afterwards as well as part of the program.”

The program’s first graduates were recognized at the company Christmas party at the end of last year. A total of 21 participants completed the program and received a customized award of a powder-coated I-beam and a chrome-plated spud wrench with a plaque dedicating the award to them. The ceremony was a great source of pride for the participants, their families and the company.

Without skilled employees, J & M Steel Solutions would not be able to deliver consistent quality, safe and on-time project results that in turn enable the company to secure repeat work with clients who seek it out for projects. Its team may not have grown, but the projects it undertakes certainly have.

The Landmark West – Post Cereal project is an example where repeat work led J & M Steel Solutions to grow its scope of work. The company was chosen to erect the joist and deck on the large tilt-up project that would total nearly one million square feet and would only take fifteen weeks to complete.

“That was the biggest square footage project we’ve completed,” shared Madsen. “It was a concrete tilt-up building, single-story joist and deck job of about 980,000 square feet. We’ve done multiple projects in the half-million square foot range, but they were anxious to use us on it because of our performance on the other projects that have been half that size.”

It wasn’t only the size that posed a challenge on that project. Madsen recalled, “It was interesting because it went through the winter here. It was one of the first projects I’ve ever seen where they put a four-wheeler on the roof with a snow plow to push the snow off the roof. They made us leave a hole in the roof to be able to push the snow through.”

Another interesting project J & M Steel Solutions has been a part of is the Fairbourne office building located in West Valley, Utah. The nine-story Class A office building is currently underway and is only the third nine-story project the company has undertaken, and the first with this developer. While it is a larger structure than J & M Steel Solutions typically works on, it is the size of the steel and the materials being used that is most impressive. The columns and base plates weigh in at 23,000 to 25,000 pounds, making them a challenge to set. The base plates alone, Madsen noted, were six to eight inches thick, making it impossible to make any cuts in the field.

Big columns and big base plates call for big anchor bolts, and that’s exactly what this project entailed. Each column required sixteen anchor bolts which were thirteen feet long and three inches in diameter. To accommodate, Madsen explained, “We had to make our own wrench out of plate steel to be able to fit around those because they don’t really make wrenches that will fit that big.”

Another interesting aspect of this project is the inclusion of a large solar array on the rooftop and a pedestrian bridge connecting the building to a parking structure across the street. The bridge measures 100 feet in length and will be assembled, picked and set by J & M Steel Solutions, something it has never done before.

For Madsen, projects like this are fun to undertake, and it’s been proven that when people have fun doing what they do, the results will always turn out for the better – and that’s what continues to happen for J & M Steel Solutions.

“The market in Utah is really strong and we’ve been really busy,” Madsen said of 2018, noting, “there’s a lot of new construction going on.” Having built up its reputation over the past fifteen years, J & M Steel Solutions is positioned better than ever to secure projects that will further elevate its name and its capacities.

Indeed, the company is always identifying ways to improve to better serve its customers, and nowhere is this more evident than its safety program. Not only are new hires required to complete forty hours of in-office training before they reach a job site, including equipment training, OSHA training and job-specific training, last October the company introduced Tyfoom, a new approach to safety in the field. Tyfoom offers the convenience and access of updated, relevant training videos and quizzes on a mobile phone that cover a variety of topics out of the OSHA manual including fall protection, trench safety, electrical safety, and more.

Two- to three-minute training videos and quizzes are sent to employees daily. Participation is recorded daily so administrators can track employee progress and training and each participant is given a TSR, a Tyfoom Safety Rating based on their daily results. When an employee misses two consecutive days, their participation streak is reset to zero. They are given a one-day grace period.

“It gets them thinking about safety every day and that our employees know that we care about them being safe on the job, off the job, at home and everywhere,” said Madsen. “It sends out written warnings if they haven’t done it in a few days and it logs all of the training for us,” serving as a daily reminder of safety. Employees have even gotten competitive as a result, comparing their daily streaks.

It’s not solely about skill and safety at J & M Steel Solutions, though these are very important elements of any company’s success in the field. As J & M embarks on its fifteenth year in business, it will be that reputation that carries it long into the future.

As Madsen noted, “Prices for our scope of work in Utah are not really increasing, so there are a few erectors here doing [the work for] the same price they were ten years ago.” The benefits of a reputation are invaluable for a company like J & M Steel Solutions; the company is not always the lowest bidder, but its clients are willing to invest in the value and quality it consistently delivers.

Industry Changemakers

The construction industry has historically been slow to evolve, drawn to tradition over technology. As the industry is in a state of rapid innovation and advancement, organizations like the Toronto Construction Association (TCA) are working tirelessly to build strong member businesses that won’t fall behind.

June 19, 2019, 8:04 AM EDT