Sheet Metal Supply has moved company operations into a new, state-of-the-art 80,000-square-foot facility Grayslake, Illinois.
An upgrade from the the company's previous 30,000-square-foot building in Mundelein, Illinois, the new plant includes a second ACM routing table to increase Sheet Metal Supply's capabilities beyond ACM and into heavier single skin products, phenolic resin-based and fiber cement-based façade solutions as well.
Additionally, Sheet Metal Supply purchased a 21-foot bi-directional folder, allowing for the forming of longer parts or multiple 10-foot parts. SMS will also be able to provide more customized solutions into the façade market.
“Moving into a new plant is our reaction to industry demand and a growing desire for a wider range of products and materials,” says Ben Kweton, CSI-EP, vice president of Sheet Metal Supply. “The added space and new equipment allow us to be quicker with our response time and more flexible for our customers.”
Here, Kweton shares more about the conditions that led to the move.
How long has this move been in the works for SMS?
We were involved with a rather exhaustive search for more than a year. We were looking at existing buildings and vacant lots. Fortunately, we cast a wide enough net where we found our building when it came up for sale by an owner who was retiring. It turned out to be a really good fit for us.
We wanted, and really needed, a new building for three reasons: safety, efficiency and expansion. Safety is always a priority for us because we believe we will keep better employees when they feel they’re working in a safe environment. Moving from a building of 30,000 square feet to a building of 80,000 square feet allows us to be more efficient because we have a place for everything and it’s easier to keep everything in its place.
The expansion of our operation required a larger facility. The move allowed us to purchase new machinery and add redundant machinery. If we have issues with a machine, we now have the capability to keep running so we don’t leave ourselves, and more importantly, our customers, in a lurch. The last thing we want to do is hold up someone’s job.
With the move to a new building, what sorts of technology investments did you make to improve operations?
We were able to add a second router, which let’s us sleep a little better a night. We purchased a 21-foot bi-directional folder and a press brake. We also on-boarded our laser, which we had mothballed at the old building because of time and space constraints. Once we decided to move to a new building, it made sense to wait.
Moving to new building also gave us more office space, so with the pandemic, we are able to spread people out more in the office as well as the shop.
How has the pandemic changed business for Sheet Metal Supply, if at all. Are employees required to wear masks?
We are diligently following CDC guidelines. We’ve looked for bottlenecks and found ways to deal with those bottlenecks. We’ve staggered lunch breaks; we no longer hold all-hands-on-deck meetings; and we socially distance when we do gather for any type of meeting.
We’re also able to use our equipment to produce sneeze shields and other types of plastic barriers to help deal with the pandemic.
How would you describe the market Sheet Metal Supply mostly serves?
Everything we’ve done since our inception was with the goal in mind to integrate our offerings to encompass a complete architectural sheet metal line. We started with perimeter and flashing products, added metal roofing and industrial gutters and wall panels. Every new machine acquisition is to allow us to offer products for any part of the building envelope.
How would you say these markets have changed over the past few years?
One trend we’re seeing is for contractors to take on more roles on a project. If they’re doing the roofing, they’ll do the wall panels as well. They’ll do it themselves or with a subcontractor.
We’re also seeing metal being used more and more on a wider range of projects. It’s a low-cost, efficient material that effectively helps with rebranding a building during renovation. Also, metal is used more for interior design. Sheet metal hasn’t changed in 100 years, but interior designers and architects are swinging toward using metal in unique ways.
Metal is not just offered in wide array of colors, but metal products are also coated to provide a variety of creative aesthetics like wood grain or rusted metal or aged metal. These products make metal even more versatile than ever.