Even though I’m an associate editor at SNIPS, it’s not every day that I get the opportunity to peruse the floor of a sheet metal shop. Shocking, right? I know what you’re thinking: “How do you write about products and processes you don’t actually get to see in person?” Well, it can be difficult at times.

Up until recently, I’ve learned everything I know about the HVAC and sheet metal works industry from my experience at the 2016 AHR Expo in Orlando, Florida, and, of course, reading past SNIPS articles. However, actually seeing products in person, watching how things are made and speaking with manufacturers about what they do on a daily basis is incredibly valuable and something I wish I was able to do more.

This is why I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to fly out to St. Louis earlier this month to tour both Vicon Machinery’s manufacturing facility as well as a local sheet metal shop.

Joined by SNIPS publisher, Sarah Harding, and national sales manager, Michael Balzano, I met up with Vicon Machinery’s Kevin Baydar, vice president of sales, and Mike Fischer, COO, at the company’s manufacturing facility on the outskirts of St. Louis. While there, we sat down with Baydar and Fischer to discuss Vicon’s history, business model and products, among various other things.

After our meeting, we took to the facility’s floor to see how Vicon machines are put together. There were employees preparing electrical equipment, painting machinery and loading orders onto trucks. The floor seemed to function well despite being extremely busy. The natural flow of things made sense, which is something that Baydar and Fischer were proud of.

The second day of the trip proved to be just as interesting, as Baydar and Fischer had set up time for Sarah, Mike and I to visit a local sheet metal works shop that primarily used Vicon machinery for ductwork fabrication. When we walked into the shop, I was immediately stunned at how interesting the shape of the building was. Adjacent to a train track, the building had an unusual oblong shape that required a unique layout. Vicon, which gave us some sketches for SNIPS’ December layout feature, had a hand in creating the layout for this shop, who Baydar and Fischer explained as they walked us through the facility.

The shop was set up into various stations that were each responsible for producing a different part of ductwork. We got to see how rolls of sheet metal were carried from one part of the shop to another, how a coil line was operated and the hand-work that was required to put the finishing touches on each completed section of ductwork. My favorite machine to watch in action was the plasma cutter. Since starting at SNIPS last October, I’ve heard a lot about plasma cutters, but I didn’t fully understand what they did until I got to see one in person. I enjoyed watching the machine cut out interesting shapes of sheet metal, and I look forward to learning more about them.

This was my first time visiting a sheet metal facility, and, although my trip was less than two days long, I was able to walk away with a ton of new information on sheet metal and what it takes to build ductwork.

Working with sheet metal is not an easy task, as I’m sure most of you already know. There’s a lot of time, attention and detail put into creating ductwork, so it makes sense that those who work within the HVAC and sheet metal works facility would constantly be looking towards associations, trade shows and publications, such as SNIPS, for time-management solutions, new products and emerging technology. Having the chance to actually see sheet metal work in motion allowed me to understand our readers a little better, which is something that will help me as I continue to edit and write articles for SNIPS.