Perimeter security is one of the most critical aspects of safeguarding government sites, military installations, power plants and utilities, business facilities, residential communities and private homes. Ameristar Fence Products has turned perimeter security into an architectural element with its signature ornamental steel fence, available in a number of constructions and configurations to meet any security challenge.
“Security ranges from making sure you have the proper type of swimming pool fence to keeping children safe to a lumber yard that doesn’t want people stealing two by fours to nuclear power stations, national guard armories and the Pentagon,” says Barry Willingham, director of marketing.
The Tulsa, Okla., company has redefined the standards of performance and aesthetics in specialty fencing for more than 22 years. The privately owned firm, with revenues exceeding $110 million, is now the largest manufacturer of ornamental fencing in the world. Ameristar is the preference of fencing contractors nationwide. Chances are that every day you can recognize Ameristar products surrounding residential developments such as adult communities, golf courses and resorts, and large and small commercial sites.
Recently, Ameristar has introduced fencing innovations that continue to enhance the security and visual appeal of many types of properties. The Impasse(tm) security fence is a high-security fence that provides the first line of defense in the most sensitive settings such as military installations, government complexes, airports and seaports, nuclear or chemical plants, armories, reservoirs or any facility requiring maximum protection. Impasse was created to meet the demanding specifications of security specialists and engineers. (The goal of perimeter fencing is to delay forced entry by an intruder or vehicle, allowing time for other security forces and measures to contain the problem.)
At an Impasse
One of the keys to the product’s performance is the design and construction of the Impasse vertical uprights. “It is an ornamental steel fence product with a pale design that provides strength and structural integrity much greater than a standard ornamental product,” Willingham says. In fact, Impasse can be fortified with anti-ram barrier capability. It’s the only commercially made fence system certified to meet the U.S. Department of State perimeter barrier vehicle crash test requirements. Impasse can stop a 15,000-pound vehicle going 40 miles per hour. And watch for that standard to go even higher as Ameristar continues to upgrade its products’ performance.
To enhance architectural appeal, Impasse is available in three styles (triple-pointed, blunt-tipped, and outwardly curved) and four standard colors (black, white, bronze, and desert sand).
Another total security solution by Ameristar is its classic Aegis II(r) ornamental fence, perfect for facilities concerned with both security and appearance. Aegis features strong, steel vertical pickets that are much more difficult to cut through than chain-link or welded wire mesh. The enclosed picket-retaining rod ensures both the security and clean look of a
totally hidden fastening system. Separation of rails supporting the tall, 14-gauge pickets discourages climbing attempts, particularly with the curved and pointed top design options.
Ameristar’s high-security products are designed to integrate with other security systems to provide total perimeter security. In addition to anti-ram barrier capability and anti-climb inserts, fencing can be configured to work with closed-circuit TV (CCTV) technologies, intrusion detection sensors, alarm systems and lighting.
“Security is not just putting up a fence. It’s a total solution based on the risk assessment of the site and customer’s needs. So our product is a platform for other security systems,” Willingham notes. “Intrusion detection sensor systems fit perfectly into our rails and we have special clips designed to hide the application and protect against tampering.” While conduits for lighting usually require costly trenches to install, Ameristar designs the bottom rail of its products to accommodate and protect cables.
“To bury that conduit along the fence line costs $15 to $20 per foot. You can reinvest that money back into your fencing budget by running that conduit through our bottom rail,” Willingham explains. “It minimizes the expenditure and the effort required to install that product.”
Making a Fence
Production of an Ameristar fence begins with premium-grade, galvanized steel, rolled into a tube. The high-strength, architectural shapes of Ameristar components are possible only because of the high-speed automation of its in-house roll-forming mill, capable of producing proprietary shapes in a variety of piping and tubing.
Most important is the company’s proprietary, 11-stage PermaCoat(r) electrostatic powder coating process. Unlike competitors’ fences, PermaCoat protects against rust, scratches and dings to ensure an aesthetically pleasing appearance for many years.
“We use a zinc phosphate sub-base, which is more expensive than competitors’ iron phosphate, but because of our buying quantity and efficiencies, we can use the superior sub-base cost effectively,” Willingham says. “On top of that base coat we put an epoxy powder, which is cured to bond and fuses with a polyester powder top coat. (Epoxy is rigid and seals well to prevent rust, while polyester is more flexible and protective on the outer surface.) “Because of the 10-year warranties we place on the products and the type of coatings we put on, the quality and luster lasts for years.”
Permacoat remains proprietary and exclusive to Ameristar Fence Products, but the company offers its expert coil processing as a contract manufacturer through an expanded plant, along with a brand new, 100,000-square-foot facility. “It was a natural for us to be in that business because we buy coiled steel by the barge load.” Customers in the appliance and auto industries take advantage of Ameristar as a coil processor. “They are JIT and don’t want to handle a lot of their steel,” he says.
Other capital improvements support an all-new product line of welded-panel fence products, called Montage(tm). These represent a departure from Ameristar’s traditional, top-of-the-line products and extend its market reach into residential or light commercial applications that don’t require high-tech security yet need a solid, attractive containment solution. Montage brings the beauty of ornamental steel fencing to places where it would have been prohibitive in the past. An example is a residential community with a large perimeter.
“Our traditional product lines are called ‘knock-down’ products because they ship to the project construction site in a partly disassembled format. The new Montage product is an assembled panel that’s all welded together and coated when it ships out,” Willingham explains. “Montage reaches a lower price point and maintains a degree of quality but does not have as high a grade as a knock-down product like Aegis,” he says. “We decided to address the welded-panel market and take it up to a premium level while meeting customers’ financial demands.”
A new, 150,000-square-foot facility is dedicated to Montage production, adding 80 jobs. This brings Ameristar’s presence in Tulsa to nearly one million square feet of production and 470 workers. The production focus for Ameristar is speed of business, an ability to produce quality fence products at high speed to maximize affordability to a growing customer base.
“The philosophy of our business and culture of our organization is to make the investments necessary to speed manufacturing while maintaining the level of quality and gaining quantity and efficiencies,” Willingham says.
An example is evident in the new, welded-panel facility. It can produce a welded fence assembly in about 20 seconds, compared to eight to 12 minutes at competitors’ plants.
“We can produce more at a lower cost and exceed the quality of other products. Therefore our profitability, cost effectiveness for the customer, and the quality are all achieved.”
The effort is making ornamental steel fences affordable to more customers and markets. Along with today’s priority and concern for security, it’s boosting the company’s bottom line. Ameristar Fence has had an average growth rate of 28 percent each year for past several years. “We haven’t scratched the surface of the security market,” Willingham says.
Like its customers’ properties, Ameristar’s future is very secure.