Although bells and whistles might be great for some manufacturers, this company chose to build its reputation by focusing on fundamental functionality. “We are a very basic company and we do what we say we are going to do when we say we will do it,” says Robert Lowe, vice president and general manager of Nucor Building Systems. “We’re focused on the steak, whereas many of our competitors concentrate on the sizzle without necessarily meeting basic needs.”
And serving that steak well done and with a passion is what the Charlotte, N.C.-headquartered company does every day. Nucor Building Systems’ success revolves around its ongoing commitment to produce well-made, complete metal building packages. It customizes and combines other materials into the manufacturing process to produce a cost-effective, aesthetically sound building with the end user’s specific needs in mind.
The company built its reputation on fully understanding how its customers use a building before even the first engineering stroke of the pen. “What typically happens is we will all meet to discuss the space and functional aspects of the project. That includes the owner of the building, the contractor and our team,” says Lowe. Nucor Building Systems then offers a building solution designed specifically to meet those needs.
In Plain View
The primary philosophy of Nucor Building Systems can be expressed in one word: FOCUS. “We focus on fundamentals,” says Lowe in explaining the acronym. “When we say FOCUS, we mean steel that Fits, that’s delivered On time and Competitively priced, with Unbeatable service and Solutions that work.”
The company’s building systems are used by a wide range of industrial and commercial companies, and by community organizations. Its customers include warehouse distribution centers, automobile dealerships, retail centers, manufacturing centers and YMCAs. Nucor products are marketed through a builder network that puts together the entire construction package.
“The success of a contractor often lies in his ability to manage risk,” says Lowe. “The late arrival of steel or parts that don’t fit can adversely affect the costs of the job as well as the benefits to the customer.” Nucor Building Systems takes a common-sense approach to its business so that its customers always get what they need when they need it. “It’s kind of like when you turn the key of your car,” he adds. “Your first expectation is that the car starts and provides reliable transportation. Without the basics of performance, the frills don’t matter. To build a good building, we must understand why the customer is buying it and how it will generate profits for his business. We are all about the good, solid business fundamentals that our customers can rely on.”
It’s not by chance that the Nucor name is synonymous with reliability. Choosing not to sell on the open market, Nucor Building Systems instead works through a group of full-service Nucor builders. “This way we can guarantee that our customers get the right building and the right contractor to suit their specific needs,” says Lowe. “We go to market in an attempt to sell below market prices, and we pride ourselves on the fact that we are a cost leader in the industry through the elimination of waste.”
Building the Team
High standards such as these require a special teamwork philosophy, which Nucor Building Systems fosters. “We are very much driven by incentive plans that are well known throughout the industry,” says Lowe, explaining that shop employees can earn up to 250 percent of their base pay by using a variety of Nucor Building Systems’ incentive plans. “We are known for our strong emphasis on employee relations, our emphasis on quality and our technological leadership,” Lowe says. “We can operate with about half as many workers as our competitors and be successful. We have very few layers of management.”
This philosophy has been so successful since the first Nucor Building Systems plant was built in Indiana in 1987 that a second plant was built in Swansea, S.C. in 1995 and a third was built in Terrell, Texas, in 2000. Lowe’s counterparts at the two other divisions (Jeff Carmean in Swansea and Ray Napolitan in Terrell) share and apply the Nucor business philosophy that translates into excellent benefits for the customers and employees of all three businesses. The three facilities total 700,000 square feet of manufacturing space, and are well positioned to service many of Nucor’s national account clients.
Part of Nucor Corporation, a $4.5 billion operation and the largest steel maker in the United States, Nucor Building Systems has the financial power to keep it moving and growing. The legacy of Ken Iverson, Nucor’s long-time chief executive officer and one of the most respected business leaders of the 20th century, still guides all of the Nucor divisions as they continue his common-sense approach to business.
All 650 Nucor Building Systems employees understand the company’s philosophy and the work needed to achieve its objectives in the arena of customer satisfaction. “Our employees totally understand exactly how our customers will use our products, and that understanding is always incorporated into their decision making,” says Lowe. “Allowing our employees to feel as though they are part of the entire plan unleashes their power.”
Up in a Down Cycle
“Our company is like a chameleon in that we can change with the times to deal with the hotter markets,” says Lowe, noting that the market is down somewhat for all three plants. “We are experiencing a typical construction-market cycle and it will come back,” he adds. “This is the first time in about 10 years that we’ve been in a down cycle.”
Even with that said, Nucor is quite busy in supplying building systems to the dairy market, and the warehouse and distribution center sector is still strong. One of Nucor Building Systems’ most recent accomplishments was designing a cold mill and galvanizing line for a steel company. “It was a building very few of our competitors were capable of doing,” says Lowe of the 80-foot-high, 700,000 square-foot structure.
Bringing the strengths of its experience to every application it tackles, Nucor Building Systems easily handles a wide range of structural systems including clear-span and modular rigid-frame structures. In conjunction with sister Vulcraft joist divisions, the company has been offering wide-bay building solutions for years, many up to 60 feet wide or more. Its complete building packages can also include crane support systems and mezzanines, so that just about every specific customer requirement can be met.
The company recently introduced a modified roof system to meet the new 2000
building and insurance codes. “It’s a very simple weather-tight roof,” says Lowe. “Our CFR™ Roof System is easy to install, cost-efficient and lasts 20 or more years with very little maintenance. When you think about it, isn’t that what most people really want from a roof? A lot of people in the industry don’t understand that very basic and fundamental philosophy.” With many clients positioned in the eastern half of the country, Nucor anticipates expanding its presence into the Northeast. “Depending on the markets we uncover there and on the West Coast, we have the capacity to build plants in both regions in the future,” Lowe says.
Nucor Building Systems keenly recognizes its role in the industry and how it must maintain its edge in its markets. “We recognize that our customers can buy from 30 other metal-building companies. And we understand that in order to be successful, we must re-earn their business on every project,” says Lowe. “We see some of our competitors not sticking to the fundamentals or who are not well financed. We are growing in the industry because we stick to the fundamentals and we operate our business with a lot of common sense.”