American Steel Building Company, Inc. is headquartered in a most appropriate location: the American west, where the pioneering spirit thrived. In business for more than 50 years, the Houston, Texas-based organization embodied that spirit throughout its own history. “We pioneered the mini-storage and multi-level storage concepts,” says Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Wilfredo Raul Arriondo.
That groundbreaking starting point provided a strong basis for subsequent growth. Today, American Steel designs, builds and sells complete steel building systems for the metal building and self-storage industries.
Western lore is also rife with colorful quotes about Texas. Citizens of the state are fond of pointing out that “Everything is bigger and better in Texas.” That, too, can apply to American Steel, considering the size of some of the projects it completed. “We were the first company to manufacture a 300-foot clear span rigid structure building,” informs Arriondo. “It’s located in West Palm Beach, Fla. and it serves as a jai alai arena. Also, working with one of our contractors, we built the entire metal structure and all of the metal buildings for the Diego Garcia naval base, located in the Pacific Rim.”
Company projects have not only been large; they’ve been rather unique, even out-of-the-ordinary. “For instance, we built the entire compound and all of the metal structures for the filming of the motion picture Titanic, in Baja, Calif.,” adds Arriondo.
That particular project solidly underscores what the company can offer its customers. “We’ve created a niche for ourselves, where we can take on the kind of projects that other companies tend to pass on,” explains Arriondo. “Our customers depend on us to design and manufacture the more complex building projects. Some competitors tend to cater to the more boxy structure market, but we’ve headed in different directions, which we brought to the table by listening to our customer base.”
WIDE RANGE OF OFFERINGS
For commercial and industrial applications, the company offers a wide range of building systems that include office buildings, shopping centers, car dealerships, complete manufacturing facilities, and food and chemical processing plants.
The company’s industrial/recreational building systems provide a cost-efficient alternative to conventional construction and are adaptable for schools, prisons and hospitals, as well as wide-span applications such as gymnasiums, sports and riding arenas and sport field houses. American Steel has constructed wide-span building systems up to a 300-foot width without interior columns. Also, it offers standing seam roofing systems pre-finished in zinc aluminum alloy. These can be coated with ceramic pigmentation and improved polymers for superior performance and color retention. Moreover, these systems set new benchmarks for weather resistance, low maintenance and cost effectiveness.
Even as its offerings have increased, American Steel has remained one of the largest integrated designers, manufacturers and builders of mini-storage facilities, providing modular construction, low-maintenance costs, superior roof construction and efficient insulation systems. The company pioneered the development of the multi-story load bearing partition and floor system. Current storage systems come in single-story, split-level and multi-story configurations and can be furnished with climate control features. Long-span roof joists can accommodate 40- to 50-foot bays.
American Steel also offers special applications systems for aircraft hangars, freezer and cold storage buildings, parking garages, structures with 100-ton overhead cranes and bulk storage and handling facilities for grain, coal, peanuts, sugar, sawdust and cement. American Steel’s building systems provide substantial advantages over ordinary construction including economy, quality, superior design flexibility and rapid construction. These add up to quicker occupancy, long-term weather-resistant reliability and low maintenance. Its building systems endure in the harshest of environments: from the deserts of Africa, to tropical areas in South America and Southeast Asia, and to the frigid climates of Alaska and Siberia.
“We have done business globally for our entire existence,” says Arriondo.
In addition to building systems, American Steel offers a supplemental product line that includes industrial pallet racks and steel building components such as gutters, down spouts, wall panels, sheeting and trim, structural members, etc. Also, its operations include a division that sells its patented storage rack system.
“We’re making our rack system even stronger than it was before,” reports Arriondo. “Already, there’s nothing like it in the industry. It is made of 12- and 14-gauge steel, and the advantage of the multi-level storage rack system is that it acts as a complimentary product to the warehousing or other structures we may be selling. Thus, we provide customers with two products that complement each other.”
BUILDING UPON SUCCESS
American Steel was established in 1953 in Houston, and it has operated continuously and successfully ever since. Throughout the years, the company completed thousands of building systems, proving itself adept in projects ranging from the more low-tech warehousing to the highly complex architectural designs.
As sales and revenues increased, the company enlarged and improved upon its facilities to the point where it can produce a full line of steel building systems. Currently, American Steel’s manufacturing is housed in a 280,000-square-foot plant, a Houston site where the company maintains the necessary inventory of raw materials including plates, sheet steel, hot and cold rolled steel and sheeting materials. Suppliers include Sumitomo Corporation, Southwest Steel Trading, USX Corporation, Nucor Steel, and Friedman Industries.
“Logistically speaking, it is located in a prime location, as we have access to every major freeway as well as rail systems and ports,” Arriondo points out. Accessible seaports are located in Houston, Galveston and New Orleans. As such, American Steel can accomplish containerized shipments throughout the entire world.
American Steel has a workforce of 100 employees including registered engineers, draftsmen, erection specialists, certified welders, project consultants, and a fully staffed and qualified production department for each of its divisions (pre-engineered metal
building, components and mini-storage and rack systems). “One of the things we like to boast about is our incredibly low personnel turnover rate,” says Arriondo. “The average tenure is about 12 years.”
Within its fabrication facilities, American Steel has always embraced a lean manufacturing approach. In addition, it has implemented an effective cross-training manufacturing process. “Our efficient production maximizes shareholder value and has been one of our most attractive characteristics,” comments Arriondo. “This is critical. Even though we’re a small operation, our customers know that our plant can and will produce to specifications, regardless of a structure’s complexity, by virtue of our efficient operation.”
ECO-FRIENDLY AND ATTRACTIVE
Responding to industry trends, American Steel is focusing on aesthetic and environmental concerns. “One major trend currently impacting the industry involves the look and feel of metal buildings,” says Arriondo. “While building design and quality have remained the same, the industry is now demanding more from an architectural design standpoint.”
In terms of facades, people want buildings that are much more attractive than the steel structures designed 10 years ago. American Steel now offers computer-aided design capabilities, design structural elements and cladding materials that eliminate compromise between aesthetics and function. “As new architects come along with new ideas and design, we’re meeting and exceeding their needs in this area,” says Arriondo.
The other element impacting the market is the concept of an eco-structure, or the “build green” concept. Customers look for structures that are less expensive and last longer, offering stronger resistance to weather conditions.
“Those are the two main trends affecting the industry, and we’ve made the necessary changes to provide customers with the cutting-edge technologies in these directions,” says Arriondo. “But, as we accommodate for these changes, we don’t lose focus on what our customers need from us.”
FOSTERING TRUST AND GROWTH
Indeed, American Steel has started placing an even greater emphasis on customer satisfaction. The company’s mission is to become an industry leader through application of its core values: to provide customers with superior service and to foster a reputation built on trust, tradition and experience. “We want to meet our customers’ requirements in the highest quality manner and, above all, conduct our business with the highest ethical and professional standards,” says Arriondo. “This immediately resonated with a number of companies that had either not done business with us in the past or had only given us a small percentage of their business. Now, they’ve clearly identified with our mission and vision, and that has allowed us to expand our customer base.”
On top of that, customers recognize American Steel’s ability to build complex and non-standard buildings, as well as its long tenure in the industry. As Arriondo indicates, American Steel may not be the biggest company in the industry, but it is striving to be the best. At the same time, it is focusing on growth by investing capital into facility upgrades that will enable it to exceed current capabilities and capacity, which already are considerable.