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Just because General Contractors usually hire steel fabrication, erection and suppliers to build their metal building projects for them, there are some things you should know or recognize when "sub-ing" it out to someone. The following information can help you make a better-informed decision and have a little more knowledge to help understand why some steel construction contractors may cost a little more than others or have higher quality standards which may seem to add more time to your projects.


Someone who fabricates plate products in the world of structural steel has to have an open mind. Think about it. "Structural" applies to beam and columns for steel-framed buildings; framing accessories such as clip angles, base plates, and angle bracings; and ornamental fabrications that are meant to accentuate a building design and support it. Basically, you need to know a little about everything.


For example, you need to know how to check for quality. After placing holes in a structural beam, a fabricator needs to confirm the holes' locations. The work points are critical between the structural shape and the framing accessories, and the slightest mistake can lead to trouble during field erection.


In another example, you need to know about tack welding, the basic joining method for most structural steel projects. You will need to turn the welding machine heat up to prevent slag and to ensure you penetrate with the gas metal arc tack welds. The first tack weld will be small and the next one bigger, about 1/2 inch, which is then followed by a solid weld that is as big as the biggest tack. This keeps tack welds from popping loose.


Before welding solid, it's time to put the quality hat back on. Always check holes and framing accessories after tack welding. That way you won't have to spend all day removing solid welds if something is out of place. Just breaking three or four tack welds is a lot easier.

Unfortunately, this type of structural steel education is not taking place. Trade and welding schools give you the basics about fabricating, but you learn a lot more on the job.

But some of those lessons are not taught even in the structural steel fabricating shops anymore. Experienced workers are not as plentiful as they once were, and those with communication skills and the patience to educate the next generation of fabricators are rare. Articles that provide critical information about structural steel fabrication can help, but it's important that fabricators have good shop floor training programs to accompany the good advice provided by these trade publications.


After many years in the industry, a structural steel fabricator should be able to provide some insight into what makes a good shop and how it should run. Following is some advice for structural steel job shops to consider.


1. A Good Structural Steel Shop Usually Has a Good Foreman.

A good shop foreman who has the confidence of the company CEO, can communicate, and can lead the shop guys is worth his weight in gold. The foreman is often asked to lead fabrication jobs and pass along production tips and tricks to less experienced shop floor personnel. Knowledgeable foremen easily can win the respect of those companies that employ them, those who work for them, and customers who work with them.


Sometimes companies equate fabricating knowledge with an engineering degree. College graduates can bring a fresh perspective to a shop environment, but if the degreed individual has no fabricating experience—much less work experience—a credibility gap opens between those looking for fabricating leadership and the one expected to provide it.


In fact, the best foremen or candidates for such positions are the "old guys," those with the experience and knowledge that can help jobs run smoothly. Some went to drafting schools, and most worked at least a year in the fab shop before they moved into the detailing department. In some instances, those same fabricators who worked their way up own their own structural steel shops now.


At the very least, let the old guys stay. They should be made inspectors or instructors. They are allowed to make money on top of their Social Security benefits, after all.


Today, however, that's not the norm. The industry has more engineers who can read all the critical information, and more detailers who can put it on paper. But who is communicating with the shop floor to ensure the job can be fabricated according to the detailer's specs and in the time allotted?


2. Sometimes a Helper Isn't Much of a Help on a Deadline.

Here's a typical statement from the front office: "Here's 14 stories of four-line pipe rail. You need to have them ready for the erectors in three days. We'll get you a helper to finish the job on time."


That request is not unusual. The offer for assistance is a common refrain. The end result is usually a pain for the lead fabricator. Instead of spending time on the rush job, the lead fabricator has to spend time watching the helper.


For jobs with tight deadlines, dedicated, experienced hands are best. Helpers and those fabricators providing the training to the helpers can accomplish their goals by working on jobs with longer lead-times. The helper then can take it all in as he or she holds the dumb end of a tape measure. Watching the layout person and fitter do their jobs without the pressure of including someone not ready to contribute fully can lead to a relaxed exchange of knowledge.

What about the quick turnaround for the handrail job? Instead of possibly missing the deadline because of the need to help the helper, the fabricator can build the handrails to each different stringer, make the correct pitch or bevel on the returns, and match the handrails for a nice fit-up—all within the allotted time.


3. Bent Plate Can Be a Lifesaver in Moving Plate.

Worker safety should be paramount for companies, but that's not always the case. Some of the scariest moments in a structural steel shop occur when very large plates are handled sloppily.


In one structural steel shop, shop floor personnel were moving a heavy plate with a beam clamp, but the gripping teeth were packed with paint residue, which made the gripping area too smooth to pick up the plate effectively. The beam clamps dropped the plate, almost smashing a person.


That led to an important lesson. When picking up a plate, lay the plate down and use spreader chains with bent plates on the chains to grab all four edges. Do not use hooks on the ends of chains to move plate, and do not use clamps on painted material to avoid paint buildup.


4. Sometimes a Combination of Plate and Structural Shapes Is Better for a Particular Job Than Plate Alone.

Follow this example. A tube radius stringer—used in fabricating staircases—needs to be fabricated. The project starts with a 12-in. by 2-in. tube, which was made in-house by roll bending metal plate and welding it solid. To manufacture a 15-foot piece will apply severe stress to the tube's radius, resulting in ripples in the inside of the radius. What can be done to avoid the stress during bending?


One idea is to take a 12-in. channel and drill holes for bolts. Get the component rolled to the proper radius and put the plate inside the open edge of the stringer with 1-in.-spaced welds holding it in place. Nonwelded spaces can be finished off. In the meantime the stringer maintains its structural integrity.


Sometimes jobs don't go exactly as the front office imagines. But a simple twist on how to fabricate a part still can result in engineering's approval.


5. Let the Concrete Dry.

On a lot of jobs, the goal is to rush, rush, rush. The end result is often rework, rework, rework.

When working with concrete, let it dry, get the correct field measurements, and do the structural work. Don't build the handrails before the concrete is even poured because the effort likely will be wasted. A lot can happen between plans and on-site construction, and a few inches in structural layout can translate into scrapped components if they are made too soon.


6. Standardize on Hand Tools.

Many job shops have relied on layout tools that were created in-house by the veterans who are now leaving the fabricating industry. The tools did the job, but shops sometimes ran into problems as a fitter might have a slightly different hand tool than his co-worker across the shop floor.


A simple search on the Internet reveals inexpensive tools that can allow a shop to standardize on one style of hand tool to perform consistent and accurate layout of structural steel components. Such a standardized approach will reduce erection time in the field.

  • Highline Steel Systems

Updated: Jul 30, 2018



Steel has been used in construction since the first skyscrapers were built in the late 19th century. But recently, steel has become an option for smaller buildings and even personal residences. Using steel has certain advantages:


Steel is considered a “green” product in that it is entirely recyclable. In fact, a builder will be able to buy recycled steel for a new commercial building or home.


The material provides strength that is unavailable for buildings built with wood frames and brick walls. It does not warp, buckle, twist, or bend and is flexible and easy to install. Because of its increased quality and ease of maintenance steel is an attractive building material. It resists mold and mildew, a plague that sometimes afflicts wood frame buildings. Steel is sturdy enough that it resists the damage caused by natural disasters, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Steel buildings are much more resistant to fire and termites. Because of steel’s greater durability, the owner of such a building could get a better deal on insurance.


Because of steel’s strength and durability compared to wood, architects have more flexibility in designing buildings and homes, creating greater spaces


Building with steel has some drawbacks, however. Steel is more costly than more conventional materials. How Stuff Works notes that a steel building is 14 percent more costly than an equivalent structure constructed with more conventional materials. To make a steel building truly energy efficient requires additional insulation because of the material conducts heat and cold more than conventional materials. If a steel building is not designed well, it may be prone to corrosion.


The trick to building with steel is to find a contractor who is experienced in using the material, as well as plumbers and electricians willing to work on a steel building. But building with steel is a worthwhile investment if one is willing to spend the money up front.


To explore ways to better work with steel building contractors so they can better serve you during this unpredictable period, contact Highline Steel Systems.


#HighlineSteelSystems #StructuralSteelSupply #SteelFabrication #SteelErection #PreEngineeredMetalBuildings #ArchitecturalMetals #OrnamentalMetals #TiltWallErection #SteelManagement #BuildingComponents #SteelBuildingDetailing #SteelBuildingEngineering #SteelBuildingEstimates #SteelBuildingsDFW #MetalBuildingsDFW #Moonhaus #Zomped


About Highline: At Highline Steel Systems and www.highlinesteelsystems.com, our goal is for our clients to be well-informed before partnering with us or participating in any of our firm’s services. We hope your experience will be better once you know who we are, have more realistic ideals and goals about working with us, as well as understand what we are focused on doing for you and our community. We are focused on providing the best possible services and products in and around structural steel supply & fabrication services, steel erection services, structural steel provision, pre-engineered metal buildings, architectural metals, ornamental metals, tilt-wall erection, steel management, building components, detailing & engineering, as well as estimating and everything that goes into making your steel building projects a reality. If you need any questions answered or any expert advice, please give us a call at (800) 317-5814 or email us at bids@highlinesteelsystems.com

Updated: Jul 12, 2018




Recently the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) released a list of products imported from China that will be subject to additional tariffs as part of the U.S. response to China’s unfair trade practices related to the forced transfer of American technology and intellectual property. Fabricated structural steel was added for consideration to the Section 301 tariff list due in part to AISC’s advocacy and testimony at last month’s USTR Section 301 public hearing in Washington, D.C.


The list of products covers more than 1,000 separate U.S. tariff lines valued at approximately $50 billion in 2018 trade values.


The tariff list is separated into two separate groups:

1. USTR has determined to impose an additional duty of 25% on the first list of products valued at approximately $34 billion after having sought and received views from the public and advice from the appropriate trade advisory committees. Customs and Border Protection will begin to collect the additional duties on July 6, 2018.


2. The second set of proposed tariff lines, including those related to fabricated structural steel, have been identified by the interagency Section 301 Committee as benefiting from Chinese industrial policies, including the "Made in China 2025" industrial policy. The second set, which cover approximately $16 billion worth of imports from China, will undergo further review in a public notice and comment process, including a public hearing. After completion of this process, USTR will issue a final determination on the products from this list that would be subject to the additional duties.


AISC’s Involvement

On May 15, 2018, Jeffrey Sterner, president and chief operating officer of High Industries, Lancaster, Pa. (an AISC member and certified fabricator and erector), and a member of the AISC board of directors, testified on behalf of AISC in front of the United States Trade Representative Section 301 committee, and asked that the administration add fabricated structural steel to the Section 301 tariff list.


In his testimony, Sterner said, "Steel assemblies that fall under these two [tariff] codes represented $831 million of imports in 2017, or nearly 2% of the Section 301 target value. Adding these codes is critically important because the U.S. structural steel supply chain currently suffers from the effects of unfair Chinese industrial policies related to steel production and fabrication."


The originally proposed Section 301 schedule already included 132 HTS codes related to steel, many of which represented products used in the construction industry. However, the original list did not close the circumvention loophole left open by the Section 232 order which does not currently include the codes for fabricated steel assemblies.


"Adding fabricated steel assemblies under HTS codes 730810 and 730890 would be a logical extension of other tariffs already in the proposed Section 301 schedule in addition to those in the Section 232 Order," said Brian Raff, AISC’s director of government affairs. "It will add real teeth to the effort to curb China’s policies and practices that adversely impact domestic steel fabrication and production."


View Sterner’s testimony here.


Charlie Carter, AISC's president, remarks, "We have been talking with the several trade-related agencies for more than a year now, and we're pleased to know that leadership within these agencies is paying careful attention. Adding fabricated structural steel to the 301 tariff list is a step in the right direction and we hope that the Department of Commerce follows suit and closes the circumvention loophole that currently exists in the Administration's signature trade policy by allowing foreign fabricated structural steel into the U.S. without penalty."


AISC has also been an active participant in the 232 investigation on steel imports, testifying at the Commerce Department hearing in May 2017, submitting post-hearing information to Commerce and writing letters to the President. Our primary argument has been that the critical tie between steel imports and national security is in America’s Critical Infrastructure -- an argument that was adopted by and featured prominently in the Commerce Department Report. However, as the implementing Order was being finalized, we urged one critically important modification to the Commerce report: Include fabricated structural steel in the products covered by the tariff.


To explore ways to better work with steel building contractors so they can better serve you during this unpredictable period, contact Highline Steel Systems.


#HighlineSteelSystems #StructuralSteelSupply #SteelFabrication #SteelErection #PreEngineeredMetalBuildings #ArchitecturalMetals #OrnamentalMetals #TiltWallErection #SteelManagement #BuildingComponents #SteelBuildingDetailing #SteelBuildingEngineering #SteelBuildingEstimates #SteelBuildingsDFW #MetalBuildingsDFW #Moonhaus #Zomped


About Highline: At Highline Steel Systems and www.highlinesteelsystems.com, our goal is for our clients to be well-informed before partnering with us or participating in any of our firm’s services. We hope your experience will be better once you know who we are, have more realistic ideals and goals about working with us, as well as understand what we are focused on doing for you and our community. We are focused on providing the best possible services and products in and around structural steel supply & fabrication services, steel erection services, structural steel provision, pre-engineered metal buildings, architectural metals, ornamental metals, tilt-wall erection, steel management, building components, detailing & engineering, as well as estimating and everything that goes into making your steel building projects a reality. If you need any questions answered or any expert advice, please give us a call at (800) 317-5814 or email us at bids@highlinesteelsystems.com

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