Much like Atlas carrying the ancient Greek world on his celestial shoulders, material handling machinery tends to be one of the unsung heroes moving and carrying the supplies that sustain the world as we know it across warehouses around the planet 24/7/365. Superior Fabrication Company in Kincheloe, Michigan is a North American engineering and fabrication leader in the heavy metal mast and sub-assembly, hydraulic fracking pump, and industrial equipment fabrication.
At Superior Fabrication Company, long-term partnerships trump short-term gains, making it an easy and efficient firm with which to collaborate. For those in original equipment manufacturing, oil and gas, agriculture, and several other sectors, Superior Fabrication Company serves as a contract heavy metal fabricator favored for producing quality heavy-duty welding, forklift mast assemblies that handle 100,000 lbs. and beyond, and bespoke components rendered from metal thicker than one inch – like the pivot body truck frames it is currently building in great numbers for mining companies.
The company is also well-known for the quality machining, welding, and high tolerances of its hydraulic fracking pumps, which are notoriously challenging to fabricate. A subsidiary of The Reserve Group (TRG), the company has a deep understanding of the heavy metal industry and has access to group-wide resources and easy collaboration among sister companies. These include a pressure-vessel facility and a super-heavy fabrication facility dealing with railroads and similar.
“Some mining vehicles have pressure vessels on top of them. We benefit from that by [addressing] fabrication work collaboratively. Sometimes that goes beyond just the Superior Fabrication brand. Now we are providing more comprehensive solutions to people as a result of these cross-brand capabilities,” says Rob Polich, Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
Superior Fabrication’s clients also benefit from TRG’s strong buying power, giving it access to better prices and often improved resources as a result.
In addition, the company offers clients a full-fledged engineering department with a solid knowledge base. “Because of our mast business, we have a [solid] engineering department which can assist in many ways, especially on first article inspections,” Polich adds, explaining that this initial prototype fabrication has to be to the exact standards upheld under contract fabrication.
Polich also highlights how imperative transparency is at Superior Fabrication. “I have personally studied the fabrication market and found it very opaque. People do not like to show you what is going on behind the curtain. You are not provided updates; you are not shown what is going on. We don’t engage with customers like that,” he says. For this reason, communication is considered to be of the essence, and clients receive regular progress reports and photographs to keep them up to speed with their fabrications while in the manufacturing process. But there is yet more to this dynamic company than first meets the eye.
Superior Fabrication Company also fabricates capital equipment, on- and off-road truck fabrications, dewatering and environmental equipment, charging systems and conveyors, specialty vehicle frames, and much more. Furthermore, its fabrication systems include all the elements needed to take projects from start to finish, including engineering, assembly, inspection, end of line testing, and painting.
There are always new partners signing up. As such, the company welcomed some fifteen first-time visitors to its plants just last year, adding to its impressive existing client base. And in a bid to build confidence and share expertise, such prospective clients are also free to conduct tests on its components and systems in-house. “That is not common in the industry. Even when we engage with a new prospect, we have every department’s managerial person there to address questions and discuss their subject matter and area of respective expertise. As a result, we’re much more successful – and we have more partnerships than we have customers,” Polich shares.
These efforts are supported by formal weekly progress meetings where the engineering and production teams meet with clients to iron out any possible challenges and ensure that they are on the right track. “We are not a one-off fabricator; we’re not interested in short-term work. Conversely, we seek long-term partners. We’re particular about who we engage with, and we expect them to be particular about who they trust,” he says.
To this end, every project is handled by a focused manager offering singular attention to every detail – including timelines and budgets. And Superior Fabrication’s after-sales service is just as robust, with all parts and service requirements being met and taken care of to the same high standards.
This approach brings us to an unlikely philosophy about clients and business in general. Albeit also very refreshing, the term ‘empathy’ is not one that you naturally and easily imagine when you think of heavy metal fabrication. Here, however, empathy is implied at the beginning of every sentence. And it is a trait that this dynamic leader holds very dear, both personally and professionally. The company’s transparency is only one of the ways in which it shows empathy to its partners; another way in which it displays empathy is by mitigating clients’ risk factors where possible, as with material management issues, complex processes, difficult tolerances, and the like. Whatever is needed to ensure clients feel confident and secure throughout the project, the Superior Fabrication team goes the extra mile to provide.
“[We offer] effective communication targeted at their greatest areas of concern and risk. We like to mitigate risk for both us and the client. A successful partnership for us is the mitigation of mutual risk. Many times we find commonalities; this is the value of transparent partnering,” Polich says.
Sprawled across 150,000 square feet of what sounds much like a movie set, the former Cold War strategic command air force base the company calls home is as fascinating as the work it does. Operative during the full-on tensions with Russia between the 1950s and 1980s, the company began its life as a military fabricator. Today, the facility comprises three buildings housing its office and fabrication facility spread across two gargantuan B52 Stratofortress aircraft hangars connected with a passage. There is more than enough space to create greatness – even for large, 30-foot-plus-long fabrications.
Superior Fabrication regularly invests in new technology, making the company the proud owner of seven robotic cells, a collection that will soon expand to several more. This fall will also see the implementation of new enterprise resource planning software that will help to further streamline its systems to provide clients with even better all-around speed, quality, and service. Superior Fabrication is also the proud owner of such trusted material handling brands as Knickerbocker, Brudi, and Swingshift.
With the significant current growth in heavy fabrication in sectors such as construction, agriculture, oil and gas, mining, and more, Superior Fabrication’s team of seventy is appreciated beyond belief. “We’re a customer-centric team. There’s very little sense of titles here. We all work very collaboratively to delight the customer,” Polich says with the sincere smile of a leader who knows that being too serious is unhealthy – both for business and morale.
“We have a good time doing it. It’s a fun place to work. I’m proud that we have a very approachable culture,” he adds, pointing out that being a great fit culturally is one of the best perks for customers.
“They always like the tempo, the personalities, the open expression that we have, culturally. We’re more interested in serving our customers than serving our hierarchy inside the organization,” Polich says of this wholesome, ego-free workplace where gag gifts and celebrated wins are equally common occurrences. And, speaking of tempo, this fantastic team is growing as new opportunities continue to roll in. Its success stands to reason, however. Superior Fabrication has turned blending its partners’ teams seamlessly with its own into a fine art, ensuring that every project rolls smoothly from start to finish while underpromising and overdelivering – every time. Just as its work promises to outlast the competition, its quality and dedication do the same.