Eye on Core Values
By Bill Sendelback
Photos: ©2018 Kacy Meinecke Photography. www.kacymeineckephotography.com.
Most large companies operate like large companies – they’re slow to make decisions, slow to take action, they provide impersonal customer service, and everything is wrapped in corporate red tape. Metal-Fab, a leading manufacturer of venting and air distribution products, is a breath of fresh air in the corporate world; it’s a large company that operates like a small company. That attitude elicits words of praise from a growing number of customers.
“The secret of our success for the 60 years we have been in business is our steadfast emphasis on our core values,” says Marcus Wheeler, Marketing manager, “and that is to offer the very best products, and to deliver those products promptly while providing the best customer service and being focused on what the customer needs. That’s why we’re a strong, stable company experiencing significant sales growth.”
Metal-Fab was launched in June 1958, by the Shannon family; its product was HVAC ducting and accessories. As part of a growing HVAC offering, the company soon began manufacturing B-vent pipe and accessories for the gas water heaters and gas furnaces being installed in new homes.
With the hearth products market growing, in 1972 the company expanded its offerings into hearth to include its Temp/Guard ceramic fiber insulated, and air insulated, all-fuel, class A chimney, stove pipe, biomass pellet chimney, direct-vent, and stainless-steel and aluminum chimney liner systems. It now offers products for the HVAC, residential and commercial markets.
“Although we offer products for other markets, we’re focused on the hearth market,” Wheeler says. “We’re growing and improving our hearth venting products such as introducing our new Air-Cooled Temp/Guard all-fuel chimney and adding hearth appliance manufacturers’ listings for our direct-vent line. We’re definitely targeting new business in hearth.”
L to R: David Shannon, Vice-Chairman and third generation Shannon family owner; Mark Ohm, President/CEO.
The company also offers registers, air movement grills, air diffusers, and fire and ceiling radiation dampers for the HVAC and commercial markets. Its Micro Air division also offers industrial air cleaners and air purification products to the commercial market.
Recently celebrating its 60th anniversary, Metal-Fab began and continues as a family-owned, privately-held company. Ownership of the company now has passed from founder Dwayne Shannon to his son, Ken Shannon, chairman, and Ken’s wife Jan. Mark Ohm is president/CEO.
Unlike most hearth product categories, venting requires literally thousands of stock-keeping units (SKUs), far more than just chimney sections in a variety of lengths and diameters, but also all the sized elbows, terminations, flashings, fire stops, and many more parts needed for venting installations. This has made it very difficult for venting manufacturers to keep all of those SKUs in stock in order to ship orders quickly and completely.
Metal-Fab, however, seems to have solved that challenge. Throughout its 60 years it has touted shipping venting orders quickly and completely as an important part of its core values and competitive advantages.
“How we accomplish this is our trade secret,” says Wheeler, “but bottom-line is that we have a very well-streamlined shipping system allowing us to ship orders fast, complete, and correct the first time. We have the ability to produce products cost effectively, and to warehouse those many SKUs, ready for prompt shipments.”
All of this is accomplished by Metal-Fab’s 300 employees in the company’s 400,000 sq. ft. factory in Wichita, Kansas. Because of increased product demand, Metal-Fab now is adding 60,000 sq. ft. to its manufacturing facility. “To be able to continue to expand, change, and improve our products, we’re adding new manufacturing machinery with newer, better, state-of-the-art technology to allow us to produce better products at less cost and get orders to our customers faster,” Wheeler adds.
While Metal-Fab’s Wichita warehouse services much of North America, the company also has regional warehouses in Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Illinois. “It’s easier and faster for us to ship west out of Wichita than to ship east,” says Wheeler. “With a larger demand for our products in the East, these regional warehouses allow us to quickly service our customers all across North America.”
Metal-Fab’s primary customers are stocking distributors, whether for the hearth or HVAC markets. “Although we do sell to some large dealers, a stocking distributor works best for all of us because of the huge number of SKUs needed for venting products,” he says. “We treat every customer with personalized attention, but we treat them equally.”
That is just one reason Wheeler gives for why Metal-Fab has had some customers for more than 40 years. “We take a lot of pride in that, once we get a customer, we don’t lose them.”
Metal-Fab’s customers also recognize the company’s core values as being important to help their businesses. “We’ve been dealing with Metal-Fab for 10 years,” says Dave Broumpton, president of Majestic Hearth Distributors, Denver, Colorado, “and the number-one reason is that Metal-Fab stocks everything and can ship within 24 hours. We get our orders on time, and backorders are very rare. They build strong relationships with their customers by providing good products and very helpful customer service, and there is no typical corporate bureaucracy to deal with.”
“Metal-Fab is a fantastic supplier and is so easy to do business with,” according to Bryan Maertens, co-owner of Congo Fireplace & Patio, Benton, Arkansas. “We switched venting suppliers to Metal-Fab eight years ago, and it was one of the best decisions we’ve made. If I place an order on Monday, I get delivery on Friday with no backorders. Metal-Fab products are fine quality, and there is always somebody on their phone to take orders and answer any questions.”
“It’s really a good company to work with,” says Mike Garcia, purchasing manager for Perfection Wholesale Supply, Houston, Texas. “Metal-Fab is really, really good on shipping in a timely manner with rarely a backorder. Their customer service is excellent, and they always do whatever they need to do to satisfactorily handle any situation.”