Steel Beam Fabrication

Steel beam fabrication may seem like a rather simple form of production, but endless research, experience, and hard work goes into each and every beam out there. There’s very little room between under-engineered, poorly manufactured steel beams, and over-engineered, cost-prohibitive steel beams. Figuring out where the beams required for your work fall on that continuum means the difference between safety and profitability and disaster and waste. A qualified and experienced welding company can help you find the perfect mix of quality and affordability for your company.

The Basics of Steel Beam Fabrication

Close-up of rusty steel beams stacked at a construction siteThe cutting and shaping of steel beams or any other form of structural steel requires a few different competencies to come together. A metal fabricator must be able to read and interpret engineering diagrams and blueprints, utilize modern mechanical engineering and fabrication software, apply hands-on tools ranging from staples like saws and torches to the latest and greatest technologies, and potentially warp your beams to a different shape to match specific requirements. A complete team might also keep their own engineers, compliance specialists, and other experts adjacent to the process at hand. It’s worth noting that anyone with a few pieces of equipment can claim the title ‘metal fabricator’ with minimal effort, which can result in enormous gaps of quality between one metal fabricator and the next, even on something as relatively simple as steel beam fabrication.

Tools and Techniques

Modern fabrication equipment has become increasingly versatile and complex over the years, but breakthroughs in technique, technologies, and education means you can expect better results from top notch fabricators than ever before. Whether you’re looking at a project which requires only the simplest forms of welding or highly specialized fabrication aiming to meet demanding specifications, superior equipment and training will show itself in every aspect of your steel beams. Even if you don’t require the use of more exotic solutions, working with a team that’s familiar with those possibilities also means working with a team that knows safe, reliable, fast methods for producing high quality results on simpler jobs.

Materials

Steel encompasses an incredibly broad range of materials—and isn’t always the right metal for the job, even if you originally plan on using steel beams. Carbon content often defines the purpose of a given steel, but the options become truly limitless when you get into the finer details of the myriad variations of the alloy, not even mentioning steel alternatives. It’s important that you either carefully research your options and make an informed decision backed by sound engineering, or work with a metal fabricator capable of assisting you in the decision-making process.

Your choice of materials may also be closely linked to the capabilities of the fabricator you’re working with, as different materials can offer unique challenges. Without the right tools or equipment, you might find a less experienced or educated fabricator that simply cannot achieve the goals you have with the materials you prefer.

Standards Compliance

Steel BeamThere are any number of standards to be considered when producing steel beams, depending on the usage, region, and other factors. Some may be mandatory, backed by the rule of law for the area, while others may represent best practices for producing safe, long-lasting products. It’s crucial that someone involved in the manufacture of your steel beams be intimately familiar with all the relevant standards, and thus maintain compliance from engineering to delivery. This will usually be someone on the floor at the metal fabricator you choose for production, though in some edge cases additional input may be necessary.

Logistics

When looking at something like steel beam fabrication, logistics play a crucial role in determining how well you can adhere to deadlines, account for mistakes or misunderstandings, polish the details of production, and otherwise succeed. Factors as simple as storage can make or break profits tied to the production of steel beams, with poor storage potentially damaging raw materials or completed beams—sometimes in ways too subtle to be noticed until after they fail in their role. It’s thus of extreme importance that you ensure the quality of logistics around your beam fabrication, on your end and on the metal fabricator’s.

Common Mistakes

There are a few mistakes seen again and again in metal fabrication—errors that show up as frequently on simple jobs as they do on the complex ones, as people tend to pay closer attention when they know a task will be more demanding. Here are the ones to look for from a fabricator:

  • Too many assumptions. Assumptions can turn a simple job into a nightmare for everyone involved. A good metal fabricator asks plenty of questions, so they know what the customer wants. Assumptions cause problems.
  • Non-granular quality assurance. Every metal fabricator tries to maintain some degree of quality. The ones that succeed in excellence are the ones which pay attention to every aspect of the operation, in the shop, in management, in logistics. Pride doesn’t create results—attention to detail does.
  • Poor scheduling. A welder can be spot-on with every other aspect of the business, and yet cause disaster for their customers due to poor scheduling. This often ties into making incorrect assumptions, which leads to add-ons and wasted time later in the process.
  • Technique bias. Flexibility works wonders on steel beam fabrication and other manipulation of structural steel—yet it’s common for a more inexperienced or ill-equipped shop to favor certain techniques to a degree which compromises the quality of the work they produce. A good shop’s using the right technique for the right job, even when it’s a bit harder.

Selecting a Fabricator

ficepChoosing a metal fabricator to produce steel beams shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, as you now know. The difference between a top notch fabrication team and a low grade one will present itself quickly in every aspect of the relationship; the general product, the details, standards compliance, logistics, all of these areas can be undermined by a poor fabricator. On the other hand, working with a top notch team will improve your bottom line, minimize errors in every aspect, and help you meet deadlines, budgets, and other considerations more easily.

You should value two things when choosing a fabricator above all else: experience and references. While a skilled, knowledgeable metal fabricator might be able to produce excellent results even without these two things, you simply can’t know in advance—and thus you shouldn’t risk it.

Experience lends itself to a number of benefits, not the least of which is the ability to match production to your exact needs; an experienced fabricator will handle the fine details of your order far better than a less experienced one, even if their general knowledge of steel beam fabrication looks the same. The importance of references, of course, must not be underestimated either, as even a skilled, experienced fabricator can prove a problem to work with for any number of reasons.

Final Thoughts

Steel beam fabrication may not be the most complex aspect of your project, but it’s a crucial one. Make sure you know exactly what you need from your metal fabricator, and that you communicate those needs clearly to the shop. Bad beams can cripple any structure—but so can a good beam that’s wrong for its role. Work with a company with the right credentials and you will soon find the perfect beams to meet your application.