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Mike Trull | Rebar Supplier Expectations


What General Contractors expect from a Rebar Supplier by Mike Trull

What are the expectations of a general contractor and/or a concrete contractor when they’re selecting a reinforcing steel fabricator for their new project? Hello, my name is Mike Trull, and I’ve spent 50 years in the steel industry. 45 of those years, I was with a reinforcing fabricator in North Texas, CMC. For some of you who are viewing this video for the first time, just some elementary notes about steel and how it’s made.

Steel primarily is made from scrap metal and electric furnace. The scraps put in the furnace along with minerals and melted, and then the rolling process begins. It can be put or melted into, poured into, billets, ingots or sometimes in newest processes in our country, it is a continuous process, straight from molten steel to start rolling products.

Thus rebar is rolled through a series of stands. At the end of the last stand, a piece of rebar comes out, and that rebar of course is hot and goes to cooling bed. From there, it is bundled, put on a truck or in a railcar, and then shipped to the fabricator. That’s when we start the fabricating process.

There are different sizes of reinforcing steel, from number 3, all the way to number 18. There are different grades — grade 60, grade 80 grade 706. What’s the difference? The higher the number, the stronger the steel.

And for young people who’ve just gotten out of school, grade 100, you’ll see a lot of that in your lifetime. We probably won’t see much of it now, but that’s coming. Great 60, 80, and then 100. A 706, if you need some welding done, that’s the steel that’s easier to weld — grade 706.

Every manufacturer of steel, every steel mill has their own design of deformations. And deformations are those ribs, are those circles around, or X’s around on the bar to help adhere the concrete to the bar, simply put. And the bar will tell you if it’s grade 60 or grade 80. And it will tell you, by looking at the bar, one might know exactly where that bar came from by looking at the deformations. The CRSI handbook pictures all these different deformations so that’s a tool you can go to, to find out from what mill did this steel come from.

The fabricator then takes this new steel that’s arrived to his plant. He bends it, he cuts it, he tags it, then loads it on a truck. The truck goes to the job site. Placers then place that reinforcing steel in the forms.

The reinforcing steel itself is very strong in tension. The concrete is very strong in compression. That’s a wonderful marriage.

Well, if you’re a rebar fabricator, you know very well that you are an essential part of the construction industry, the construction process. So what does a general contractor really look for in a fabricator? There are four essentials, in my opinion, that they look for, one is financial strength. Do you pay your supplier long before you ever get paid? That’s important. Can you survive in these volatile markets we’ve seen in the last 20 years? They need to know that. That’s important to them.

They need to know that you are a trustworthy, a person they can trust. They need to know and trust you that you’re going to complete that obligation you’ve made by contract.

They want know if you have a proven track record of fabricating a like job, like the one they’re talking about now. Are your people, or your employees, from top to bottom… are they men and women of integrity? They need to know they trust them. And they need to know they have some integrity about them.

So general contractors have got to trust material supplier too, that when they order a grade 60 or grade 80 material from a mill, they need to know that they’re going to get that. In deep foundations, when you’re ordering steel and you’re going by the specifications that an engineer has placed in there for you, are your clearances correct? How do you get those clearances just right? You use a great product, a pier wheel, or a pier boot, on the bottom to make all these clearances. There are a lot of folks that make these products, but there’s one, one company that makes a GREAT product… that’s Pieresearch!

There are several of the things they’re looking for in a fabricator. The estimate — is the estimate accurate? In the times you give them, are they accurate? And the proposal you give them, is it a fair market price? Do you have the ability to hold your price for the duration of the job, pre-purchase stock material and protect both the availability and the price for that contractor? It’s very important to them.

One of the most important things, and a very critical item in the whole process, is detailing. Some contractors want to choose the man to detail the project, they want that ability. “I want Joe. He’s done a great job for us in the past, and we would love to have him on the project.” If you can do that, that would be a great add or plus for you.

In fabricating, they look for your safety record. They look for the ability to give them well-labeled loads. So when it comes to the job site, they know exactly what that bar, or that small bundle is for. They know exactly where to put it.

They may look to see if you have another shop close by where the owner might have asked them to, “Let’s accelerate this project. I need to finish in two months, not three.” Do you have that ability to move the job forward, and quickly, on a new, faster schedule?

Delivery is another critical item. Drivers need to know how to approach the site before they ever arrive. Contractors don’t like a phone call asking, “where is the job?” Please don’t do that. Make sure your driver knows exactly where the job is and how to enter, and how to exit that job. They look for safe drivers with good equipment.

Of course, wrecks are going to happen, breakdowns are going to happen. Sometimes it costs contractor time. Sometimes you might miss a pour. If possible, send the same driver, time after time, back to that same site.

Accounting is very important. We have to bill. We have to collect. So a prompt execution of the purchase order agreement, I think’s imperative. Before the first ship you make, and along with it, make sure you send insurance certificates that they’ve asked for. Provide delivery tickets with invoices, along with a summary of monthly invoices for use in preparing their monthly payments. It’s very important.

And one last point I might make, if at all possible, give them one contact. That person needs to know, “Where those shop drawings are?” “What’s the next shipment?” “When’s it going to be there?” He needs to the job. They don’t need to call five different people to answer one question they have. So if at all possible, give them one contact.

I hope this is helpful for you in this discussion of reinforcing steel and how general contractor wants and needs and expects from his supplier.

This video was made courtesy of Pieresearch, “The Standard of Excellence!” Manufacturer of high-quality alignment and centralizer products for the deep foundation and earth retention industries.

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