Allen, Texas

CEO Lance Thrailkill is driving growth through automation at the third-generation family-owned contract fabricator.

All Metals Fabricating was founded in 1953 but purchased by Thrailkill’s grandfather in 1978. At the time, the shop’s biggest project was manufacturing bus benches for Greyhound. “That was a big selling-point for the previous owner,” Thrailkill says. “My grandfather built those benches one time, decided it was not profitable, and cancelled the contract. But even without the biggest customer, he was still able to quadruple sales in the first year.”

Smart moves like that have defined the company through three generations of family ownership. Thrailkill’s grandfather expanded the business from simple sheet metal fabrication into the fabrication and assembly of telecom, commercial banking, and cash processing equipment. Thrailkill’s father diversified the company even further to serve customers in virtually every industry. And Thrailkill himself — who came on board in 2008 — has wholeheartedly embraced automation as another way to move All Metals Fabricating forward.

The result: the 45-year-old business now boasts $16 million in annual revenue in addition to a stellar reputation among area employers and with its roster of OEM clients — including many who have been using All Metals Fabricating’s services for more than 20 years.

“We’ve always wanted to serve our customers with excellence,” Thrailkill says, “and that has looked like adding value and services.” Today, the company offers everything from laser cutting, CNC punching, and CNC machining to forming, welding, robotic welding, hardware, and electromechanical assembly. Powder coating and other finishing services are offered as well through the Thrailkill’s separately branded company All Powder Coat and Screen.

“We’ve invested six million dollars in the last six-and-a-half years on automated equipment,” Thrailkill continues. “We have automation in half of our departments. We have it in laser cutting. We have it on the punch press. We have a laser-punch combo. We have the fastest robotic bend cell in the world, the Trumpf 7030. We have a robotic welding machine. We have a panel bender being delivered in the next couple of weeks that will be doing fully integrated cut-to-bend. And we’re also getting ready to add an automated laser welding cell as well.”

The investments have allowed the company to scale up quickly as well as provide job security for its workers. “In 2016, we got our first fully automated laser with a dual tower system that can run around the clock for days at a time,” Thrailkill says. “We were able to quickly double our sales with only adding 30 percent more staff. Automation gives people job security in the sense that we can ramp up and ramp down without having to hire a bunch of people, train a bunch of people, and then potentially lay them off if the project goes away or dries up.”

He continues, “Automation also allows us to be more flexible, to be able to take on bigger opportunities, and also to get our costs down, be more efficient, and increase our throughput. We’re able to get more parts and products through the shop quicker as a result of automation.”

Challenges: Recent volatility in the price of materials has been a thorn in the side of Thrailkill and his team. “About 90 percent of our work is repeat production,” he explains. “Historically, when material prices are stable, we’re not having to requote any of that work, and we do 400 to 500 jobs a month. When material prices are changing, we have to requote every job, every time. That’s very frustrating.”

That said, Thrailkill notes that All Metals Fabricating has invested in automated quoting software for new opportunities. “We’re able to do those a lot more efficiently than we had been before,” he says. “That has greatly improved our ability to turn those quotes around quickly.”

Opportunities: “We have pretty big opportunities in the alternative energy space as well as telecom,” Thrailkill says. “We are invested in a customer of ours who has an alternative energy solution to take cell towers, and really anybody, off grid. It’s providing micro grids through battery storage systems. That’s a huge opportunity for growth in a space that’s really taking off, and we’re excited to be on the forefront of it.”

Needs: Most employees of All Metals Fabricating have been with the company for at least 15 years, and three workers have been on the team for more than 40. “All three of them are retiring in the next two years,” says Thrailkill. “We’re focused on proactively hiring in people to fill the gap for them. A large amount of my time is spent recruiting top talent that will be a good fit for our core values and has the experience needed to step in and immediately make an impact here at a higher level in the company.”

Fortunately, it shouldn’t be too difficult a task given the company’s reputation for treating its employees well. “We have the most robust compensation package in the industry,” Thrailkill continues, which includes fully covered health insurance, quarterly bonuses, a 15 percent annual 401k contribution, and $25,000 in life insurance. “There’s a long line of skilled operators waiting to join our team.”


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