Trinity Steel – Lean Fabrication in the Lone Star State
It was shortly after his service in World War II when Roy Karnes Sr. started his career in steel fabrication. Little did he know that he would someday become the Vice President of International Steel, a Houston based fabricator and grow to be a well respected professional in the steel fabrication community. So well known and respected that in 1976 he would eventually be urged to branch off and start his own business in Trinity, Texas. It was the local people of Trinity that approached Roy with this proposition, and with a leap of faith Roy launched a family business that still thrives today. Today his two sons,Roy Jr. and Randy, carry on the family business, but with the modern twist needed to stay competitive in today’s markets.
Trinity and Technology – Forward Thinking Fabrication
Current Trinity Steel President Roy Karnes, Jr. knows good technology when he sees it. Long before he joined his family’s business in steel fabrication he held a successful career as a Software Product Manager for IBM helping businesses succeed with the proper application of technology. When Roy was given the opportunity to retire early from his duties at IBM he took the chance to join his Brother and Father in the family Steel Fabrication business. Roy joined the Trinity team with an outside perspective on how technology can impact a firm. While the organization had a long established reputation for superior quality and superb customer service Roy wanted to apply some of the knowledge he had acquired at his previous career in order to take Trinity to the next level.
“I was in the mindset that technology could help a firm cut costs and stay competitive long before I had come to steel fabrication. What I saw when I started to work at Trinity in 1991 was that the fabrication industry had yet to completely discover what software and automation had to offer. I remember when getting our first fax machine was a big step forward in modernizing our processes, and today we utilize automation while relying on software technology to keep most every facet of our business up and running smoothly. That fax machine was a very small first step to a long relationship with modern technology!”
After establishing three plants in Trinity (1976), Lufkin (1989), and Tomball, Texas (1994) the need to automate and innovate became a necessity. It was decided that the Tomball plant would be the central hub for Trinity Steel’s production process containing the CNC equipment, while the Lufkin and Trinity plants would be home to a majority of the fit-up and welding processes. Several trucks are employed that take the material from CNC production, to fit-up and welding, to galvanizing and for final inspection before delivery. All of the parts of this process need to work together like a well oiled machine. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Trinity Steel and Peddinghaus – A Winning Combination
When Trinity started adding automation to their Tomball shop they made informed decisions and grew or automated each process as needed. A burn table was added and Roy’s background in software made working with nesting programs easy, but parts were only cut to shape when they left the burn table. That’s where Peddinghaus came into the picture.
“We had a burn table that cut plate parts quickly but we had no way of efficiently making holes in them. We were making the holes manually but instead of increasing efficiency we had actually created a whole new bottleneck in our shop. Then we bought the Peddinghaus F-1170 plate duplicator. The machine fixed our hole making problem and has been reliable ever since. It was only natural to complete the progression by adding a complete plate processor with the FDB-2500. When we saw and measured the productivity of the first FDB we purchased a second one!”
“Since the addition of the two FDB plate machines I have toyed with the notion of removing the F-1170. I felt like we had replaced it with the plate processors but every time I think about it my shop people stop me. It’s a reliable machine that has never had a hiccup – and they always find an application for it! It’s just a rock-solid piece of equipment.”
After their first successes with CNC efficiency Roy and Randy knew that their shop would only continue to grow. When Trinity Steel approached Peddinghaus about adding a BDL-1250 drill line, 1250-510 straight cut band saw, and ABCM-1250 coper to their shop Peddinghaus experts helped them achieve the ideal layout to suit their needs.
“We wanted to add a drill/saw/coping system to our existing building. Greg Carpenter (Peddinghaus Layout Engineer) worked with us to find the best solution that fit our needs.
Greg opened our eyes to the ability of keeping material handling outside of the shop. When he told us we didn’t need to rearrange our existing building, and that we could just build a small shelter for the new machines we thought that was a great idea for us! Now we have a separate shelter that houses the three new Peddinghaus machines, with all of the material handling outside and out of the way. We have never been as efficient as we are now. The Peddinghaus machines do exactly what they advertise.”
Communication is Critical
With the multiple shops and main offices located in Trinity away from the Tomball CNC plant Roy and Randy couldn’t just walk out into the shop to monitor a job anymore.
Today’s production control software technology paired with a bar code system is critical to Trinity Steel’s success. The production information generated by these systems actually helps Trinity share job status with their customers. Each customer receives a username and password to access the Trinity website and can see exactly what the status of each job is – this technology also helps Roy communicate with his Galvanizer, and shop foremen effectively.
“The barcode system makes things easier for both us and the customer. We receive less phone calls asking where orders are and the ability to monitor the activities of each of our plants from our main office is an invaluable tool for our company. The software we use from FABTROL is a comprehensive program that suits our needs. We are able to make inquiries from it for our processes, and that is critical for what we offer our customers.”
Trinity Today And Into The Future
Roy Karnes will tell you that he is optimistic about the future of Trinity Steel. Although markets have been unpredictable, work has been steady for the organization and with the strong relationships they maintain with their industry partners they are poised and ready for anything that comes their way.
“We have been through some downturns before and this definitely won’t be the last one we see. We have some big plans on how to stay very competitive now and into the future and the added capacity we can achieve with our Peddinghaus equipment will play a crucial role in that game plan.”