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Published on July 23rd, 2018 | by Kerry Yoakum

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Supplier Spotlight: 4 Questions for Structural Steel Suppliers

Kerry Yoakum

Kerry Yoakum Vice President of Government Affairs, OAAA


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OAAA regularly features Thought Leadership Q&A from its committee members. This month, OAAA presents the Supplier Spotlight, asking structural steel providers four insightful questions:

  1. What are the most important factors an OOH media company should consider when choosing a sign supplier?
  2. What are some of the obstacles a builder could encounter when working on a project?
  3. What should an OOH media company expect from a structure supplier?
  4. What factors should a media owner consider when looking to maximize longevity with their investment?

Ted Bratsos, All Steel Structures
We see our relationship with our customers as a partnership. It is our job to advise them on the best way to solve their problems while minimizing costs and maintaining the highest standards of quality and structural integrity. Our customers trust us to have their best interests in mind. It is because of that trust we can proudly say that each year over 90 percent or our work is from return customers.

Because you are making a long-term investment I believe quality of the product is the most important factor. That quality comes from two elements which go hand-in hand: attention to detail and experience. In our case, we have in-house design capabilities, and do both fabrication and installation with our own people, so we can ensure the quality of a project from start to finish. In regard to experience, as an example, our Key Account Managers (Charlie Turner and Jon Terpstra) have many years of experience in the outdoor industry, with most of that being on the customer side working for large companies. We understand the business from both sides of the equation and use that knowledge and experience to benefit our customers.

One of the most common issues a builder encounters on a project is the lack of specific information. The crew gets to the job and finds things are not what was spelled out in the scope of work. It is costly to make changes on the fly. Don’t get me wrong, you cannot anticipate everything, and our crews are knowledgeable and prepared to adjust as needed. But, if we can go in with as much information as possible, it will help us be more efficient and it will be less costly for the customer.

To maximize the longevity of investments, we believe it’s essential to periodically inspect locations in terms of appearance and more importantly, structural integrity. While appearance can negatively affect sales, structural integrity can have a much worse impact on sales if a location needs to be taken out of service for any length of time due to major repairs that could have been prevented with routine maintenance.

Sonny Kuhn, Outdoor Specialist
Choose a sign supplier that has credibility, customer testimonials, a good engineer, is willing to step out of the box for difficult jobs, can supply the customer with reputable installers, good insurance coverage, on site consultations for heights configurations etc., and is willing to help with the customer’s demands.

A good cad department that can help place signs in drawings and even superimpose the new sign into a photo etc. Quick turnaround on proposals and blueprints. Be sure the supplier uses a good paint for the steel.

You should look for the supplier to be by the customer’s side through the process in the beginning and be there for them after the job is completed, offering ideas and help the customer through the process.

Underground obstructions is a big obstacle builders encounter on site, along with the ability for the supplier to move while on the ground with their engineers and installers. Also, overhead wiring is something to be very careful about.

To maximize longevity, keep any rust off the sign by scraping isolated spots and painting the structure throughout the years. Do thorough periodic visual inspections of connections and foundations, and keep the bird droppings off those main connections. For bolt cages, be sure the under plate connections are grouted properly and not covered with soil so inspection is possible.

Jon Odom, Productivity Fabricators
In today’s age of ever-changing building codes and additional requirements (ie. digitals, difficult locations, etc.), a sign supplier must have a strong design engineering presence.

The second consideration should be the manufactures processes, CNC hole location equipment, certified welders, and a durable painting system are required to provide a quality sign structure.

It seems all the easy locations for signs are gone. Locating the sign so it can be seen around buildings, bridges, trees, and other obstacles in now the norm, so again the design becomes important. Another obstacle can be the footing. There are many underground obstacles that can be encountered when excavating for the foundation. We recommend a soil boring be taken on any larger sign or if the soil is questionable. The location itself can be a problem with access and enough area to construct the sign.

An outdoor company should expect a good quality sign structure, one that assembles easily, is built to the design specifications, and is painted completely with a long lasting paint system. Another consideration is the hardware (nuts and bolts) should be certified for strength and have a rust inhibitor coating.

Today’s sign structures are designed to last many years. For longevity, the sign must be built to engineering specifications. This is not easy to verify, and the integrity of the supplier is required. The second factor in the longevity of a sign is the finish on the steel. Galvanizing protects the steel the longest, but it is costly. Galvanizing may still be justified if the sign is located close to the ocean or exposed to salt spray. Most signs are painted, and the paint system should be a two coat system. The first coat should be a rust inhibitor primer with a second coat, an ultra-violet ray resistant color coat. Both coats of paint should be thick coats with a total thickness of five to seven mils.

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