- Written by: Kelly Matlock
- Produced by: Victor Martins
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
In 32 years TL Fab has expanded from a small ornamental iron fabricator serving homebuilders to a large, 150-plus company providing structural steel, stairs and ornamental iron on multi-unit and commercial projects up to $4 million in value. With its headquarters in Anaheim, Calif., TL Fab has become well-known for its work throughout southern California, spanning from San Diego to Santa Barbara.
The professional team at TL Fab offers clients a complete range of steel services, including design, estimating, project management, manufacturing and installation. TL Fab produces a wide variety of metal products, including structural steel, stair systems, gates, balconies and canopies, as well as many others to meet clients’ unique needs.
The company was founded in 1981 by tradesman and company namesake Tony Licitra. Today the company is run by Michael Hsu, president of TL Fab, as well as Dave Willson and Vic O’Mara, CFO and COO, respectively.
The executive team takes pride in coupling state-of-the-art technology with a drive for excellence to meet each client’s needs. Furthermore, TL Fab aims to be recognized as the premier steel solutions provider in its markets.
Investing in the future
Following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in California, TL Fab started fabricating structural steel moment frames to meet market demand. According to Hsu, the demand resulted in expanding the company to service newfound relationships with larger builders and multi-unit developers. In 2007, when southern California’s residential market collapsed, TL Fab expanded into commercial markets in order to stay afloat. In the process, the company expanded both its product offerings and capabilities.
TL Fab’s market-leading reputation attracted new private equity investors in 2012, allowing the company to invest in the future while other competitors were closing. The company expanded its in-house detailing operation and its use of 3-D modeling software, attracted the top shop, field and project management talent from closing competitors, and invested in additional CNC fabrication equipment.
Willson, a USC MBA, has been instrumental in streamlining TL Fab’s operational and financial processes. “We love exploring new technologies, as we are always looking for ways to improve our systems and capabilities,” says Willson.
“We are committed to utilizing technology to differentiate our business and improve our service to our customers,” says Hsu, who was a Silicon Valley investment banker prior to taking over TL Fab in 2002. “While many of our competitors shy away from technology and change, we see it as a way to innovate and position TL Fab uniquely in our space.”
Additionally, O’Mara, who has more than 35 years of experience in the steel industry, also has a penchant for technology as he was an early adopter of 3-D modeling when he owned his own shop in England. He was later recruited by 3-D modeling and fabrication software companies and eventually came to the U.S. to open the West Coast operation for a leading U.K.-based software company.
TL Fab’s executive team embraces technology, as it can be seen throughout the company’s operations. The company uses Autodesk’s Advance Steel software for 3-D BIM modeling and detailing, as well as management information and production management software StruM.I.S. The company utilizes automated CNC fabrication equipment, including a Peddinghaus plate machine and a FICEP drill line. In the field, TL Fab equips its personnel with wireless data enabled tablets, which allows access to all project information, such as drawings through cloud-based storage solution Box.com.
One-stop steel shop
As a full-service steel company, TL Fab self-performs the design, fabrication and installation of structural steel, stair systems and various architectural iron products. TL Fab is committed to staying at the forefront of the industry as products in the company’s core market increasingly become more complex.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and money building out our detailing department,” says Willson. “This gives us the capability to solve complex issues on the front-end, ensuring client buy-in and accelerating shop and field execution.”
The company is ripe with projects for 2014, many of which are in the multi-unit residential market. TL Fab’s completed multi-unit projects include: Westgate, a 482-unit apartment development in Pasadena; Platinum Centre, a 256-unit luxury apartment complex near Angels Stadium in Anaheim; and Stella, a 244-unit high-end Marina Del Rey apartment complex, among many others.
On the commercial side, the company was hired by Turner Construction to complete the structural steel retrofit and expansion of the Riverside Convention Center.
Hsu says one of the more interesting projects for him was the work TL Fab completed during the remodel of Disney’s California Adventure theme park. TL Fab completed a wide scope of work for Disney under construction manager DPR, including structural steel, decorative iron and stainless steel rails, specialty trellises and entry portals, as well as decorative steel benches.
TL Fab is the company it is today due to its ability to maintain a core group of employees who were willing to capitalize on changing market conditions and evolve the business to meet demand.
“When the recession hit, we had to shift the focus of our business and broaden our group of clients,” says Willson. “This shift led to a stronger focus on multi-unit and commercial work.”
As a result, Hsu, Willson and the team believe TL Fab is one of the strongest surviving and most diversified companies in its space. “While others were closing their doors, we were investing in technology and growing our talent base, which has positioned us as a market leader in multiple markets,” Hsu continues. “While we believe that there are many things that differentiate TL Fab from its competitors, our deep bench of talent is the greatest differentiator, and that will make a big difference with the impending labor shortage in the industry.”
It is the evident talent that drives TL Fab’s solid reputation in the industry. “We will get calls from new clients who have been referred to us by existing clients, and they will say that they were told to call TL Fab if they wanted it done right,” Hsu continues. “That is the highest compliment we can get.”
Hsu goes on to note that TL Fab coins its core values with the acronym SMART: “Safety first,” he explains. “Meet our commitments to clients and each other; Achieve excellence with integrity; Reach for innovation and continuous improvement; Take pride in who we are and what we do.”
This set of values exemplifies who TL Fab is as a company and demonstrates the team’s commitment to excellence and improvement. With the company’s continued investments in technology and strong growing team, TL Fab is sure to be a leader in the steel industry in southern California for many years to come.
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