In the construction industry, ten years is a long time. Ever-changing dynamics such as the delicate balance between material shortages and emerging techniques, coupled with constantly challenging workforce conditions, mean that a company must be at the top of its game to survive its first decade. Even those with the skills and work ethic needed to achieve success must rely on something a little less quantifiable, that is the ability to see beyond the here and now. Foresight is a skill that few in this business possess, and the subtle act of predicting trends can be a crucial one. Furthermore, the ability to not only gauge the marketplace but act in a proactive way that enhances a business just cannot be understated. While some companies can learn this harsh lesson too late, others consider it an intrinsic aspect of how it operates. United Steel, operating out of Mississauga, ON, is one of the foremost steel fabrication and erection companies in Canada and this year celebrates ten years in the business thanks to an astute ability to work with an ever-changing landscape.
For David Umut Yilmaz, Founder and President of United Steel, the company started out on a small scale before finding success. As tends to be the case, the idea for the company came through Yilmaz’s realization that he could do things to a higher level than anything else he was seeing on the market. “United Steel was established in 2013. Having worked for a small company for 7 years, I decided to start my own organization.” As Yilmaz goes on to explain, the company’s resources were slim at the time. “When things started, I had one truck and one welding machine, so I hired two guys and put a crew together.”
This initial crew set out with a single-minded aim, to providing the highest-quality products and services. For Yilmaz, the goal was to build a successful company based on its developing reputation as a respected name in the industry. However, these early years brought with them considerable challenges. Navigating a sector as changeable as fabrication is difficult at the best of times. As a start-up, even more so. “There were definitely a number of challenges in the early days. Finding work, managing cash flow, hiring new guys, and getting more jobs were all a challenge in those early days.” It was the circular economy that stems from doing a quality job that gave United Steel the momentum to grow and thrive. “Our first clients helped us to overcome these issues. Their response to the job we have completed was so positive and they were so pleased with how we performed that they recommended us to other people in the industry. We started getting more contracts because of the quality of our work, and it eliminated the need to advertise. When it came to hiring staff, again, the way we operate was key to overcoming this. We have always treated our employees well and we value them highly. Once they experienced that, they brought new members to our team with them.”
“It is no surprise that United Steel has an ever-growing portfolio of successful projects under its belt.”
As the company overcame these early challenges and started to achieve a greater level of success, the range of products and services it provided to its customers also broadened. As Yilmaz and his two-man crew expanded into a team of over sixty, the company began offering full-service treatment to its customers. Today, United Steel provides solutions to clients across multiple industries in Complex Structural Steel, O.W.S.J and trusses Design and Build, Custom Staircase & Railing Design and Miscellaneous Metal Work. With a wealth of resources at its disposal from overhead cranes to welding machines, it is not hard to see why the company has achieved so much in such a relatively short period.
For Yilmaz, the ability to maintain and control its production capabilities is a core aspect of what sets United Steel apart in the industry. Through a carefully coordinated growth plan that maximized the company’s ability both in terms of skilled staff and equipment, United Steel is now in a position of being able to plan, promise and deliver, regardless of the complexity of a customer’s needs. “We basically weld 85% of our products in-house instead of outsourcing these jobs. This allows us to better control the schedule for our clients while also maintaining a consistent level of quality at all times. We achieve this through our team of quality craftsmen who can provide solutions to the most complex of projects.” In addition to that, the company’s wealth of experience and industry knowledge means that no challenge is insurmountable. This is exemplified by its ability to adapt and respond to change when necessary. “We have a really strong supplier network, and we work very closely with them. This gives us the security to know that if the materials are available, we will have them when we need them, and it ensures that there are no surprises in the middle of a project.” In a post-COVID environment where lead times and availability can be problematic, it is not enough to rely on supply chains. As Yilmaz explains, United Steel goes one step further by providing a proactive and flexible approach. “If any steel is not available in the market, or if a material is going to take too long to source, our engineers can either replace it with an alternative, or build it in our own facility from scratch.”
With this in mind, it is no surprise that United Steel has an ever-growing portfolio of successful projects under its belt. The company worked on a large-scale project for Altea Active, for example. The job itself featured 91-wide curved stairs without stringers which, as Yilmaz shares, was particularly challenging. “This was a challenging stair due to its size and curve preference. It was also very costly to get the HSS stringers, so we had our design team and engineers work together to come up with solutions to achieve the curve with built-up risers. These innovative solutions helped our clients save money while still staying on schedule.” Another project of note was the Heritage Building Retention System. Unlike new builds, working on a heritage building can be very complicated due to limited options and the need to retain the spirit and character of the existing building. For United Steel, this was a challenging yet ultimately rewarding project. “On this heritage building retention system, there were a lot of discrepancies between drawings and actual site conditions. Our engineering team and foremen resolved these issues in the most practical ways, making sure they were according to structural steel codes. Also on the fabrication site, our team did an amazing job fabricating a 12’ x 12’ x 30’ tower in only 8 weeks. The client was highly impressed.”
Ten years growing and with no sign of slowing down, United Steel has established a reputation for providing high-quality products and services, based on attention to detail and a dedication to customer service. For Yilmaz, the future is one that will undoubtedly have greater challenges. However, he believes that at every point, United Steel has risen to the task and evolved as a result. While some might see problems, Yilmaz and his crew see opportunities to kickstart the next ten years. “One of the main challenges for any company is staying up to date with the evolving demands of our market. As technologies and customer preferences change, it is crucial for United Steel to continue adapting and be able to offer our clients innovative solutions to meet these demands. We conduct market research to understand evolving customer needs. Additionally, it helps us to stay ahead of industry trends. These factors, combined with hard work, dedication, and a focus on delivering value to customers have been key contributors to United Steel’s success and longevity over the past ten years.”