Coils of Steel: Minnesota Company shapes product into buildings for Ag community

Connie Sieh Groop
Special to the Farm Forum

At Henderson, MN, Rush River Steel is ready to provide materials for buildings as hog operations look to expand in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

News reports show that pork export demand will remain robust, because of expected increasing shipments following the trade agreements with China and Japan. Some look to fill the need by building or remodeling confinement buildings.

“We really like to be a supplier (of building materials) for the hog industry,” Jacob Wollman, manager of Rush River Steel, said. “Most of these buildings are long, with a lot of panel footage. Some facilities are being remodeled at only 15 to 25 years old. This is very unfortunate and it’s mostly due to a couple of factors: inferior steel panels and inadequate ventilation are the two biggest factor for premature rusting and panel degradation. Depending on the corrosive environment, by using the materials from Rush River Steel, customers can potentially look to get 40 to 60 years out of their new buildings. The G100 28 gauge galvanized painted steel is the best product in the industry right now and won’t rust through for many years. Fading values are excellent.”

Coils of steel used to make the panels at Rush River Steel. 

The company serves the building needs for the agricultural, commercial and residential market in an area generally around 150 miles from their location. They manufacture five high quality panels, Tuff-rib, Apex X4, Summit, PBR and Reverse PBR Panels. The Tuff-rib panel is very popular for agriculture and PBR Panels are attractive for commercial buildings.

Jacob leads the team of seven and makes sure all the machines are performing to their top potential. He works with all venders, making sure the inventory stays up to date. His position takes him to trade shows to meet new people and future customers.

“We make our product from all domestic steel to assure that it’s the best quality you can get. The 9,000 lb. coils of steel are pre-painted and delivered by the supplier from Gary, IN, to our facility. From there, the crew roll forms and cuts the needed pieces with the roll-forming machine.”

He explained, “Special training with the operators gets them used to the controls. Safety, consistency, and accuracy is a very big concern. The longest panels are 50 feet long; we can make them as short as 1 inch. They calibrate the machine to 1/8-inch accuracy. Each panel is 38 inches wide. To minimize mistakes, all order and measurements are only punched in once in the sales office and sent to the roll formers electronically.”

With their state-of-the-art 21-foot grip-feed double-acting folder, designing and building any trim is precisely made to customers specs.

Contractors pick up about 70 percent of the product orders. Employees of Rush River Steel use five delivery trucks to deliver the steel on trailers for those customers that require on-site delivery.

Besides offering high quality U.S.-made steel, the company prides itself on excellent service with a quick turnaround. They will work after hours or go in early to the shop to take care of customer needs, aiming for 24-48 hour turnaround time from when they get the order. “We treat the customers as we want to be treated ourselves,” Jacob said.

Steve Waldner, sales manager, explained that sometimes when on a job, a piece of steel may be damaged or the customers may find they are short a piece of steel. Jacob said within a few hours, their company will have that material ready for the contractor. “That’s really appreciated and makes them want to come back to do more business with us.”

The 21-foot grip-feed double-acting folder allows custom trim to be made precisely to customers specs. 

Jacob further explained “We stock all the fasteners and screws for 30 different colors to go with the hundreds of coils we have in stock. We sell the whole outside skin of the building, including overhead doors and windows. We don’t make them, but we get them for the customers.”

Last year, the company invested to add two more panels for the residential market. “People are frustrated with asphalt shingles and having to replace them too frequently. When pushing numbers, homeowners will find that our steel roof is very competitive when comparing the costs for 25-year shingles. Steel will last a lot longer and is arguably a lot better looking than an asphalt roof. Because some don’t like the AG profile look, there are options to make your residential building a lot more aesthetically pleasing.”

Another bonus of a steel roof is it reflects the sun’s heat away from the building, leading to energy savings of about 50%. Additionally, thanks to their reflective properties, they can be about 100 degrees cooler on the surface than traditional asphalt roofs.

The 9,000 lb. coils of steel are cut by the crew with the roll-forming machine.

For those looking at residential buildings, customers have the option of a standing seam-looking panel for a fraction of the price. The Apex X4 panel has four 1” high ribs spaced at 12 inches and provides a look pleasing to homeowners. This panel is available in 30 different colors in standard 29 and 28 gauge thickness. Rush River Steel has all the accessories to install it plus more than 60 different trims to finish the building. The panels come with a low profile fastener option so the external fasters virtually disappear.

Rush River Steel sells factory direct to home-owners or contractors. Jacob said, “This sets us apart from others in the area. We can sell direct to our customers without having to go through two different channels to get your order. This allows us to not only have a good relationship with the end user, but also alleviates the margin of errors, better turnaround, cost and service.”

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Rush River Steel Sales Manager Steve Waldner is shown on the left with Manager Jacob Wollman on the right.