Jordi Barrenechea and his brother Luis are Skyping from one of Wire Mesh Corporation’s (WMC) six locations, this one in Conroe, Texas. “We have a set of values: work with passion, work as a unit. If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it well. In the market that we are in, if you are not constantly improving and being more efficient, you are not going to compete.”
This family-owned company is part of a much bigger corporation that is active in Mexico and South America. WMC has grown exponentially from its beginnings in 2003 to six locations all over the country today. “We promise next-day or next-two-day delivery on most of our products; not too many people can offer that.”
The company began by making standard construction mesh in Jacksonville, Florida. Success soon followed, and in 2006, it opened a branch in Oglesby, Illinois, followed by branches in California in 2009 and Maryland and Texas in 2011. It then started to work with prestressed concrete strand mesh (PC strand) which was a big change according to the brothers.
“In 2012, we initiated an acquisition from Nucor of a wire plant in Pennsylvania, and then, in 2016, we opened in South Carolina. So we now have six manufacturing locations; in four we produce wire mesh, and in two we produce PC strand mesh.”
Standard mesh produced by WMC meets all ASTM requirements (The international standards organization creates and issues technical requirements for many services, materials, systems and products.). A second product WMC offers is called welded wire reinforcing (WWR) that is manufactured at a higher tensile strength and can reduce the amount of steel consumption by up to twenty-five percent compared to traditional rebar reinforced projects. WWR also has a faster placement time than rebar and can reduce overall completion time. In many cases, this type of mesh is designed specifically for the project. “When it is not, we can help customers upgrade the existing reinforcing to WWR.”
A third type of mesh made of fiber is used in construction as well but applies only to the prevention of a phenomenon called ‘shrinkage cracking.’ After fresh concrete is poured, water evaporates and slightly shrinks the structure as a result. Because it doesn’t dry perfectly evenly, fiber mesh is added to prevent small cracks. However, it adds nothing to the strength of the material.
“Wire mesh is really a product that is going to make sure the concrete is going to perform the way you need it to. It has a structural component to make sure you don’t have cracks. Fiber mesh is no substitute but rather it is complementary. It should never be used to maintain the integrity of the cement on its own.”
Basic bright wire (BBW) is another product WMC offers. It is used for its superior mechanical properties, bright finish and close dimensional tolerances and ability to withstand even the most extreme conditions. Intermediate products like fasteners, components, baskets and displays may use BBW and then produce end products like u-bolts, rivets, nails, carts and fan guards.
Pencil rod refers to BBW that has been straightened and cut for added value that is often preferred for its versatility, ready availability and ease of use.
Diversifying to five customizable specialties with standard mesh (SM), structurally engineered wire reinforcing (WWR), bright basic wire (BBW) and pencil rod (PR) has not meant leaving behind the significant portion of its revenue from PC strand.
“PC strand is something that we are going to keep investing in and keep growing our business around.” In 2011 and 2012, WMC invested in the state-of-the-art machinery needed to produce top quality PC strand and since then has honed its processes to master every step of production. From its central location in Conroe, Texas, WMC can deliver this cutting technology promptly all across the United States.
“The ‘lean’ principles really guide the way we work.” Lean manufacturing is a Japanese system for reducing waste or ‘Muda’ within a manufacturing program. Lean includes consideration of waste created through overuse or ‘Muri’ and that created by unevenness in workloads or ‘Mura.’ “Technically, we want to make sure that we meet the standards for the industry like the ASTM or whatever the standards are.”
“Wire Mesh Corporation is part of a family of companies from Mexico and South America, and these are the five core values of that organization. One: passion – to really have a love for what we do and at which we excel. Two: to be socially responsible, and that covers many areas – connecting with our community, the safety of our workers and protecting the environment. Three: to have a humanized approach. Everyone we deal with is a person and has dignity and value. Four: continuous improvement. We believe that even if we are doing a good job today, it has to get better tomorrow. Five: teamwork. Our people in sales, logistics, production and management all have to work together to keep our market share high.”
“Our locations are primarily what make us so competitive. It’s a plus against all of our competitors except one that is similar to us, so we are closer to our customers, and we cover them from our different mills. So if we don’t have a product in one mill, we can get it from another. Another competitive advantage is our customer support. We have a really good sales team; we stay in touch with our customers – call them as often as we can. Also our cutting edge and fully integrated technology is essential. We invest heavily to make sure that we always have the best equipment.”
This November, nearly half of the United States will vote on bills related to $200 billion in basic transportation and other infrastructure investments. This includes $120 billion in Los Angeles County alone, $54 billion in Seattle and $7.5 billion in San Diego for commuter rail, bus and trolley projects. All over the country, an infrastructure that was once the envy of the world has fallen into significant neglect with problems emerging in public drinking and wastewater systems, dams and levees, airports, railroads and mass transit systems.
Fifty years ago, the U.S. spent significantly more on infrastructure investment than now; even fifteen years ago, this country, boasting the planet’s highest GDP, spent considerably more. Adjusting for depreciation, economist Larry Summers has argued that the U.S. Government makes no net investment in its infrastructure. Hillary Clinton has proposed the federal government spend $275 billion over the next five years with another $25 billion in loan guarantees while her Republican opponent has suggest $1 trillion be invested. None of this is good news for American taxpayers but provides ample opportunity for Wire Mesh Corporation.
“Some of our products went into the Houston Grand Parkway and some highways in Florida and all over the U.S. Our biggest challenge generally is the state of the economy, but we are hoping that these new infrastructure bills are going to float a lot of money to the users. But as much as a concern as the economy is, we can have little or no impact on it, so we just roll with it. The other biggest concern and one that we can do something about, is having the right people to run our equipment. How to attract talent? How to make sure that you get the best and most affordable people?”
“Training our staff is our top priority. We have a lot of procedures to make sure our guys are safe. It’s very important to be compliant; one core rule that we have is production will never be more important that the safety of our guys. In our complex and ever-changing production systems, each mission is going to be different in terms of how we program the machine. We’re going to give our customers the product they need when they need it and at the price they need.”
“Service is almost as important; if we can’t deliver, we have to tell the customer. We have a great logistics team so we get it there as quickly as possible. We also want to make sure our product is going to meet their requirements as far as quality goes, and it’s important we meet our ASDN (Atomic Scale Design Network) requirements because we know our products are going to be used for structural purposes. It’s paramount, and we promise that to our customers.”
Growing so quickly in such a technical field requires Wire Mesh Corporation to constantly upgrade and re-envision its training system. “For every new team member that we have, there is an induction process. We start each new employee with teaching them about safety, and then we start working with the individual machines. About six months training is needed to have a good operator.”
“We have great salespeople. Our main marketing message is we can deliver nearly every product a day or two following order to specifications at competitive prices.”