Serving Customers is First Priority for Trinity Products
In eight short years, Trinity Products, based in the St. Louis suburb of O'Fallon, Missouri, has become one of the nation's leading producers of large-structure steel pipe for construction. Trinity's products are used by utility contractors performing underground pipe work, bridge builders needing piling, contractors raising large signs or stadium scoreboards, and many other purposes. Trinity has achieved its position based on one overriding principle, according to Founder and President Robert Griggs.
"We have a boss - it's our customer; that is our No. 1 core value. Our purpose is to serve the customer," he said. "We have other guiding principles, such as "˜make our employees' lives better,' and we try to do that through profit sharing. The other principle is "˜continuous daily improvement,' a philosophy that includes strenuous and regular measurement checks. But a customer-first mentality is our bedrock, and we know if we live that creed every day, we're going to be successful."
Griggs started Trinity Products as a steel pipe brokerage business in 1979. He and a partner bought and sold pipe - there was no manufacturing side. The company later added a fabrication division allowing it to diversify into products such as signs and billboards. In 2002, Trinity added a steel pipe coating/painting facility that accomplished further diversification. The final step toward vertical integration occurred when Trinity opened its own pipe mill in 2007.
"The pipe mill is an important piece of the puzzle because it ensures that we can supply our customers," explained Griggs. "The problem with buying product from others is that you think you can always get it, but what if you can't? If that happens, you leave your customers high and dry, and that goes against everything we stand for. With our own pipe mill, we're self-sustaining."
Each of those steps - from selling, to fabrication, to coating, to opening its own mill - has created growth for Trinity Products, which employs about 160 people. In 1993, when Griggs bought out his partner, the company booked orders of $2.1 million. In 2015, that number was $89 million.
The Trinity Difference
With sales offices in St. Louis, New Jersey, Chicago, New Orleans and soon-to-be in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trinity Products sells its pipe nationwide. The company produces 4,000 to 4,500 tons of steel pipe per month. Its products include the largest steel pipe available (127 inches in diameter) with sections that weigh as much as 100,000 pounds. One of the company's strengths is its ability to change from making one size of pipe to another on short notice.
"A lot of pipe mills will run one size for three months," said Operations Manager Paul Wilkerson. "That's ideal for us, too, but at Trinity, we react to our customers' needs. If one of our customers has an urgent need for a different size, we'll stop what we're rolling, change over to their size, and be producing within a few hours. We're almost like a job-shop in that regard, and most of our competitors can't, or won't, do that. It costs a lot of money to change over, but if the customer is willing to pay for it, we do it.
"Another Trinity Products difference is our ability to machine-produce pipe lengths of up to 160 feet," he added. "Most mills go 60 to 80 feet max, which means the customer has to weld pieces together twice as frequently. We actually roll 127-inch-diameter pipe with our spiral welder; a lot of our competitors who sell that diameter pipe actually roll shorter sections and weld them together."
Reliable Wheel Loaders
Trinity Products has turned largely to Komatsu wheel loaders from Roland Machinery Company and Sales Representative Jim Evans to run the pipe yard.
"The decision to go with Komatsu came following a demo we did with all the major brands," said Griggs. "Our operators who tested the wheel loaders chose Komatsu because they liked how the machines ran. I was pleased because Komatsu is fairly priced, and Roland is known to provide excellent service."
Since purchasing its first machine, Trinity now has five Komatsu wheel loaders - a WA400, a WA500, and three WA470s, including a new WA470-8 it acquired this spring.
"Komatsu controls are user-friendly and the machines are very reliable," said Wilkerson. "We work them 16 to 18 hours per day, and we have a weekend shift, so they are well-used. Our Komatsus work hard and hold up very well. Also important to us is the service Roland provides. It's superior to any other area dealer we've worked with. That's why we have Roland do all of our maintenance, even on our non-Komatsu pieces."
Trinity Products' next step will be opening a trans-loading facility in New Jersey. Griggs says the decision to do that goes back to the company's core value.
"It's all about the customers - having what they want, where and when they want it. There's a lot of work in the New York City metro area, and we want to have product there for logistical purposes. Beyond that, we'll continue to look for other opportunities to expand. You can bet, if and when we do, it will help us do a better job of serving existing customers or earning new ones."