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Stephen Gosk and Ken McLauchlan – Diving Deeper into Architectural Sheet Metal - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

Stephen Gosk and Ken McLauchlan – Diving Deeper into Architectural Sheet Metal - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION
October 5, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Stephen Gosk and Ken McLauchlan from MetalForming. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast.

Intro/Outro: Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a long-term professional within the trade. Listen for insights, interviews, and exciting news in the roofing industry today.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Hello and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips from Roofers Coffee Shop. This is Heidi Ellsworth, and you know, I'm really interested in metal. I'm telling you right now with our new Metal Coffee Shop and Roofers Coffee Shop, there's so much that's going on, but I don't think everyone always really understands the big picture of architectural metal, sheet metal. So we brought in the experts from Metal Forming and we're going to talk about what is architectural sheet metal, how do you use it in your business, and how can you get more involved and really differentiate your business? So first I would like to introduce Steve Gosk and Ken McLaughlin from Metal Forming. Good morning gentlemen.

Ken McLauchlan: Morning Heidi.

Stephen Gosk: Morning Heidi. Great to be with you.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Oh, I love it. Thank you for taking time out and being on this Roofing Road Trip so that we can talk about all this. But before we start getting into architectural sheet metal, let's start with some introductions. So Steve, can you start and introduce yourself, talk a little bit about Metal Forming?

Stephen Gosk: Sure. I'm Steve Gosk. I've been here now coming up on a year, believe it or not, and actually I started my first week just about a year ago going to Metal Con. So a lot of things have been evolving here at Metal Forming since joining and very excited about the direction the company's taking.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: That is so cool. Ken, can you introduce yourself?

Ken McLauchlan: Ken McLaughlin, Vice President of Architectural Sales for Metal Forming. Been here since January of this year. I've been involved in this industry for the last 33 years. Feel blessed to have been involved in it.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: It is great. We love it, don't we? So Steve, I wanted to start with you and first of all, you know what, you didn't tell everybody what your title is.

Stephen Gosk: Oh, excuse me. Yeah, President of Metal Forming.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: There we go. So as President of Metal Forming, you're coming up on your first year anniversary. You and I have been talking since last year at Metal Con and it was so cool to hear your very first impressions, what was happening, drinking out of that fire hose. And then over the summer we've had some great podcasts, as you have really, you and your team, your amazing team have made a lot of changes. So can you update us on all the new stuff that's been happening since we last talked?

Stephen Gosk: Sure. First and foremost, we really stepped back as a team and we really thought about what is our brand to the market and how do we want to present the company position, the company with our customers? And naturally we sit in between our customers and suppliers and how to bring that forward to the marketplace. And we put a lot of energy behind our brand and that is one partner, Trusted Expert. And we're excited about that because we really feel like it really captures the scope of product offered by our suppliers and the innovation that they bring to market.

On the other side, we wanted to recognize that the nature of this business is a consult of sale and that our customers are relying on our knowledge and our team to help them make the best decisions. And that really reflects the composition of our team here, which is a combination of new folks like Ken and I, along with some industry experts that have been with Metal Forming for close to 20 plus years. So we're kind of melding those two cultures together to offer our customers and create a very customer-centric approach. And that's been a lot of our energy the last several months to try to tie that into everything we do.

So anyone come visit us coming up at Metal Con, booth 4031, you're really going to get that sense of what I'm describing if you come visit our booth. And as we look at Metal Con, it is amazing the amount of innovative product, first time product we'll be bringing to the show. So there'll be a lot to see there. And really again, we'll align well with this one partner, Trusted Expert, a brand that we're promoting.

For the team here it's been a lot of change, but for me personally, exciting to see the progress that we're making. The big ship turns slow, but we're making a lot of good, good strides forward as a group. And most importantly, making sure that everyone in this business understands that we need to focus on the customer. We need to be that customer-centric organization and that everyone has a part in that, and that's from our warehouse team to our sales team, to everyone in between. We all touch that customer and promoting that energy towards the customer is really key for me.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, I mean we can tell, or I can tell from all of our conversations that culture is so important and that's really been a focus over this last year, but also innovation and bringing innovative ideas, products, everything out there. I'm really excited, we're going to be at your booth when the doors open at Metal Con because we want to see some of these announcements that Ken and I talked about in our last podcast. So Ken, before we kind of dive into architectural metal, any updates from you on that front?

Ken McLauchlan: Well, it's a big secret still, so we can't give away too much, just Kenny's put up on a couple new videos to give people some vision of what's coming up. It'll be an exciting process for people to walk down the aisle and come in and see something entirely different. And I think that's the challenge is when you come to these shows, what's different and how do our partners help us move forward? And I think that's a key part of what we're looking at with this. So it's a processing thing and I told you you're not going to get all the information until the end, but it's all about processing, it's all about process improvement and that's where we're excited about. We took information from the customer, they gave us what they were looking for, we came back to them with a solution to that that I think addresses a lot of the needs. There's nothing perfect, but it's a far stride from what's there. So this is a customer based solution.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. Wow. I'm so excited. This is great. And I kind of want to start, I mean I know the theme of this podcast is really taking that deeper dive into the architectural sheet metal and really kind of talking about it. So I think that is important to have it, to have that base knowledge for everyone, especially before they go to Metal Con and see all the great machinery and technology that is forming it, roll forming it. So Ken, let's start with that. I realize probably everybody who's on here listening is familiar with architectural sheet metal, but I would love for you to give that one-on-one. What is architectural sheet metal? How's it used? For maybe we have a couple of new folks on this listening.

Ken McLauchlan: Great, I'd love to do that. So architectural sheet metal really ties into division seven, which is all about thermal and moisture protection. It's the roofing industry put into one division within the specification system. It's always been the small portion of it, and I always said it was always the part about making it all look pretty. It's where we add a lot of color to a building, but with any application that we do in thermal and moisture protection, whether below grade waterproofing, wall applications, roof applications, whether they're low slopes, steep slope, metal shingles, they usually have a transition piece that's done in metal and that would be part of this architectural sheet metal portion of this. So architectural sheet metal anywhere on the building that ties into thermal moisture protection, but at the same time accents. And I think that gives us an opportunity to add a little bit of a design flare to a building.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. Some of the pictures that I see and what's going on out there with the architectural sheet metal is so amazing, especially, and I know this is Roofer's Coffee Shop, we've got Metal Coffee Shop, but I love the stuff I'm seeing on sides, and for walls too. Ken, there's been a huge growth that direction of that architectural metal. I see it in just like you said that look of the building envelope. What are you seeing trending?

Ken McLauchlan: So we're seeing more and more every year. I make a joke about it's moving percentage points, but it's moving fractions of percentage points. But when you look at the big monster in this thermal moisture world that you have everything from siding to different things, metal moving into that is a big portion and it allows a lot of design control.

So for the design community that's showing up at these shows, they're coming in because they want to know how they can sell something to their customer, who's somebody's paying them a lot of money to design a building, what can we do? And whether it's thin skin being lighter gauge material or whether it's a poly core material or with an insulated panel, it gives people an opportunity to add design flare, color options, tie it to everything from colors, corporate colors to school colors we saw, where an entirely different presentation of the building when you came up. And different textures and controls from standing seam to flush wall to fish scale. And all of that gets done and all of it's done to give you a different appearance, which I think is a great opportunity.

And the biggest thing with metal is longevity. That's the big claim to fame for these guys. It's high recyclable content, but longevity, the cut coatings that we're using are designed to be 35, 40 years. And some raw materials originally started with coppers and zincs and those products have been on in Europe for hundreds of years, which is an interesting thing. So this isn't new, but it's the next level.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Right. It's kind of getting back to basics. Steve, I mean with being in this industry for a year and seeing, I mean just everything you've seen in this last year, what are some of the things trending wise, architecturally, just what the machines can do now, the roll formers can do, which they didn't used to be able to do, what are some of your thoughts and what are you seeing?

Stephen Gosk: Yeah, I mean much like you, I'm truly impressed with the level of design that's being used with metals today and what they're doing on the outside of the buildings. And as I look at it with fresh eyes, if you will, sometimes we talk even to our suppliers and they talk about the fence between roofing and some of this more architectural style metals. And in my view, the fence isn't there anymore. There's really a gray area where all that's blending together, and some of the requirements are requiring some of the capabilities of our higher-end machines that traditionally we wouldn't think about necessarily in that same space.

But you get into some of our lines like Schroder, which traditionally has done the high precision industrial fabrication, those machines have a lot of capability for this same space along with the traditional machines that we have in our portfolio from Schlebach and Schechtl and some of the more traditional suppliers. So I really see a melding where the more sophisticated production technologies required to do the more ornate and more detailed steel that's being used on these buildings. And it's impressive. I mean if you look at it, I'll just say just from very subjectively, it's just very, very architecturally and for the eye, impressive to see what they're doing today.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: When you really think about, I love what you're saying too about the ornamentals and just the, I don't know, the design, the cutouts, the different things that they're doing on the building envelope. And it sounds kind of geeky, but I get really excited about it. I love architecture and I love walking around cities and seeing what's happening there. And so Metal Con is the best place, you can walk through and see all the photo galleries, the photo contests, the competitions, and I'm kind of excited about that.

Stephen Gosk: For sure. And I can tell you, it's amazing once you get in this business, you start to pay attention. You realize just how many places that metals are being used for just what we talked about and it's coming along quite a bit.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, well you were talking about all the different types of machines and some of the higher precision machines that maybe in the past haven't been used more in metal construction, but now it's getting called for because of architectural specifications and design and the abilities to be able to do that. But so Ken, as you're looking at this and contractors are, so let's talk about the contractors who already have sheet metal shops or the beautiful sheet metal shops out there who are creating these wonderful designs for their contractors, what are some of the things they should be thinking about futuristically with getting the right machinery to create these architectural metal products?

Ken McLauchlan: I think really important to that is we talk about that even with our go forward plan with the one partner Trusted Expert, people are coming, they have an opportunity to go and do something. Some people call it, I have a problem, I have a question. But it becomes an opportunity. And being able to go to that supplier, to work with vendors to provide the right piece of equipment to create the right solution, is I think the largest part of today's market. It's a struggle as everybody's done similar things over the years, the design community's really screaming out for people to come out and say, "Hey, I want to make this. How can I do it? I want to have it like this, but I want it different. What can we do?"

And that gets away from one piece of equipment sometimes, and maybe it's a little bit more precision piece of equipment, maybe it's just a different application, but it's being able to go to a true partner in the industry and say, "Hey, this is what they're looking for. How do we address this?" And us being able to come up with a solution for it. I think that's the one thing, one of our biggest strengths is the ability be very objectional and look at this and say, "We have a solution for this. This is what we can look at." And it's bigger and bigger I think, every day, not only with different products that we're using within that architectural space, but also within the application.

10 years ago you didn't see walls like we see today and now people do it. And I'd encourage people that if you go on vacation and you look at a building and go look at the walls or look at the roof, you need to come to Metal Con and come by booth 4031 and go, "Show me something that's going to give me something different to look at."

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yes. Yeah, that's exactly, I think people should be putting those challenges out because at Metal Con there's going to be contractors, there's going to be sheet metal shops, there's going to be manufacturers, there's going to be architects. And so having those conversations, I agree with you, is like, why can't we do this? I mean, we want the building to perform, but as you noted earlier, nothing performs like metal. So Steve, with your customer-centric culture, what are you hearing? I mean along this lines, what are you hearing from some of your larger manufacturer sheet metal shops and contractors? What are they asking for that is really driving all of you right now to look at things a little bit different?

Stephen Gosk: For me, and I'll let Ken weigh in on this as well, I mean I see that there's a lot more customization to the application than ever, and people are looking for the right machine to solve their issue as Ken described. And that's an item that we really dive back into. It's the branding aspect of Trusted Expert. I mean, I absolutely love the fact that we could be at a show and someone wants to pay more money for a machine than they probably need. And I hear one of our team members go, "You really don't need that for what you're telling me you want to do."

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Nice.

Stephen Gosk: You get away with this other machine. And not just selling it to sell it. We're really trying to ask that customer, "What are you trying to do?" Or vice versa. The customer say, "This is what I want to do today and here's what I want to do a year from now." "Hey, you may want to consider this machine that has this extra capability the direction you're going."

And it becomes that one-off discussion based on their particular application and the applications are getting more complex and more tied to the specific needs. So that's where that Trusted Expert piece of it, to me really comes into play. And I couldn't be prouder when I hear our sales team talking to a customer and not overselling something that a customer doesn't need or not telling that customer what it won't do and being very clear so there's no surprises down the road that they're not seeing the output that they expected. All those discussions need to be upfront.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Well, and I love really having that discussion with your customers of what do you need today, but what do you need in a year? What do you need in five years? Where's your company going? So being a part of your customer's company so you can bring the solutions or even maybe let them know, I think there's a lot of people out there, a lot of companies out there that don't know what some of these trends are. And so they may not be prepared when that time comes, when their customers start asking. So Ken, what are some of those conversations look like?

Ken McLauchlan: Yeah, there's a lot. You guys make my head swim when we sit here and talk about this. And I think about just some of the other affiliations within the sheet metal division seven and Metal Con and how much fun it's to be able to walk down the road and what we used to think of architectural sheet metal being painted metal, and now we look at it, it looks like wood.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I know.

Ken McLauchlan: You have somebody that says, "I need this, I need that." And there's people within that organization, we're working as an organization and we're working as a trade organization to bring that solution forward to people. So the right machine, the right process.

I think the key part Steve just said too, and again, there's nothing that makes me happy when somebody walks in the booth and they're looking for the right solution, not the next solution. We want to know that it's the right application and we want to make sure that the customer leaves feeling like they were giving an educational moment, not a sales opportunity. So it's a challenge and I think as an industry we're going to continue to see more of that.

And most of the contractors that are walking into the booth, they're looking for job control, is the short condensed version. Today their problem, there's labor shortages, there's all different kinds of material shortages, they're trying to figure out how do they manage their project the best. And what we need to do is provide equipment solutions that allow them to do that. So whether it's a roll former or whether it's a press break, whether it's manual equipment, it's being able to address that job control to allow that customer to address their customer in a better way. It's a trickle down effect. It's just not us and great equipment, it's them and using the right equipment.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. Well you're leading perfect right into what I was thinking in the next question is, we've talked about current contractors who have sheet metal shops or manufacturers or sheet metal shops overall who are already in process and who are looking at how do I grow my business, how do I do different things with architectural sheet metal? But there is a lot of contractors, to your point that you just said, there are a lot of contractors out there who are thinking, I need to start a sheet metal shop. I need control of the roof or the HVAC or whatever they're doing. So when you as contractors are looking to add machine roll forming or overall metal machinery, what are some of the things that they should be looking at and how can it, dive in a little bit deeper, Ken, how can it help their profitability and their control by having their own sheet metal shop?

Ken McLauchlan: Yeah, so I think it's really important when we go to these shows and one of the takeaways that Steve has, and I appreciate his wanting to be present in all the shows we go to, and I'm always astonished at how many people walk in the door and go, "Hey, I've been roofing for X number of years. I don't have equipment, but I need to buy it." And they don't know why. So I mean big questions for us is what are you trying to accomplish? Where's your business going? Tell me what you're doing. Give us a background on how we're trying to move forward and what we're doing.

And the fun thing with most of these is they're profitable, successful businesses that are just trying to get better job control. It isn't like they're trying to cut money out of it, they're trying to gain control. And that's the challenge every day. So when they walk in and they can give us a perspective of what the business looks like and where they're planning to going, what they're doing, whether it's residential, commercial, industrial, whether it is a high-end market, a low end market, whether they're doing flat roofing and it's coping and need ES 1, or whether they're doing high-end residential and they need a machine that allow them to do unique bends, that's all important parts for when they walk in.

Our job really at that point is to figure out how do we address the needs that are first and address their budget. So how do we start? And whether it's an all in or whether it's a partial, I need to take a baby step. And that's the challenge for them to walk in. So that would be if you're coming by to see us at the booth and you've got questions about, hey, I want to take the next step, be open with us, tell us what you're trying to accomplish, we want to find the right solution for you.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And it really comes back to what you were talking about at the beginning, Steve, about consultative sell and educational, Ken, you said that educational sell, we want to take the word sell out of it. So we're consultants, we're educational, we're doing all that. So as contractors are coming into Metal Con, or if you're not coming to Metal Con, how they're getting onto the directory, finding out about Metal Forming, really starting that, how do they, and Steve, I'm going to put this to you, how do they start that consultation? How do they start that conversation and really what does that look like for them as they're like, "I think we need a sheet metal shop. I have no idea." Or maybe they do have a good idea. How do they work with your team?

Stephen Gosk: So I think when you have someone in that scenario, Heidi, it really comes down to who they're comfortable with and who they trust and to what level they feel like they're getting a good education or insight into what they need. And for us, it's paramount that we respect that customer, who may not be our largest sale that day, it's a huge, huge decision for them to get into fabrication and to make the investment that we're talking about. And we've got to absolutely respect that, and we have to respect it in the sense that we want to make the decision making process and what they choose to be spot on to what they need.

And taking that one step further. And when the day comes that they have our machines that's in the field and something goes wrong, which inevitably something will, that we also respond with a level of urgency that matches what that customer's doing with the equipment. And if they're down and they have a crew in there and they have a job that's waiting on product or they had brought people in to run products so they could get it out for a job, that we respond with a level of urgency. And all of that I think comes from a good appreciation for what they're doing and what they're trying to achieve with their business.

And we're fortunate again that we have people like Ken in the organization who've been in those shoes, that have started up fabrication. We have other members of our team have been around this industry long enough that they fully understand what that customer's going through. And so we understand the technical aspects of the product, but we also can apply emotional aspect of what we know they're trying to do as a business. And that's really important. And so I would hope that anybody who would come by Metal Forming will walk out with that sense and that we're not trying to oversell them on something they don't need, but we're trying to make sure they have the right equipment for what they're telling us that they want to do.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: You know what, I love the thought to what you just said. I kind of want to expand on that, but as contractors who are looking to buy and looking to start a sheet metal shop, really need to think about is, is the company they're working with going to give them the consultation, give them the right products, and then service it and be there as their partner afterwards? I mean, those are three really critical steps that I think any business needs. It's probably what anybody thinks.

But Ken, having done it before, just some last advice. I would love to have some advice for contractors who are looking, contractors or other folks, I've talked to a lot of sheet metal shops that are just like, we aren't doing the roof anymore. We're just making product. What's your advice for starting up a sheet metal shop?

Ken McLauchlan: The educational part's important. What are you trying? What market are you going after? Because that'll address the machinery that we need to do. And that's really the biggest thing that comes into. And then don't be scared to ask the questions. Make the investment in your time to come to a show like Metal Con and be able to walk around and ask questions and don't feel pressured into doing something. That's the biggest thing. We have people that walk into the booth and we'll say, "You need to go walk around and look at other stuff and then come back and talk to us and tell us what your thought process is." But identifying what the need is for your customer.

And you hit the nail on the head, Heidi, when you said there's lots of contractors that used to be installation and they've got into the fabrication side and they understand that there's a business there for them and they are truly an expert at it, but they need support. And we're that company. Whether it's just fabrication equipment or whether it's helping with design or whether it's helping with questions of application, we can do all of that. And as they see their business grow, we can grow with them.

And I think that's the other important part, is being able to work with a company that sees the future, just not today. And very large portion of where these guys have gone is used to do installation. Now I'm just doing fabrication because I'm really good at it. And we want to be a partner with them as well as with the contractor.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Right. And I think at that point, I love that thinking about starting here, figuring out what you need and then growing from there. And that kind of takes us back to the whole architectural sheet metal because before you know it, you're going to be doing those beautiful designs that are going to be shown on beautiful buildings in your local town.

So gentlemen, thank you so much. This is great. I'm so excited to see you all at Metal Con. I'm really excited for the big announcement at the beginning of the show, and we're going to have a great time.

Ken McLauchlan: Thank you very much, Heidi.

Stephen Gosk: Heidi, we appreciate being with you. Please come by and see us at Metal Con. You'll not to be disappointed. We have a lot of exciting new products to talk to you about. So big event for us as well.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, we're excited. We'll be there. We'll be there with the sound stage, so we'll be bringing it live to everyone throughout the Metal Con show. So once again, thank you gentlemen very much. And thank you everyone for listening.

I say this every time, but it gets me excited about what the potential is out there. Please visit Metal Con, check it out, have these conversations, see what's out there. And of course, visit Metal Coffee Shop, the Metal Forming directory. You can find all this information there and it's online all the time, so you'll be able to find anything you want there also.

Please check out all of our podcasts under Roofing Road Trips, under the RLW navigation or on your favorite podcast channel. Be sure to subscribe and set those notifications. We'll be seeing you next time on Roofing Road Trips.

Intro/Outro: Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the Roofers Coffee Shop.com.

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