skilled trades

There has been a lot of talk lately about the shortage of workers in the skilled trades and how that will affect our home state of Michigan (and the nation) moving forward. People have proposed many different solutions, but one way to promote the future of manufacturing and the trades is to go directly to that future. This is why D+M Metal Products opens our doors for school tours. We like to take these opportunities to show kids the interesting work we do and to tell them there are opportunities for successful careers outside of the usual college track. 

The Gap in Skilled Trades in Michigan


The deficit between the number of necessary Michigan workers in skilled trade positions and the number expected to go into these fields is approximately half a million by 2026. Last year the State of Michigan set aside $3 million in order to address this problem, announcing the state’s largest advertising campaign dedicated to raising awareness of this problem. Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist stated, “We want to really invest in this heavily because there is a big gap to fill. We think that presents an opportunity. There are a lot of talented, hard working people in Michigan and we want to make sure they know that there’s a pathway for them to have a high wage and high quality career here.”

One reason that high school kids are not choosing the trades is that most of them are under the impression that college and career success are intertwined. For years, students have been told that college is the only way to have a successful, enjoyable, lucrative career. As a result, many take that career path without fully exploring other ones. 

Manufacturing is no longer just the line work that automotive workers did, beginning with Henry Ford’s factory and continuing on to create the success of the Big Three. Automation has revolutionized many industries including automotive. Now employers are looking for workers who can code and who are comfortable with information technology as well as those who want to learn useful skills. 

The good news for students who decide to look into the trades is that most do not require the same training investment as a four-year degree, but they pay 45% more than the median income in Michigan. It’s no secret that Millennials are struggling to achieve financial independence with the loads of student debt they have acquired from going to college. Many do not find a lucrative job after graduation either. The trades offer better pay and less debt. That sounds like a winning combination. 

Still, employers who hire skilled workers need to make the effort to educate our young people about what these jobs entail. Recently groups from two local schools, Grand Rapids Christian and Holy Trinity, toured D+M Metal. We were able to show them our equipment, how our tradesmen operate it, and what we produce for our customers.

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We employ welders and machinists in our company. Both of these require training after high school. A welder can take classes at Grand Rapids Community College and work for us part-time while going to school, eventually working up to a certified weld position. An entry-level machine operator can become a highly skilled operator and move up to become a lead person, a quality control inspector, and eventually a manager. We also have skilled machine setup operators for CNC press brake and CNC laser and turret press. These positions utilize similar job requirements and mental aptitude but are typically trained on the job. 

At D+M Metal we hire young people when they graduate from high school and offer them the opportunity to get their training while they work for us if they are interested in doing more. We are seeking motivated and proactive workers who want to improve their skill sets and advance in the trades. We invest in them and they help us improve our company. It’s a win for everyone. 

If you are a student who is interested in learning more about metal fabrication, please contact us. We also welcome inquiries from local schools or groups. Michigan needs skilled workers to make our state better. Is a welding or machinist career in your future? 

building relationships

When you are considering which metal fabrication supplier to use for your company’s needs, relationship building may not be one of the first requirements on your list of priorities to check. Stop to think about it, though. All companies run on the strength of their relationships with their workers, their suppliers, and their customers, so building and reinforcing them is extremely important. This is why D+M Metal Products’ core values center on developing our people and building relationships and why this will be a main focus for us in 2020. 

Mission Statement


D+M Metal’s mission statement reads: “Our mission is to develop and use our talents and resources to provide superior products and services while establishing long-term relationships with our customers, suppliers, and community.” 

Building Relationships within our Workforce


Building strong relationships starts from within our company. Work doesn’t just consist of punching the clock coming in and out because people aren’t robots. It can be a challenge to meet our customers’ needs, the needs of the company as a whole, and the needs of the individual people who work for us, but in doing so, our business grows stronger and becomes better over time. 

One of the ways we accomplish this is to invest in training our workers and spend time fully incorporating them into our work environment. We view the success of our workers as a partnership. They work hard, and we support them in their individual career goals. They invest their time and abilities in our company, and we invest in tuition to get them further training

We also invest time in community building. As a society, we’re all experiencing pretty rapid change, and that directly impacts the workforce. In a world where people are more and more on their phones, it can be hard to build and nurture healthy, respectful relationships at work, including vital mentoring relationships. Communication and interaction are key to increased productivity, quality output, and job satisfaction, though. We are choosing to focus on creating an environment where teamwork is emphasized and rewarded.

Building Relationships with Our Suppliers 


Without our suppliers, we cannot produce anything for our customers. We might as well not open our doors. Our suppliers do more than just drop off aluminum and steel, after all. They are excellent sources of information about the industry and even advice for how to navigate fluctuations within the metal fabrication business. Through clear communication, reasonable expectations, and trustworthiness in our business dealings, we work to keep our relationships with our suppliers in good shape.  

Building Relationships with Our Customers


The most important way to build relationships with customers - not just to attract new customers - is to do what you say you will do. When customers see that you can deliver what they ask for on time, with quality workmanship, at the price quoted, they are willing to trust you with more work. Trust is the oil that enables every interaction to run smoothly without unnecessary friction. 

At D+M Metal, when we say we will call you, we call. When we say we will follow up with more information, we will follow up. We stand by our products and guarantee their quality. We are willing to go the extra mile to make sure that the relationships we have created with the companies we do business with continue. 

We believe doing quality work and conducting business honestly is worthwhile, but we are also happy when our customers let others know that their experience with us has been positive. Word-of-mouth reviews are so much more valuable in this business than online reviews because they can’t be easily manipulated. They are based on authentic interactions over time and long-term customer satisfaction. 

Ultimately, building relationships with our workers, our suppliers, and our customers is about optimizing satisfaction for everyone, including us. We like knowing the people we do business with. We enjoy getting to know people over time and to trust and depend on them more and more as well. Making relationships about more than financial transactions is important to us, and that’s why it’s in our mission statement and our goals for doing business in 2020. 

place an order

Finding a good metal fabrication supplier to work with to meet your company’s needs long term is important, but how do you know when you’ve found a quality company you can trust? No one wants to pay for a botched order or have to explain to customers about delays due to late or shoddy work. Here are five questions to ask of any metal fabricator before you sign a contract or place an order. From the answers you get to these questions, you should know if a company will produce quality work for you or not. 

  1. The first question should be simple enough to answer: How long has your company been in operation?

The longer a company has been in business, the more information should be available about how it operates and if others are satisfied with their work. Companies will often highlight their history to show that they know what they are doing and are experts in their industry. We are one of these. Originally founded in 1946, D+M Metal Products has been in the Buist family for 42 years now and is in the second generation of ownership. We have been in our current location since 1984 and have expanded several times to keep up with demand and to give more floor space to accommodate our greater metal fabrication capabilities. 

  1. Another good question to ask is: How many customers does your business have?

A company with a large number of customers is a more stable, well regarded company, and a metal fabricator with customers across industries is likely to have larger capabilities. Most companies are happy to tell you about the work they’ve done for their clients and how that translates into what they can do for your company. Don’t hesitate to ask. 

  1. A third question is: What machinery do you have?

Metal fabrication involves the use of a wide variety of machinery and equipment. Your metal fabricator should have invested in good, updated equipment. If you ask them for a tour of their facilities, they should be willing to let you see what they have and how it’s used before you sign a contract or place an order. Of course, you’ll have to put on safety goggles and remain outside of the work envelope of the welders and machine operators, but if you have the chance to take a tour, you should. It will tell you a lot about how the company operates and what they are capable of producing.  

  1. The fourth question is related to the third, then: Can I see examples of your work?

A good metal fabricator will be happy to show you work off the press, and they may be able to find a comparable product to the one you need for your order, especially if you give them notice of what you’d like to see before you arrive. 

  1. A fifth question to ask involves efficiency: How long does it take for you to fill an order?

Any contract you sign with a metal fabrication supplier will specify the timeline for the project, but it’s good to know how fast the company can accommodate a typical order, a rushed order, or a special project. Ask them what the typical turnaround time is for the type of order your company needs. 

One Additional Question to Ask before You Place an Order


Finally, there’s one bonus question every company really needs to know: What happens if we are not fully satisfied with your work? 

At D+M Metal Products we are proud of the work we produce and our quality control program. We guarantee the satisfaction of our customers. We understand that new customers haven’t had years to work with us and see the pride that we take in our process and our products, but we have a long history of doing good work and establishing great relationships with our customers. If you have any questions about metal fabrication before you place an order, please let us know and we will do our best to answer them. We want your business, and we look forward to working with you on your next project. 

ISO standards

We’ve talked before about D+M Metal Products’ quality control program and how following ISO standards greatly improves our company operations. How do ISO standards affect the quality of our work and our products? We will go into detail about that in this blog. 

What Are ISO Standards? 


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) “creates documents that provide requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.” The ISO and its regulatory guidelines exist so that manufacturers will follow and maintain precise processes that will produce high quality products for their customers across industries.

D+M Metal Products is specifically ISO 9001:2015 certified. The 2015 standard provides a framework for a systematic approach to managing our processes and procedures.

Compliance with ISO standards ensures uniformity of products. These standards provide detailed instructions and drawings for workers to use. In metal fabrication the results of that are products that are exactly the same in shape and cut. Manufacturers worldwide follow the same standards and are required to test the components they produce for quality and durability that are also specified by the ISO standard. 

The parts produced by ISO compliant companies will be interchangeable which means that they can be used with other parts without concern that they won’t fit correctly or they won’t last over time. It would be an enormous problem throughout industries, for instance, if hinges were made differently by every manufacturer and they were not rigorously tested for use, wear, and durability. 

ISO certification is one way that companies use to make decisions about the suppliers they use. They know that ISO certified companies have processes in place that will guarantee the quality of their products. The ISO requires these companies to be regularly audited in order to ensure those processes are being followed. As a result, company owners or managers don’t have to spend additional time researching or vetting a long list of vendors. The ISO certification does the vetting for them. 

This is useful from a customer perspective, but it’s also useful to metal fabricators. Because each fabricator does not have to draw up its own standards for all of the components produced, it can be more productive and efficient - and it can pass on that efficiency to its customers in the form of lower costs. 

The ISO 9001 standard helps companies work more efficiently because it breaks processes into steps and sequences that workers can easily follow. It also identifies the proper manager of a task, groups workers into teams, and assigns steps and sequences to those teams or workers. With all of these important items already determined, the managers and workers know what they must do and which materials and machines they must use to get the work done. They do not need to lose or waste time making these decisions. 

Following ISO standards can also save customers from making costly mistakes. An ISO compliant fabricator will be able to determine if a customer’s design will violate ISO standards and determine what changes must be made before time, money, and energy have been expended. This promotes trust and cooperation between vendors and customers. 

D+M Metal Products is proud to be ISO certified. We have invested a great deal of time and effort into our certification, and we believe it directly affects our custom metal fabrication output and customer satisfaction.  We rigorously test the components and parts fabricated at our facility for quality and durability according to ISO standards. If you have any questions about ISO certification or our processes and procedures, we would be happy to discuss them with you at any time. Call us for a quote for your project today. 

The Great Recession that occurred ten years ago took its toll on many small to medium sized businesses. This certainly included the manufacturing sector and the metal fabrication industry. Since then we have had economic recovery. Manufacturing businesses once again have a great need for components that are fabricated quickly and to a high quality standard. If your company is now looking for a metal fabrication supplier or needs a prototype to launch a new product, it’s crucial to find the right partner for the job.

Cost Isn’t Everything


Companies frequently choose their suppliers, including their metal fabrication supplier, based on cost alone because keeping product costs down is a very high priority. However, while cost is an important factor in sourcing, the experience and capabilities a fabricator has are crucial, as are the quality of product it produces and how well it treats its customers. The following are three critical things to consider in a metal fabrication supplier. 



Not all metal fabricators are the same. They offer different services and specialize in different processes. Many different types of metal fabrication capabilities exist. These include:

Cutting - Parts can be sawed, sheared, or cut with torches, CNC plasma, lasers, and water jets. 

Bending - There are many ways to bend pieces, including manual or powered press brakes to coin or air bend metal sheet into shape. CNC-controlled press brakes are now capable of seamless and efficient operation with the right software. 

Assembling - This involves joining the pieces using welding, adhesive binding, riveting, threaded fasteners, or more bending. 

Design - Some fabricators also offer design assistance with new products, improving them and speeding up the time it takes to get them to market.



Experience can make all the difference in the world when it comes to your project’s success. An experienced metal fabricator will be able to identify problems and be able to solve them early in the process. Mistakes in measurement, for instance, can be enormously expensive and cause unwanted delays in production. Conversely, small improvements to a part’s design can reduce waste and cost. The benefit of experience is in both bypassing production problems and improving part design or process so the parts are produced efficiently and at a lower cost.



A capable fabricator may still not have the capacity necessary to produce all of the parts that your company needs. Some shops may not be capable of handling large production runs, lacking either the right equipment or enough experienced employees. If you need large orders or short turn around times, be sure to find a supplier with that capacity. 

When it comes time to decide which metal fabrication supplier to choose, ask yourself: Can the supplier meet all my company’s needs without any problems occurring during prototype runs or production? The wrong choice in supplier can cost you in terms of product issues, delivery problems, or unforeseen expenses. At D+M Metal Products we are proud of the work we do and have done in the West Michigan community for over 40 years. Call us with any questions you have about metal fabrication. We would be happy to discuss what we can do for your company.