It took Doug Layman nearly two decades in the fabrication
industry to convince himself that he should be his own boss.
He finally made the leap in 2003, starting Layman Fabrication in North Vernon, Indiana, in an old turkey barn behind his house.
His son, Kyle, was in high school, but he already knew he wanted to build things. It took 10 more years of meticulous work before the two brought in employees.
They’ve long left the turkey barn behind. Layman Fabrication moved into an 8,400-square-foot building in 2011 and has ridden the manufacturing resurgence to the point of finishing a 4,000-square-foot addition. The extra space will allow them to add six welding stations to the 10 they have.
“A big factor is that we want to grow. A lot of our competitors don’t,” Kyle said. Layman employs 16 people, and that includes Doug, who stays active doing deliveries. “What we do, fabricating and welding, is a dying skill. Around here, we have a huge skilled-trades gap. People need us and that’s a big advantage.”
The company has a number of core competencies:
- Mig-, Tig- and Stick-weld mild steel, aluminum and stainless steel.
- A paint booth to accommodate finishing requirements.
- Bend metal plates and metal tubes with a CNC hydraulic press brake and tubing bender.
- Punch holes with a 50-ton iron-worker, saw and cut metal to size, and drill and tap holes.
- Layman bought a CNC plasma cutter and brought in a design engineer to increase its capabilities further.
“We started doing in-house design this past June because a lot of our customers want complete design-build,” Kyle said. “It gives us the advantage of designing things the way we want it built, and that saves time and money.”
What we do, fabricating and welding, is a dying skill.
Layman is on track to do $1.7 million in sales this year. The goal is to get the company to $5 million.
“We want to move more into CNC machining. It would give us capability our competitors don’t have,” Kyle said. Layman also would like to be able to do its own cutting rather than having to outsource the work.
“We also sell machine components. We don’t just do welding. Most of the people we sell to also need metal machines or plastic machines. It’s good to add customers, but it’s better to work with your existing customers and figure out if you’re providing everything you can.”
For most companies, the key to growth is being able to retain workers and find new ones to handle additional work. Layman concentrates on workplace culture and extensive training.
“We really stress training people in-house. We don’t mind getting people who are totally green and don’t know anything about welding and fabricating. As long as they are willing to show up to work and have good character, we’ll show you what to do.”
The culture is no-nonsense.
“We don’t like drama. We’re not kindergarten teachers. You don’t have to be best friends, but you do have to have each other’s backs,” Kyle said. “The cool thing about what we do is that once you become a fabricator, you can build things the way you want as long as it’s cost-effective and meets our standards.”
Most of Layman’s work is in the automotive—“We’re in an automotive hot zone from here to Detroit”—and the material handling industries. Layman’s largest customer is Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing in Columbus, Indiana. Toyota makes forklifts there.
Layman’s satisfied customers are helping it grow organically. Toyota remains a highly respected name in the manufacturing industry, and Layman’s long-standing relationship earned it a referral to a John Deere manufacturing operation in Tennessee. Agriculture is one of several industries Layman is targeting for new business.
“We know we need to diversify. The last recession hurt automotive more than anyone,” Kyle said. “We’re working to create a more-sound business in terms of cash flow and cash reserves. I spend more time now on the business side, creating a long-term company that can weather those storms.”
Kyle has turned to several mentors to help improve his business-management skills because he wants to heed the advice that Doug gave when he took over the business.
“My dad told me he didn’t mind if I created a beast. But he said I needed to feed the beast.”
Featured company: Layman Fabrication Inc.
Address: 3435 Fourth St., North Vernon, IN 47265
Capabilities: Welding, paint finishing, material processing, plate bending, tube bending, hole-punching and coping plates, saw and cut metal to size, drilling and tapping holes,
steel cutting, plate rolling and design-build engineering