How BZI® is changing the future of the construction industry with bold new perspectives
The warehouse construction market, once on a hot streak, has been rapidly cooling for the past couple of years. Faced with rising interest rates, less demand, and labor shortages, industry leaders have fought to steer out of the decline with varying degrees of success. For BZI®, a pioneer in warehouse steel fabrication, erection, and insulated metal panel wall systems, the market shift ignited their drive to evolve and change the entire industry – and their community.
By developing processes that enable streamlined construction of buildings with near assembly-line speed and precision, BZI has been a steady market presence, outpacing their competitors in safety, efficiency, and productivity. Their unique integrated solution eliminates costly inefficiencies that contractors often struggle to navigate.
At the height of the warehousing boom BZI’s revenues shot from $25 million to $290 million in five years. “Demand was so hot and the need for speed in delivery was high. That gave us a strategic advantage,” said CEO James Barlow. “Our unique and proprietary processes for construction with our systems was reducing schedules by up to 50%. In some cases, we could take a 12- to 16-week schedule and cut that down to six or eight weeks.”
Their technology and approach reduced the need for labor in certain aspects of the steel construction process, and in some cases slashing the number of work hours by 30 to 40%. Their relentless focus on safety contributed as well. By building assemblies on the ground and then putting them in the air rather than using the traditional process of building at height, they were able to enhance efficiencies, reduce steps, and dramatically increase safety. “Our process is efficient. It's lean, it's unique, and its scalable.”
Much of BZI’s business had been concentrated in e-commerce warehouse construction, but when a host of projects in their 2022 portfolio were canceled, they felt the pinch. Realizing that much of their process and uncommon approach could be applied to construction in other industries, they made a pivot and diversified their market base into the industrial space.
Many of their warehousing contractors were moving in the same direction and gave BZI the opportunity to follow them into new markets that included food and beverage, data centers, cold storage, EV manufacturing facilities, and microchip manufacturing facilities across the nation. “We touch a lot of markets, providing a unique packaged offering specific to BZI.”
This year the company invested over $3.5 million into their safety program. With an industry-best Experience Modification Rating of 0.55, “The average company EMR rating is 1, our .55 EMR rate demonstrates that we have exponentially fewer incidents and claims for hours worked than average companies in our industry,” Barlow explained. “That's an enormous differentiator, especially as we branch out into chip manufacturing and data centers, because they're complicated to build. Our safety program, training, technology, and innovations are key differentiators in the experience we provide to our clients.”
Current, vibrant, and sustainable
As the company has grown and transformed, BZI has gained an evolved perspective of who they are. “Five years ago, I would have told you we’re a steel erector, but we don't see ourselves as that today,” Barlow said. “We are a construction innovation company. Our vertical offering includes steel fabrication, as well as steel erection and wall systems. Our core and shell competencies offer breadth and depth unique to this industry.”
The inclusion of fabrication became a decision that would change BZI dramatically. Their incoming steel shipments were being sent by rail to Salt Lake City and Phoenix, then trucked to their Cedar City, Utah, facility. There was rail access in Cedar City, but no locally accessible transloading facility, so the company was forced to shoulder the cost of multimodal transport.
To solve this challenge, they searched for a 40-acre site on the rail where they could consolidate transportation and expand their facilities – and came up empty. However, they soon found 400 acres of rail-adjacent property and decided to expand there. “We came up with some big ideas for the property, and with the nature of its location, we felt like we could use the 400 acres next to it as well. So, we ended up with 820 acres in total,” he said.
“We thought, ‘If we're going to spend the money to put in a rail system so we could take delivery of steel, let's just build an entire transload facility.’” The facility opened this past July, and several clients are now bringing products into the region. “We're creating an industrial hub in Cedar City with this initiative, and now we're getting ready to build our headquarters there.” Thus, BZI Innovation Park was born.
While building out the park, BZI will be able to test out their innovations in wall systems and other construction aspects. They also hope other innovative construction companies will want to test their processes and products in the park as well. “We want to build this park to attract other players in the construction industry, and we’re saying, ‘Come test your innovations with us.’”
The Commerce Crossroads section of the park will feature buildings that showcase industry-first innovation processes and demonstrate their proven solutions to their clients and partners. “We prove a lot of things by doing these projects ourselves, and we're not asking them to take any risk on our behalf. That gives us a point of leverage in the transformation of the construction industry that really doesn't exist today. There's no platform for that.”
Additionally, Commerce Crossroads and the Utah Inland Port Authority have partnered to establish the first rural inland port in the state of Utah. The ultimate purpose of the project is to make Cedar City the industrial hub of southern Utah.
Commerce Crossroads is also about improving the lives of the nearly 60,000 people who reside in the Cedar City region by providing a lasting boost to its economy. “We want to create a place that's vibrant,” Barlow stressed. “We're going to shape an environment that attracts a sustainable, high-tech industry. We're going to look for every point of leverage that we can to utilize the most current technologies in the development of our park and create a fantastic economic asset that allows people to live and thrive and stay in Cedar City. It's going to be an incredible place to raise a family and have high-quality, high-value earning opportunities.”
It’s no surprise that 65% of BZI’s 800 nationwide employees are referral-based. The company took first place in the Salt Lake Tribune’s Top Workplaces 2023 Awards in the large business category, beating out software companies, banks, and healthcare companies. “We’re driven to provide high-value opportunities for our team members. We want them to thrive financially as individuals, but also within the workplace environment.”
“Many young people don't see a future in construction. We're digitally oriented and want them to see it as a profession; they can be techie, they can be professional, they can do things with their hands too. We really want to take the back break out of it through the utilization of technology and process and make it fun to be in construction. We hope to create that environment and help turn the tide in the way that construction is viewed.”
Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Kanarraville, Utah, the BZI® family of companies operates through three primary organizations: Building Zone Industries, LLC is responsible for steel erection, while BZI Steel, LLC specializes in steel fabrication. Innovatech, LLC specializes in designing, engineering, and manufacturing innovative construction equipment and processes to enhance efficiency and safety on the job.
To support its workforce and maintain high safety and quality standards, BZI partners with SteelTech Academy, an affiliated, exclusive technical, safety, and vocational training center offered to all team members. The academy provides training in OSHA (10) and (30) certifications, equipment operations, fall protection, and industry-specific welding certifications.
Since 2021, SteelTech Academy has issued over 3,200 certifications across these disciplines and consistently logs over 10,000 student contact hours annually. BZI is a proud member of and accredited by AISC, an organization that recently bestowed upon BZI its top safety award, the “Erector Award of Honor.” CEO James Barlow serves on the Forbes Business Council and has recently been named a recipient of the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige Award. Beginning as farmers raising pole barns, BZI is now completing and executing major construction projects across the United States and is recognized as a leading provider of innovative construction solutions for companies worldwide.
To learn about BZI®, visit bzi.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888.509.2280
1233 S Old Hwy 91
Kanarraville, UT 847242
Phone Number: 435.383.8769
Homepage Link: https://www.bzi.com/