50 Years and Counting
Family-run businesses often offer an experience to its customers and employees alike that major corporations just can’t give. At Warren Fabricating and Machining (WarFab), present-day owners Regina Rebhan Mitchell and Eric Rebhan have run the company like their father, founder of WarFab John C. Rebhan, ran their household.
“We grew up in a household where ‘can’t’ was a four-letter word,” Regina Rebhan Mitchell said. “The same is true in our business.”
The company, which is a unique manufacturer specializing in the fabrication, machining, and assembly of large steel weldments servicing several heavy industries, has been in business for over 50 years, something the brother-and-sister team of today credit to the tremendous risks their father, and now they, are willing to take to stay ahead of the competition.
For 45 years, John C. Rebhan invested every dollar he could back into the company, buying new equipment and breaking into new fields before the rest of the industry caught onto the trends.
Part of the continuing success can be credited to this investment strategy, which is still going strong today.
“We’re still investing heavily in the business,” Regina Rebhan Mitchell, Owner and President of WarFab shared. “We just invested millions in new equipment, and in 2012 we built a new manufacturing bay devoted to natural gas turbine products, which was a major capital expenditure. Just like Dad, we wanted to get ahead of the trend, which this time was the shift in power generation from coal to natural gas.”
WarFab spends the same amount of energy on its employees, with Regina Rebhan Mitchell noting that the company values its employees and treats them well.
“Their loyalty translates into quality work and products for our customers. Loyalty means success,” she said.
And success the company has found, in part because of its ability to start a project far sooner than many of its competitors.
Two factors come into play here: the company makes decisions quickly, and it has immediate access to the exact steel it needs for each project.
By running “lean and mean” and having employees—including both Regina and Eric—that are willing to do almost any job that is asked of them, Eric shared that the staff is equipped to answer questions or propose solutions to a problem on each product the company builds.
Ohio Steel Sheet and Plate is also a huge asset of the company. The sister company to WarFab is a national distributor of steel plate products with a diverse and large customer list that stocks 50,000-100,000 tons of steel on the floor at any one time. Customers can get an immediate quote on a product, and that product can be started the next day by WarFab. The massive buying power of Ohio Steel keeps the raw material costs low to remain competitive against the company’s international competition.
Because of Ohio Steel, WarFab competes on an international level.
“One big advantage is that we can get started months quicker than many companies that have long lead times for materials,” said Regina. “A lot of our customers have manufacturers in China and Korea, but because of our massive steel inventory at Ohio Steel, we can compete with lower cost labor markets and be North America’s number one short-cycle supplier.”
“Companies are running their equipment longer and harder, and not necessarily paying for the maintenance,” Eric shared. “This is a huge advantage for us, because we have our materials—and therefore, our products—available at competitive rates that are turned around quickly when the mines or power plants go down.”
So how will WarFab chart its course for the next 50 years of operation? The company has quick thinking down pat, lean strategies in place, and a highly reliable supplier on its side. What it is looking to do next is adapt to the ever-changing energy landscape.
Regina has initiated a sustainability initiative within the companies.
“Focusing on becoming better stewards of the environment helps us remain relevant in the shifting current of the energy industry. We are a ‘Friend of Coal’ but I recognize that if our business does not adapt to current trends in our industry, we may become obsolete and we want to be an agent of change in our industry,” Regina said.
Regina has invested in video and video production with the hopes of harnessing that message into an advantage for WarFab with an online marketing campaign. Another key adaptation the company is looking to make is that of its workforce.
“Currently our managerial staff is primarily made up of Baby Boomers who have built this business with our father, but the younger generation of workers have different values, exciting strategies, and promising goals than that of their predecessors,” she said. “We focus a lot on in-house training to adapt our strategy to this new generation, as well as adapt them to our company and culture, while also listening to their input and ideas on how we can ensure the future of our companies.”
Despite the ever-changing landscape of the industry that all companies have to contend with today, the changes won’t threaten WarFab’s family feel.
Warren Fabricating & Machining Corporation was founded by John C. Rebhan over 50 years ago.
During that span, War Fab has evolved from an 8,000 ft² fabricating facility with 8 employees to multiple plant locations exceeding 500,000 ft² and over 400 employees.
War Fab excels in areas of fabricating, machining and mechanical assembly with special emphasis on quality and service.
Our extensive steel inventory of over 50,000 tons of various grades and sizes offer our clients immediate material availability together with accelerated cycle times.
3240 Mahoning Avenue Northwest
Warren, OH 44483-2054
T (330) 847-0596
T (800) 827-0596
Website – www.warfab.com