S&H Metal Products Inc., of Topeka, Ind. commemorated its 50th year in business with an open house, August 18-26, for its customers, suppliers and media at its state-of-the-art 85,000 square foot metal fabrication and powder coating facility at 2295 W. Lake Street in Topeka.
The company broke ground on the new facility in October 2020 and completed it in June 2021.
Open house attendees were treated to a comprehensive tour of founder, owner and president Fritz Helmuth’s immaculate facility. He showcased an impressive range of metal cutting and forming equipment, including programmable CNC laser cutting machines with metering lathe systems for varying thicknesses of aluminum and steel raw materials. Machines can be programmed to work full shifts fulfilling multiple orders from varying customers.
A dedicated Auto CAD design space in the adjacent offices supplies the plant’s production machinery with the demanding metal parts to meet customer demand. Many parts are produced just in time for some of the best known names in the RV industry. The new facility is a consolidation of two plants.
“Just being together and being efficient in how we handle our products here has improved our service,” Helmuth said. “We had our first laser cutting CNC in 2011. It worked so well that we bought another one in 2012. Then we added a fiber optic laser. We had a CO2 at the start. But then we had the 3000 watt which is a charger and discharger that would cut through the night, as long as you have a pile of steel to pick up and someone to remove it.
Today, the facility has 6,000 and 10,000 watt lasers with the Remick System 18 with an inventory range of 20 shelves.
“This thing will go up and down and it will choose the steel it needs for the night. And then it goes down and powers the two lasers, all pre-programmed,” Helmuth said. “It’s so modern, it’s beyond me. I’m from the old world, I’m just happy to know how to use my cell phone.
Helmuth is not joking. “There were nine in our family,” he said. “I grew up Amish riding horses and buggies.”
And, on a walk through the new facility with Helmut, it becomes clear that the old-world priorities of faith, family, and freedom he touts live on in the corporate culture. He smiles and jokes with each member of his team at the factory as if they were part of the family.
“If you can make your workers smile,” he pointed out, “and you have a nice, clean environment with bright lights, put it all together and you’re aiming for the stars. This is how it works. And a lot of faith helps too.
“Because my theory is when you have a team like the one we have here, you can’t help but grow,” he continued. “The three things I look for in a person we interview are common sense, positive thinking and respect. I only need those and that’s the person who will hire. It doesn’t matter if you have a degree Notre Dame or Purdue or any piece of paper, it’s what you do that matters.
The history of S&H Metal Products has family origins. Helmuth said his mother and father owned a sheet metal shop called J&B Metal Products which they started in 1961 (J&B stood for John and Bett).
Today, the Helmut family carries on its entrepreneurial traditions with Fritz’s son, Tim Helmuth, running the company’s sales and another son, Jason, running the CAD design operations.
A subsidiary adjacent to the new facility is the company’s powder coating line, Freedom Finish Works. Specializing in steel and aluminum, Freedom Finish Works has the flexibility to fulfill everything from one-piece custom orders to full production quantities.