Architectural and Ornamental Metal Work

SIC 3446

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing architectural and ornamental metal work, such as stairs and staircases, open steel flooring (grating), fire escapes, grilles, railings, and fences and gates, except those made from wire. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing fences and gates from purchased wire are classified in SIC 3496: Miscellaneous Fabricated Wire Products; those manufacturing prefabricated metal buildings and parts are classified in SIC 3448: Prefabricated Metal Buildings and Components; and those manufacturing miscellaneous metal work are classified in SIC 3449: Miscellaneous Structural Metal Work.

Industry Snapshot

Manufacturers in the architectural and ornamental metal work industry provide construction contractors with building and finishing materials for all divisions of the development market. Product offerings include bank fixtures, guide rails for stairways and ramps, permanent ladders and stairways, lampposts, flagpoles, metal grates, fire escapes, decorative fences and posts, brass fixtures, and various metal adornments. Classified in other industries are firms that specialize in producing wire fences, prefabricated metal buildings and parts, and miscellaneous metal work. Shipments from this industry were valued at just under $3billion in 2009. The greatest number of firms in the industry were in California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The industry experienced a sharp decline in 2009 due to the economic recession in general and specifically the collapse of the U.S. housing and construction industries. Both industries experienced slow recoveries during 2010.

Organization and Structure

The architectural and ornamental metal work industry was served by several trade and professional associations. The National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association, headquartered in Forest Park, Georgia, had nearly 800 member companies in 2010 and published the bimonthly NOMMA Newsletter and Fabricator magazine. The National Association of Architectural Metal Manufacturers, based in Chicago, had six operating division and approximately 125 member companies. The largest organization, the International Association of Bridge, Structural, and Ornamental Iron Workers, and AFL-CIO organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., had 140,000 individual members and 15,000 apprentices and published The Iron Worker. Affiliated with this organization were Architectural and Ornamental Iron Workers local unions.

Background and Development

Metal working is one of the world's oldest trades. It originated around 2500 B.C. when bronze was discovered, although smiths prior to that time produced architectural ornaments using gold. It was not until the discovery of iron in 1200 B.C., however, that the craft of structural metal work truly developed. The industry in the United States flourished when architectural styles progressed from the applied ornament period of the nineteenth century to the organic, or functional, ornament period of the 1900s. U.S. economic booms in the 1920s, 1950s, and 1960s all served to increase the size and scope of the industry.

Architectural and ornamental metal work firms realized market growth during most of the 1980s and early 1990s as a result of a fairly active construction market. Industry shipments climbed from less than $1.5 billion in 1982 to $2.9 billion by 1995. Industry employment rose from about 23,000 in 1982 to 30,000 in 1992, but declined to 27,000 by 1995.

A construction lull during the late 1980s and early 1990s stymied growth in the industry, but by 1991, shipments were again on the rise. Even though building markets still sagged in 1993, architecture and ornamental metal work firms were benefiting from a combination of increased public construction spending, renovation work mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and an increase in the popularity of metal ornament in some building sectors. Products most highly in demand in 1995 were stairways, fences, railings, and gates, which accounted for a combined total of more than 24 percent of the market. Open flooring, grating, and studs made up about 16 percent of the market, and grilles, registers, and air diffusers represented another 12 percent of demand. The value of industry shipments continued to grow steadily throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s.

Shipments for the architectural and ornamental metal work industry were $5.7 billion in 2005, compared to $5.1 billion in 2002. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2,342 establishments operated in the ornamental and architectural metal work manufacturing category in the early 2000s. Together with the metal window and door manufacturing and sheet metal work industries, the architectural and ornamental metal work industry had 213,820 employees in 2005, compared to 223,883 in 2002.

Current Conditions

According to industry statistics, the total number of establishments in the declined from 3,454 in 2008 to 3,168 in 2009 as the industry reacted to the recession, which began in 2008 but hit the construction industry in full force during 2009. Revenues fell sharply in 2009 to $2.96 billion, down from $4.09 billion in 2008. An estimated 32,889 people worked within the various categories of architectural and ornamental metal work in 2009, down from 35,870 in 2008.

States with the highest concentration were California with 18 percent, Texas with 8.7 percent, New York with 7.3 percent, Florida with 5.8 percent, and Pennsylvania with 4.3 percent. Collectively, these states contributed nearly $1.3 billion to the industry total in shipments.

Architectural metalwork represented nearly half the industry total, or 49.7 percent, with 1,576 operations employing 14,078 workers and generating $1.34 billion in 2009 revenues. Companies engaged in manufacturing metal stairs, banisters, fire escapes, railings and permanent ladder combined to represent 550 companies, or 17.4 percent, and employed 6,467. The segment of the industry generated revenues in 2009 totaling $663.1 million. Within this segment, firms that produced prefabricated metal stairs and staircases and firms that produced railings and banisters made from metal pipe were the most significant.

Firms that manufactured metal fences, gates, posts, and flagpoles numbered 498, or 15.8 percent, employed 5,020, and had $517.5 million in 2009 revenues. Ornamental metalwork including bank fixtures, ornamental brasswork and grillwork, elevator guiderails, accounted for 335 firms, or 10.6 percent, 2,701 employees, and $245.4 million in revenues. Open flooring and metal grating made up a small segment of the industry, representing just 91 companies, or 2.9 percent, 1,579 employees, and $68.2 million in 2009 revenues.

Other segments made up smaller portions of the industry. Firms that produced light gauge metal partitions, supports, purlins (a part of a roof structure), and lintels (placed around a window to support the weight of the wall) accounted for 51 firms, or 1.6 percent, 1,016 employees, and $89.2 million in revenues. Firms that manufactured elevator guiderails or metal scaffolding totaled 49, or 1.6 percent, had 748 employees, and generated $51.1 million in 2009 revenues. Companies that produced metal channels, louvers, and registers numbered 18, or less than 1 percent of the industry, and accounted for 1,233 employees and roughly $25 million in revenues.

Industry Leaders

The architectural and ornamental metal work industry leader was the Harsco Corporation of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, with 2009 sales of $2.99 billion, a figure that included sales from all its divisions. Subsidiary Patent Construction Systems of Paramus, New Jersey, handled Harsco's architectural metal work business. Patent manufactured metal works for specialized applications, including the sidewalk grating that Marilyn Monroe stood on when her dress was billowed by a passing subway in the 1954 movie The Seven-Year Itch.

Other industry leaders included Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based THP United Enterprises Inc.; Safeway Steel Products Inc., Michigan City, Indiana; and City Store Gates Manufacturing Corp. in College Point, New York.

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