Sunday, March 04, 2001

Partners make welding look easy

Two-man shop grew by making what customers want

By Jenny Callison
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Sometimes, success stems from a few simple basics: Find something you like to do, identify a need, and do your job well.

        That formula has worked to perfection for Tony Ling and Paul Senay, co-owners of Advanced Welding Co. in Franklin. Since the company started in 1991, they've gone from being a two-man welding shop to an operation that employs 20.

  One of Advanced Welding's major projects these days is helping Springboro-based Tuf-N-Lite produce aluminum forms for poured concrete walls. The forms manufactured by Tuf-N-Lite are scored and textured so that the molded concrete looks like brick.
  “We initially started with (Advanced Welding) during some prototyping,” operations manager Jim Jackson said. “We moved on to having them produce some window frames for us, and then doing the forms. Tony and Paul are real down-to-earth kind of guys. They're dedicated to their job and put in extra time to get a shipment out in time. I've seen Tony work day and night.”
  Advanced Welding has been helpful to Tuf-N-Lite in turning a prototype into an actual product that can be sized to fit any height or width of wall.
  Advanced Welding is at 901 N. Main St., Franklin; 746-6800.
        They've graduated from a garage behind Mr. Ling's Franklin Township home into a 5,000-square-foot machine shop and a 15,000-square-foot welding operation.

        “We went from welding to having a machine shop because customers want a finished product,” Mr. Ling said. “We've had to grow that way just so we could offer more things.”

        Mr. Ling met Mr. Senay, a Liberty Township resident, when they were hired by the same fabrication shop in 1978. They've worked together ever since. The two decided to try their luck as entrepreneurs.

        “Our starting point was with Interscope Manufacturing in Middletown, which builds equipment for Procter & Gamble,” Mr. Ling said. “They didn't want to start a welding department, so we became their welders.”

        But it wasn't that simple. In order to compete for welding jobs, the two also had to offer metal fabrication. Now, they provide welding and fabrication services for many machine shops in Butler and Warren counties.

        “We specialize in stainless steel and aluminum, although we also do steel. Aluminum is 90 percent of our business, because some people don't like messing with it,” Mr. Ling said.

        Willingness to cater to customer requests is the core of Advanced Welding's business philosophy. That means deadlines are deadlines, and quality is paramount, Mr. Ling said.

        “Today, it seems like customers want everything in a rush. Tony and Paul seem to have capitalized on that, and they're really good at meeting that demand,” said Daniel Ward, co-owner of Thompson and Ward Machine, also located in Franklin. “We use them to do just about all our welding, especially aluminum welding. It's always a first-class job.”

        Mr. Ling pointed out the smooth seam in a welded bracket for Procter & Gamble. “I've never told a customer "no.' A lot of times, I'll work all night if a guy needs something the next day,” he said. “We take a lot of pride in our work.”

        The partners fabricate equipment based on customers' drawings. Other times, they're given a problem, and they design a piece of equipment to solve it. There's the filtering machine for liquid helium that Mr. Ling engineered. Or the simple but essential safety restraint he invented that prevents canisters from being filled with the wrong gas.

        Two maps on the office wall track the spread of Advanced Welding products. The company's work is sent across the United States; to Asia, Europe and South America. The shop has fabricated several pieces of stainless steel equipment used in the cornstarch industry for an engineering company in Springfield, Ohio. Their destination: Brazil.

        “They send me the drawings, I make it and ship it,” Mr. Ling said.

        The company sees its niche in light-to-medium fabrication work and has no plans to install giant cranes so it can crank out large items. Within those limits, however, the business continues to expand to meet customer needs.

        Said Mr. Ling: “We're in the process of buying a paint booth so we can do painting ourselves. We just bought a nice sandblasting unit.”

        They'd also like to add three or four more welders, but finding qualified workers is a challenge.

        “We get them out of vocational school and train them ourselves,” Mr. Ling said. “We'll go through over 10 applicants to get one.“

        Supporting the personnel structure at Advanced Welding is the complementary relationship between the two owners.

        “I'm the people person,” Mr. Ling said. “My job is to work in the office, do the quoting and work with customers. My partner likes to work in the shop and run the shop. Fortunately for us, we work together well. He's in on every decision.”

        The partners don't see any big changes in their future, according to Mr. Ling.

        “I'm pretty happy with the way things are. We'd like to continue our growth, and move into the Cincinnati market with our fabricating.”

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