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Under the Hood of a Leading Manufacturer with Adam Mazzella
Episode 4923rd August 2022 • Construction Disruption • Isaiah Industries
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At Construction Disruption, we’re always searching for innovative ideas worth sharing. Whether these take the form of new technologies, ideas, or processes, the future is bright.

 

In today’s episode, we interview Adam Mazzella, executive vice president of Sheffield Metals International, a family-owned business on the leading edge of metal roofing. Sheffield distributes bare and coated metal products and standing seam roofing from their five domestic locations.

 

Adam kicks off the interview by explaining his start in the metal roofing business. Then, he shares how Sheffield is constantly creating new solutions for homeowners to provide the best material, efficient assembly, and quality products. 

 

Metal roofing and manufacturing are continuing to grow, so partner with a manufacturer like Sheffield and play your part.

 

Listen in to find out!

 

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • The background of Sheffield Metals
  • How Adam and his brother chose their different positions in the family business
  • What are wire rope slings?
  • Trends in leadership and management to look out for
  • Sheffield Metal’s relationship with its customers
  • Ways Sheffield Metals is speeding up installation
  • Thoughts on solar thin film
  • The issues with preassembly

 

Connect with Adam via LinkedIn!

 

To hear more Construction Disruption episodes, visit us on Apple Podcasts or YouTube.

 

 Connect with us on FacebookInstagram, or LinkedIn.



This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

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Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

Transcripts

Adam Mazzella:

:

If we're driving innovation inside of our four walls, you know, we're going to miss the mark. There's things that we know that we need to do if we're going to say, hey, this is going to make a contractor's life easier, better, faster. They need to be involved in that. It doesn't make sense for us to think that our engineers can know all and be all.

Todd Miller:

:

Welcome to the Construction Disruption podcast, where we uncover the future of building and remodeling. I'm Todd Miller of Isaiah Industries, manufacturer of specialty metal roofing and other building materials. And today, behind the scenes, we have Ethan Young doing our production work. So our goal here at Construction Disruption is to provide timely and forward looking information regarding the construction world. As part of that, we look at new innovations as well as trends and practices, building materials, the labor market, and leadership. Basically, if we pick up on something happening that is impacting the construction and remodeling industry now and we believe it's going to continue to impact it in the future, we go out and find an expert on that subject and bring them on the show to share their insight and knowledge. Today, we are talking to a longtime building materials executive, Adam Mazzella, with Mazzella Companies. He is their executive vice president and of course, they have Sheffield Metals International as well as New Tech. Adam, thank you very much for being on Construction Disruption today.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Thank you so much for having me. It's a real pleasure. Excited to be here and thanks for, thanks for the invite.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, thank you again. Why don't you tell our audience a little bit about Mazzella companies and what you folks do and, you know, whatever history you want to share on the company as well.

Adam Mazzella:

:

So my grandfather started the business back in 1954. So we're pushing almost 70 years in business.

Todd Miller:

:

Fantastic.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Started out as a wire rope company. So predominantly focusing on the material handling industry, selling wire rope slings and things, chain slings, synthetic slings, kinda you name it. My dad got into the business and started it as two locations and today all of Mazzella companies is, I want to say about 38 locations, over 800 employees. He's really blown the business up. My brother Matt and I are fortunate enough to be in the business as third generation and love carrying the business forward. My brother Matt's mostly on the lifting and cranes side and I'm on the metal roofing side, which is Sheffield Metals and New Tech Machinery.

Todd Miller:

:

And a lot of that growth on the metal side has been under your leadership. Am I correct on that?

Adam Mazzella:

:

I would say I've been a part of awesome teams throughout the years. My big business mentor, Mike Blake, we started transition a few years back. I look at Mike as kind of an absolute tactician, operationally, purchasing wise. I've been humbled to learn under him and focus on the sales and marketing aspect. And as Mike's transitioned out, we've been able to build a fantastic team on both sides of the business, both New Tech and Sheffield, as I've transitioned into a overall leadership role.

Todd Miller:

:

So of course, you know, the dynamics of family businesses are always interesting, but it's interesting that you ended up on the metals side of it. Your brother went the other way. How did that decision end up being? Was it just the preference the both of you had or?

Adam Mazzella:

:

I think it was kind of a kind of sort of natural. I mean, I, you know, violated a lot of labor laws growing up, working in rigging shops and assembling wire rope slings from like age 12 on. I mean, my grandpa used to bring me into the shop and show me how to Flemish various wire rope swings as a young child and my great grandfather, my grandfather carried patents on various wire rope slings for years. And so that's what I always thought I would be doing. And I was always into architecture and I graduated college, got into the business, went and got my green belt in Lean Six Sigma, and just so happened to do a Lean project for Sheffield Metals and struck up a relationship with Mike Blake and kind of one thing led to another. Had an opportunity to move into inside sales there at a remote location, Denver and started the branch there and really just worked my way up. Just fell in love with it, in all honesty. Like I said, I always enjoyed architecture. It was somewhat more appealing than anything we did on the lifting side. It was never that the lifting side was a turn off, just was really fascinated by the metals, the architectural side of it. And at that time it was just Sheffield Metals and just seemed to be a great fit.

Todd Miller:

:

Neat. Well, I know when you and I first met, you had to explain to me what wire ropes slings were. So I'm kind of thinking probably some of our audience doesn't realize where they're used in the industries they're used. So could you tell us a little bit about that since we used the term several times?

Adam Mazzella:

:

Absolutely. It's something that's everywhere and you kind of don't really notice it. And so it's like talking to somebody that, you know, oh, yeah, I do metal shingles. Well, really, you know, where do I see those? And you when you start to look for it, you kind of see it everywhere. So in construction, it's what you use to lift stuff with. And, you know, it's a crane, you know, that's lifting heavy, making heavy lifts. You'll see that there. You'll see rigging, anything that hangs below the hook on the crane. There's lifting devices. When you go into a large manufacturing facility, you look up, you might see a big overhead crane. We do that and then, you know, a wire rope sling. All it is, is a, I don't want to, you know, undersell this, but it's a essentially a steel rod that's braided into a rope similar to how a, you know, any rope would be made. But it's done with steel. And there's dozens, if not hundreds of construction methods for how the wire rope strand is made. And it's all based off of the application or the end application. If you're making a sling, it's a various rope. If it's a construction cable for a crane, it's a different kind of rope. If it's a cable that's in a steel mill for a process crane, it's a different kind of rope. So there's a real, real high level of expertise, as that relates that I don't want to profess to have. But we've got a lot of awesome people on that side of the business that kind of live there.

Todd Miller:

:

Very cool. I know here in the last year or so we had moved a new stamping press into our facility and I was looking at some of the wire rope and things that were being used there, and this was a pretty large press, but just astounding to watch that be moved and to see the skill that the folks had who knew how to do that well. Not to mention may have been some of your product being used to do the lifting. I don't know.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Yeah, no, it's a real, you know, specialty. I mean, there's there's no shortage of training and expertise and years that you have to go through to really become an expert in that world.

Todd Miller:

:

So, kind of switching gears a little bit, I know that as part of your work, you work with a lot of contractors. You're involved with some of the leading trade associations in the metals industry as well. What are some of the trends that you're seeing or hearing about out there? And, you know, construction, be it products or practices, maybe even trends in leadership and management. What are some of the trends you're seeing out there that you think our industry needs to be paying attention to, especially younger folks who are serious about careers in this industry?

Adam Mazzella:

:

I think we've talked about it in our previous work, but the number one thing in the construction world is labor. And how are we going to do more with less? And part of that really needs to be what's driving innovation to allow companies to do that. You know, we kind of view roofing and roofing installations as manufacturing. It's just your job sites, not a factory where you're performing. The work isn't a factory, it's a job site. So how can we help make people more efficient in their manufacturing? I think is a big focus. And, you know, us being predominantly focused on the standing seam world. That's really where we want to hone our. What's going to make a roofing contractor's life easier, better, faster, less waste, higher productivity. So from a traditional Sheffield Metals perspective, you know, we run these businesses as separate as possible and we just say that from the perspective of yes, they are both as our companies. Yes, I am over both of them. But you know, we want the Sheffield Metals people waking up thinking about, you know, metal roofing and sheet and coil and how they can better service their customers that need metal roofing. Yes, their customers may need standing seam machines or gutter machines, things like that. And that's something that they help with. But we want the people on New Tech being the experts there. So, you know, where we try to kind of cross paths really is when you have a need over here, then we can, you know, flip the switch and bring somebody from New Tech over to to help them with that. So try to run them separate. You know, we want people waking up thinking about staples as far as Sheffield goes and thinking about the stapler as far as New Tech Machinery goes.

Todd Miller:

:

Sure, gotcha. You know, I think it's interesting as I look at contractors out there and you and I have both worked with a lot over the years, I find some are really receptive to that idea of having a suppliers that they can partner with and that they can share ideas with. And, you know, there's others that haven't quite seen that as something that's important in their business yet. But I think it's really going to be increasingly important. Later on this week, in fact, we had a sort of a summit meeting scheduled with one of our leading customers to talk specifically about, you know, what are the things that we as a manufacturer can do to speed up your time on the job site? And unfortunately, we had to postpone due to illness and schedule later. I just heard from them this morning that they're not going to they'll make it up after all. But I'm kind of curious. So those are the types of relationships it sounds like both Sheffield and New Tech want to have with your customers. Do you find that also that some customers are more receptive to that than others?

Adam Mazzella:

:

Particularly on the New Tech side? I mean, these are the people that are handling machinery and figuring out what works, what doesn't work. If we're driving innovation inside of our four walls, particularly on the machinery side, you know, we're going to miss the mark. And we have done that. I mean, there's things that we know that we need to do to if we're going to say, hey, this is going to make a contractor's life easier, better, faster, they need to be involved in that. And it's not that they're going to have stake in it or ownership, but it doesn't make sense for us to think that our engineers can know all, be all. I mean, we're not going to design something to try to screw people up, but certainly if we don't have them in mind and input in mind, it's going to be easy for us to miss the mark. And we have had things like that happen before. I mean, we're dealing with something right now, for instance, with our controller, where we were so focused on driving a controller to market that was safer, and it is safer, it's abundantly safer. However, the logic, the coding, the interface isn't what it needs to be for contractors. So we're now in the process of racing backwards to try to get something out, right? But, you know, our focus wasn't to go out and say, hey, here's something new and different. It's better. It was from a safety perspective. And from that view we hit the mark and we're excited about that. We have a safer product. It's harder for people to to put them themselves or their employees in harm's way. But at the same token, we know we missed the mark on some other things, and now we're kind of racing backwards. We're not going to compromise on safety, but we know we absolutely need. And what's been driving this recent change is our customer's feedback, our contractor's feedback. So, you know, we've got really a six-month plan to kind of reinvent the programing. So, you know, here we are in May. You know, by the end of the year, we're thinking we'll have this project wrapped up and get it out to customers and we're releasing it in phases. So really over probably the next 60 days, we'll see phase one. That should help out pretty quick upfront initially. And then as we unpack the, you know, phases, probably every 30 to 60 days after that until we get through the project, see where it lands. But we're excited. Unfortunately, you know, it's caused some of our customers some pain along the way.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, I mean, ultimately, though, that sounds great and very groundbreaking in terms of your goal was to help the safety situation. And you nailed that. So now we got to go back and I suppose look at user friendliness and trainability and those types of things as well. But what a great place to start in terms of starting with safety. So one of the topics we've delved into a lot here on Construction Disruption is the idea of offsite construction. And, you know, we had one guest, Gary Fleisher, and Gary works a lot with modular construction where they build whole units and crane them out, maybe using wire rope slings. I don't know.

Adam Mazzella:

:

I'm sure they do, yeah.

Todd Miller:

:

Crane them out onto job sites and under foundations. But then we've also had a couple of guests who talked about panelized building. And I know that I think it's been hard for a lot of us in the metal roofing industry to get our heads around that possibility of some sort of free assembly that could take place. Just curious and this is way out of the blue, not something you and I had talked about talking about. But do you think our industry may have some ground that we can potentially make up there in terms of pre-assembly of metal components or faster ways to install on the job site by moving that more of that work into the manufacturing arena?

Adam Mazzella:

:

I've seen a lot of these things. I mean, there's a lot of cool technology, you know, a lot of companies kind of, I guess, startups out there that are doing a lot of things like this. I think it really boils down to the assembly and how things come together. Just as a rule of thumb, we typically say, Hey, metal panels don't leak, metal panels don't leak. It's really the trim that does. So if your, you know, if you've got a roof face, and then you need to have an interface with another roof face via a valley, via a hip, things like that, how can you accommodate that? Because ultimately that interface, that stitching together of those two things is where the opportunity for water intrusion is ultimately going to be. You know, one of the other challenges, I think, from a standing seam perspective is, you know, it's not designed to be assembled and taken apart, moved, assembled, taken apart, you know. So that could be a challenge. I mean, you don't want to handle standing seam, really any painted metal. You don't want to handle it too much. You know, some products out there that could do well with that might be like stainless steels or or things that kind of lend themselves to additional handling without needing to worry about the aesthetic appeal of it getting worn or too much handling. You know, there's some products that don't mind being scratched that aren't going to rust out or white rust. And so there's opportunity there. I mean, I don't think we've dedicated a whole lot of brainpower to saying, hey, what if we did this? I think we're still more focused on making things happen at the job site level.

Todd Miller:

:

You know, it's interesting, I've been doing some research for the last couple of years into what I call building-integrated solar. So various types of solar metal roofing, solar shingles. And as I've looked at those, you know, I've seen that so many of the companies that have developed those have not been from the roofing industry. And that's caused them to have some pretty unique ideas and approach as to how they're going to do the assembly of those systems. In some cases, they're even metal systems, some cases they're polymers. But, you know, the fact that you've got people entering our, traditionally our space, coming from other skills and training has been really interesting in terms of bringing some new ideas. So it's pretty cool, especially some of the stuff coming out of Europe and I'm excited to see the next few years and what all that brings. But anyway, it's it's very interesting.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Do you see BIPV coming back or, you know, the thin cell laminates, the peel-and-stick laminates?Do you think they'll come back?

Todd Miller:

:

I have not seen it so much in the thin film. What we're seeing is some of the solar shingle-type products that I understand some of their technology is close to thin film, but again, it's all pre-assembled in a factory.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Yeah, it's encapsulated.

Todd Miller:

:

Right. A lot of times between two layers of glass or something. And but where I've seen some really unique thought processes are how they're going to assemble those on the roof and do it in a fairly rapid fashion. Of course, they're also dealing with wiring and connections and things like that as well. No, I have not seen a lot with thin film and I've seen a few disasters with thin film as well, which I think surprised all of us, where we learned if that stuff was not really well laminated, water got underneath the thin film, that's a disaster waiting to happen.

Adam Mazzella:

:

And we used to be a distributor for a thin film application. And in theory and concept, it was awesome. And a lot of the pitfalls were just that the install as well as, you know, the the lack of efficiency. I mean I think we were talking about a product that was pretty much maxed out at about 9% efficient and everything I mean, most everything out there is 20 plus today without even blinking. So I've thought about, you know, what could you do? I mean, it it's almost like you have a blank canvas, south-facing roof deck. If you can put a blanket of solar panels underneath it and come up with a way to roll form a polycarbonate standing seam type system to still people give people that look, I don't know. I mean, there's there's a number of different ways to, quote unquote, skin that cat. But I've really been anxious to see some of the technology because, I mean, we're talking about when kind of thin film kind of faded out was about 2011.

Todd Miller:

:

Right.

Adam Mazzella:

:

'10, '11, '12, somewhere in there. And we've really been trying to push people towards, you know, like a clamped-on solution using traditional solar panels with like an S5 clamp or something like that, which helps you out with some of the, I guess, heat issues that some of the thin films have been having or thin films have, I should say. Where, you know, the roof deck overheats and you have a big, beautiful, sunny day and you get the degradation because the roof deck gets too hot. You know, the solar panel up off the deck. I mean, we've seen much better results there than we ever saw with the thin films.

Todd Miller:

:

And I'm right there with you. My advice has been traditional PV panels clamped onto standing seam, or if they really want a metal shingle, you know, we've got bracket mounts for that as well. But I do think there's a lot of progress being made out there in the building-integrated metal shingles in particular and other types of solar shingles that I think are going to play a role. But a similar situation going on, not near the efficiency and performance as far as energy.

Adam Mazzella:

:

And I've seen other things where people, you know, where most metal roofing today is cool. Everything's got to be cool. Well, people reaching out to us saying, hey, I need something with as low of an SRI as possible and making like an encapsulated deck that has a heat transfer. So they want to get that deck as hot as they can and create something that's going to create heat, which they're going to try to transfer into energy for various processes in the home. Whether it's a hot water heater or to drive that into the ground and create a thermal system, you know, for their house as a byproduct of what's happening on the roof, which is really cool.

Todd Miller:

:

Nah, it's good stuff. There's, there's a lot of progress to be made and it's exciting to see some efforts being put in those areas and see some younger folks coming into our industry, bringing some new thought processes and new ideas and new disciplines as well. Absolutely. Well, this has been fantastic. So I have to tell you, and this is a complete surprise to you, I think, Adam, we do something here on Construction Disruption called rapid-fire questions.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Am I allowed a pass?

Todd Miller:

:

You can pass. Noone's going to tell you you can't. And our audience needs to understand, he has no idea what we're going to ask him. So are you up to it?

Adam Mazzella:

:

I'm up for it, lets do it.

Todd Miller:

:

Number one, worst advice you've ever been given?

Adam Mazzella:

:

Worst advice I've ever been given. I don't know that I can answer that.

Todd Miller:

:

I'll say you may call out the guilty person. That's the problem.

Adam Mazzella:

:

I don't wanna.

Todd Miller:

:

We can pass. We can pass. Okay. Let's go to question number two. Who as a living person, would you most enjoy having the opportunity to trade places with and why?

Adam Mazzella:

:

Oh, man, I'm going to go current events. I mean, I'm loving what Elon Musk is doing and not necessarily from a social impact. I mean, that's fascinating. But what he's doing to solve big, big problems or looking at big, big problems in a unique, fascinating way. I mean, I love seeing what he's doing with the Boring company and Space X and then the obvious one is Tesla, but trying to solve just massive, massive problems and really putting his mouth, you know, putting his money where his mouth is to attempt to solve these things.

Todd Miller:

:

You know, that's the third time I think we've asked that question and the second time that Elon's been the answer. So we need to get Elon on the podcastone one of these days.

Adam Mazzella:

:

There you go.

Todd Miller:

:

That'd be fun. Okay, if you. Question number three. If you had to eat a crayon, what color of crayon would you choose to eat?

Adam Mazzella:

:

Probably blue. I just happened to, you know, I've got little kids and they ask me what my favorite color is. So I guess I have to have a favorite color and it tends to be blue. So I'll just go with that.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, no, no advice here to eat crayons. I don't want to pass that along to your kids.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Yeah, we have. Yeah, we have, we have funny crayon eating jokes in my house.

Todd Miller:

:

So question number four. Any thoughts on what your bucket list vacation would be?

Adam Mazzella:

:

Oh, man, I've done it.

Todd Miller:

:

I was gonna say, you've done a lot.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Not a lot of vacations, but my my honeymoon was the best. We went to a place called Cat Island in the Bahamas, and we went right before a hurricane hit. So we're flying in when everybody else is flying out. At baseline, it's the most secluded Bohemian island and then everyone ran out of there and we would go 30 miles away from where we were staying and people would say, Oh, you guys are the only people on the island this weekend. We literally had an island to ourselves is amazing. So that's like right up my alley.

Todd Miller:

:

That's cool. Good stuff. Next question, do you prefer the top or bottom half of a bagel?

Adam Mazzella:

:

Top half.

Todd Miller:

:

For sure. I'm right there with you, man. I have found some bottom half people, though, and I don't understand that.

Adam Mazzella:

:

What's what's the benefit?

Todd Miller:

:

I don't get it. You know, it's all doughy. Next question, morning or evening person? When do you feel most productive morning or evening?

Adam Mazzella:

:

Morning, by far.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah, I'm I'm ready to crash at about 9:00 at night.

Adam Mazzella:

:

I'm ready for bed when my wife's geared up, so.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah. So last question. Saw this hilarious meme once where someone took a picture of some homemade vehicle and it said, This is the car that we all drew when we were in second grade. But anyway, that isn't my question. Think back to your when you were a kid, what was your dream car?

Adam Mazzella:

:

Well, probably The Jetsons. I mean, it was something that could fly. You didn't have to be on the road. You don't have to deal with traffic all that much.

Todd Miller:

:

I saw the other day that we're kind of living in the Jetsons age right now in terms of time period.

Adam Mazzella:

:

I think I saw that too. Shorten your commute.

Todd Miller:

:

Good stuff. Anything we haven't talked about today that you'd like to share with our audience?

Adam Mazzella:

:

I would say there's a lot of fun stuff going on in the metal roofing world, you know, and we're always open to, you know, people helping us kind of, you know, what's going to work best for contractors? Whether it's the Sheffield site or the New Tech side. I mean, we develop plans and strategies with the best laid plans. I mean, we certainly don't do anything to say, oh, this is going to screw our customers up, let's do it. But, you know, when we set a plan and set a strategy, we love feedback. I tell my team all the time, you know, candor, please, please be honest. I mean, and if there's anything that we can do, you know, better, you know, we want to extend that to our customers because that's really what's going to help drive the innovation, not just for us, but the industry as a whole.

Todd Miller:

:

So yeah, and ours is such a great industry, I think in that respect and that we all realize that a rising tide raises all ships.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Absolutely.

Todd Miller:

:

We see that that growth and development is going to occur as an industry. That's good stuff. Well, hey, if folks want to get in touch with you, what would be their easiest or best way of doing that?

Adam Mazzella:

:

LinkedIn is probably the best way. I get pinged on that multiple times a day and it also flows to my email. Yeah, it's probably the best, best way.

Todd Miller:

:

Fantastic. Adam, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been a real pleasure. I enjoyed visiting with you.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Yeah, thanks for having me. It was pretty humbling to be invited on here by you. So I appreciate it.

Todd Miller:

:

Thank you.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Thank you.

Adam Mazzella:

:

Todd Miller: And thank you audience so much for tuning in to this episode of Construction Disruption with Adam Mazzella of the Mazzella companies, including Sheffield Metals International and New Tech Machinery. Please watch for future episodes of our podcast. We always have more great guests on tap. Don't forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts or YouTube. Until next time though, change the world for someone. Make them smile, encourage them. Two very powerful things we can do to change the world. God bless, take care. This is Isaiah Industries signing off until the next episode of Construction Disruption.

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