Stainless steel storage tanks
are among the most ubiquitous pieces of metal equipment in
modern society, holding everything from milk to chemicals to
pharmaceuticals to lubricants. They hide in plain sight in
industrial parks across the world, on the factory floor and on
the highway. They keep our food safe and prevent chemicals from
leaching into the ground. And they are fabricated in hundreds
of plants scattered around the country, making up one of the
more fragmented segments of the nations finished metals
"We fabricate and sell tanks for
every reason and every season," said Cheryl Schuster, sales
manager for Buckeye Fabricating Co. The Springboro, Ohio,
company is typical of the industry. The family owned company
with 35 employees has been making stainless storage tanks since
1963, some 50,000 in the past 48 years. "We sell them through
our own sales force," Schuster said. "We dont have a
product line, and we start from scratch. We custom fabricate
Like many other family owned
fabricating companies, Buckeye Fabricating takes a shotgun
approach to selling its products and services. The company
fabricates storage tanks for customers who need to inventory
everything from liquid soap to bulk grain to petroleum. "We
dont do a lot in food grade or pharmaceuticals, but we do
a lot in the chemical industry," Schuster said.
Like most of its competitors,
Buckeye Fabricating spreads the risk by handling other lines,
primarily carbon steel tanks. Its business is split fairly
evenly between the two lines.
In nearby Belding, Mich., Stapco
Stainless Products Corp., a division of Belding Tank
Technologies Inc., has been fabricating stainless storage tanks
since 2005. Belding Tank started in 1992 as a fabricator of
fiberglass tanks but added the stainless line as a corporate
Stapco sales engineer Bill Ruble
said that the division fabricates "a basic-need tank to a
higher-end tank. We market to the middle of the road.
Thats where most of the needs are." Stapco services the
food and beverage industry, as well as pharmaceuticals.
Although the majority of its business is in the Midwest, the
division can service customers nationwide. Lately, Stapco has
been doing some international work, primarily for customers in
Mexico and the Caribbean.
"Stainless storage tanks get
sold on the strength of longevity, durability and
cleanability," Ruble said. "You can use it for one medium,
clean the tank out and use it for another." But the longevity
of stainless tanks is one of the business drawbacks, he
said. "Stainless tends to last awhile, and used tanks can be
pretty competitive to new ones."
P.L. Questad, general manager at
Superior Steel Products Inc., Caldwell, Idaho, agreed. "These
tanks dont really wear out," he said. Superior Steel
Products, purchased by the Questad family in 1994, also
fabricates carbon steel tanks, with stainless storage tank
fabrication accounting for anywhere from 35 to 50 percent of
its annual volume.
Superior Steel Products
specializes in fabricating stainless storage tanks for
agricultural fertilizers, chemicals, fuel storage and mining.
"We started as a fabricator of tanks for agricultural
fertilizers," Questad said. "Thats always been our bread
and butter." But in recent years the company has branched out
into fabricating tanks for municipalities upgrading water
treatment and filtration systems.
Questad said a big market for
Superior Steel Products is the Pacific Northwest, California
and Arizona, although the company sells tanks to customers as
far away as Texas, New York, Louisiana and Florida, and even
some to the U.S. military for use in Iraq.
John Fearn sells tanks for a
Wisconsin company that makes a line of stainless storage tanks
for food, beverage, dairy, pharmaceutical and personal care
processors. "We sell primarily to the sanitary process
industry," said Fearn, a sales representative for Walker
Stainless Equipment Co.
Located in New Lisbon in the
heart of Wisconsins dairy industry, Walker Stainless got
its start during World War II making tanks for the bulk
transportation of milk from dairy farms to processors. "We made
tanks for wheels and decided to take the wheels off," said
Fearn, who noted that the company has a division that still
makes over-the-road tankers for dairies. "We do a lot of
process tanks, agitation vessels for blending, mixing, heating
The company also sells sanitary process tanks nationwide and
in Canada, Mexico and Central America. "We have installed
70,000-gallon stainless silos for dairies in Florida, Vermont
and California," said Fearn, who noted that his company is "one
of four significant companies in the U.S. that play in our
field on the sanitary process side."