Years ago, the majority of sheet metal contractors were involved in just residential work. In recent years, the trend has been toward the residential contractors doing light commercial and light indus­trial work. This is because manu­factured sheet metal fittings, duct­work and specialty items are available today. Since many of these sheet metal specialty items are available from manufacturers, you need less equipment and ma­chinery today to enter the heavy industrial and commercial market.

To some extent this is good because all your jobs are not tied up with one market. If there should be a slowdown in one type of work, you still have the other types of work to do since you are established in the other markets. For example, if interest rates go too high, less homes are built.

List your shop objectives and the type and amount of work you do. Then consider if you will be going into the other markets, or possibly you are going to expand your present operations so that you can do a larger volume of the same type of work.

Generally the minimum requirements for machinery for the one to three man shop doing residential and light commercial work include:

  • Foot shear
  • Four foot hand brake
  • Eight foot hand brake
  • Easy edger
  • Slip roller
  • Pittsburgh machine
  • Hand cleat bender
  • Supply of hand tools, hand punches, tongs, electric drills, unishears, etc.

Shops that have a larger volume of work are faced with higher overhead — as your volume of work increases, so does your overhead. To remain competitive, you must have as much power equipment as possible, or as much as is avail­able.

In some parts of the country, sheet metal work is not so compe­titive because there are not many sheet metal shops. In other parts of the country, there are many sheet metal shops, which makes a much more competitive market. What type of area you are located in will, in part, help to determine the amount and type of machinery and equipment you need. Regard­less of your size, you must be able to remain competitive in your mar­ket. Frequently, this requires additional machines, depending what your competitors are doing.

In the last decade, more and more HVAC sheet metal contrac­tors have completely automated their shops. To invest a large sum of money in this highly sophisti­cated machinery, it is obvious that a large volume of work must be done each year. When your volume increases, you cannot afford to handle ductwork operations piece by piece, particularly if there are quicker methods available that are being used by your competitors.