SIC 3446

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.

NAICS Code(s)

332323 (Ornamental and Architectural Metal Work Manufacturing)

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, lamp posts, flag poles, 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.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1,742 establishments operated in this category in the late 1990s. Industry-wide employment totaled 37,749 workers receiving a payroll of almost $1.19 billion in 2000. Of these employees, 27,425 worked in production, putting in more than 56 million hours to earn wages of more than $703 million. Overall shipments for the industry in 2000 were valued at more than $5.1 billion.

Organization and Structure

The architectural and ornamental metal work industry is served by several trade and/or professional associations. The National Ornamental and Miscellaneous Metals Association, headquartered in Forest Park, Georgia, has 675 member companies and publishes the bimonthly NOMMA Newsletter. The National Association of Architectural Metal Manufacturers, based in Chicago, Illinois, has 124 member companies. The largest organization, the International Association of Bridge, Structural, and Ornamental Iron Workers, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has 135,000 individual members and publishes The Iron Worker. Affiliated with this organization are Architectural and Ornamental Iron Workers local unions.

Background and Development

Metal working is one of the world's oldest trades. It originated in about 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 boom periods 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. And, 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.

Current Conditions

The value of industry shipments grew steadily throughout the late 1990s, from $4.17 billion in 1997 to $4.85 in 1999. Shipments in 2000 totaled $5.12 billion. The cost of materials also increased in the late 1990s, from $1.93 billion in 1997 to $2.27 billion in 1999. The cost of materials in 2000 totaled $2.39 billion. The total number of employees fell from 38,356 in 1999 to 37,749 in 2000. Production workers in 2000 totaled 27,425; they earned an average hourly wage of $12.43.

Industry Leaders

Historically, small private firms have dominated the industry. In fact, in 1996 most of the top 80 firms employed 100 or fewer people; 79 percent of companies had 19 or fewer employees, and only 3 percent of companies employed more than 100. Furthermore, three-fourths of those companies generated revenues of less than $10 million. Predominant locations for the greatest number of firms in the industry were California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Architectural and ornamental metal work industry leaders included Baltimore-based Northrop Grumman Corporation's Electronic Sensors and Systems Division, with almost $9.9 billion in 1997 sales and the Harsco Corporation of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, with 1998 sales of over $1.7 billion. Subsidiary Patent Construction Systems of Paramus, New Jersey, handled Harsco's architectural metal work business, contributing $272 million to its parent company's sales. Patent manufactured metal works for specialized applications: for example, 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" was made by Patent. Patent's business grew by 168 percent between 1994 and 1999 on the strength of the construction industry's rebound from its early-1990's bust. Other industry leaders included Houston-based Aluma Systems USA Inc.; Drew Industries Inc. of White Plains, New York; and Bissell Inc. of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Further Reading

Baehr, Guy T. "Paramus, N.J.-Based Scaffolding Maker's Work Stands Up over Time." Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News , 26 November 1999.

Braun-Feldweg. Metal Design and Technique. London: B.T. Batsford Ltd., 1975.

Darnay, Arson J., ed. Manufacturing USA. 5th ed. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 1996.

Directory of Corporate Affiliations: Who Owns Whom. New Providence, NJ: National Register Publishing, 1996.

Geerlings, Gerald K. Metal Crafts in Architecture. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929.

Infotrac Company Profiles. Available at (1/29/00)

U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1995 Annual Survey of Manufactures. Washington, GPO 1997. Available from and .

United States Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census-Manufacturing. Available at (2/10/00).

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

U.S. Department of Commerce. International Trade Administration. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Washington GPO, 1997. Available from .

User Contributions:

Manuel Taylor
Great article - do you know how many Businesses are related to making Metal Fencing in Riverside and Los Angeles Counties.

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