The Thrailkill Legacy: 70 Years of Precision Sheet Metal Fabrication

November 9, 2023

All Metals Fabricating has been in precision sheet metal fabrication since its founding in 1953. Despite offering only a handful of capabilities initially, the shop quickly garnered a reputation for excellence.

When Bill Thrailkill purchased the sheet metal shop in 1978, he worked tirelessly to expand AMF’s capabilities and create a profitable future for his family, employees, and customers. Bill quadrupled sales in the first year and continued to grow AMF steadily before passing the torch to his son, Billy. 

Decades later, Billy would hand AMF to his own son, Lance, and his nephew, Will. With each generation, AMF has prospered. However, no matter how large AMF has grown, the standard of excellence has remained as high as ever.

To the Thrailkill family, AMF represents a second home, a ministry, and a legacy. However, spanning over 70 years and three generations of Thrailkills, AMF has come to mean something equally important to customers.

Quality and trust.

The Early Years of Our Texas Sheet Metal Shop

By the time Bill purchased AMF, he’d worked in the sheet metal industry for years. Acquiring AMF was an opportunity to build something bigger than himself—his hard work would create better lives for his family and provide jobs for hard-working Americans.

In the early years, AMF was all hands on deck. Bill worked around the clock to expand AMF’s capabilities and customer base, often sleeping in the sheet metal shop. His wife stepped into the role of bookkeeper despite having no prior experience. According to Bill, she “kept him out of trouble,” and he credits her with much of the company’s early success.

Bill's commitment to treating customers like family, combined with his tremendous work ethic, quadrupled sales in the first year, despite canceling a large contract for Greyhound bus station benches that were a big selling point when he bought it. Bill continued to introduce capabilities that would benefit customers while maintaining the same level of quality they’d come to expect from AMF.

“We've always looked at our business not as a business that was meant for us, but for our employees and our customers,” reflected Bill. 

However, like with most businesses, it wasn’t all big gains and profits. In 2000, the company lost nearly half of its sales due to drastic market correction in the telecom industry, resulting in the only layoff in the 45 years that the Thrailkills have owned the business.  However, Bill and Billy still elected to fund the 15% 401K contribution that year, despite the company having lost money.  They repeated this again in 2008, which was another year that the company lost money. This example of “we care more” illustrates how ownership consistently puts the employees first, which has resulted in unwavering loyalty and an average tenure of nearly 15 years despite having more than doubled the workforce.  

Investing in the Family Business

As AMF grew in that first year, Bill’s son Billy left his own business to join the company. With two generations of Thrailkills at the helm, the family continued to invest heavily in AMF. It’s one of the factors that, to this day, sets AMF apart from other sheet metal shops.

One of the biggest improvements in AMF’s capabilities was the shift to automated machinery. Bill’s first investment was a CNC punching machine, and he didn’t stop there. Embracing automation remains a driving force for the company to this day.

The Thrailkills consistently reinvested in the company by updating equipment annually and prioritizing innovation over their own take-home earnings. 

Now that Bill’s grandsons, Lance and Will, are running the show, this dedication to reinvestment has become a legacy to fulfill. 

“We’re proud to carry on the legacy of continuously reinvesting in our company, and we have even doubled down on that approach!” said Lance.

AMF Treats Customers and Employees Like Family

The early Thrailkill family values shaped AMF’s development. From day one, Bill knew treating customers and employees like family was the key to a successful business. 

But that involved more than practicing good manners. The AMF team emphasized ethical business conduct and rigorously followed their core values, which inspire the company to this day: 

  • Whatever It Takes!
  • Relentless Pursuit of Excellence
  • We Care More!
  • Innovation
  • Integrity in Everything We Do

These values apply to how they treat customers, vendors, and employees. AMF understands hard-working, happy employees serve customers best, and the Thrailkills go above and beyond to ensure employee satisfaction.

AMF holds an annual paid hunting trip, hosts a company chaplain once a month, awards quarterly bonuses, and more. Due to AMF’s generous 15% 401(k) contributions, an employee hired just 5 years ago was finally able to buy his first house by taking out a loan against his 401K for his downpayment. This generosity is a staple of AMF’s culture.

Moving Forward in Precision Sheet Metal Fabrication

All four Thrailkills agree: the business succeeds due to hard work, staying out of debt, and treating customers well. In theory, these principles are simple, but maintaining them consistently for 70 years requires a dedication only found at our Texas sheet metal shop.

Under the current leadership team, AMF is increasing its focus on technological capabilities like robotic welding, robotic bending, integrated cut-to-bend solutions, and expanding into new industries like the alternative energy sector

As AMF passes from Thrailkill to Thrailkill, the family has a unique generational view of the ever-changing sheet metal industry.

“Each year, of course, things improve a little. If you go look at the changes over five years, you can just be amazed. But if you look at it per decade…there’s no way we could have seen these changes coming. All the different capabilities, including robotics and automation,” reflected Billy. “So even when we’re tempted to think we’ve done everything we can, we know that's not true. There’s always more to come.”

Watch the full interview here.

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