By Linda Schmid
Growing up, brothers Monroe and Mahlon Miller were trained in woodworking by their dad, and they learned a love of creating something useful.
As adults they worked in construction, building post-frame buildings, roofing, and working in stud framing. However, they discovered a lack of quality steel frame trusses in the industry, a lack they thought they could supply. Further, they felt that it was an opportunity to help their community, offering jobs in an area where opportunities were few and far between.
In 2014 they decided to get into the manufacturing side of things; they started Buffalo River Truss.
Early Challenges and Solutions
An early challenge for the Millers was engineering. Mahlon Miller, Owner/Manager, says that wooden trusses are common and the engineering requirements are built into software in many cases, but when they started working with steel, every new truss had to be engineered and approved without software. This required finding the right engineers and developing processes and systems to keep trusses consistent.
After persistence and keeping on the lookout for quality sources they found an engineering firm to work with that supplies engineering services across the country.
The process of finding the best layout and flow through the workspace proved tricky at first. With limited space and fast growth they were out of space quickly. Juggling the raw steel and finished product for maximum production caused them to develop efficient processes in their limited space.
They resolved this space dilemma when the opportunity came about to purchase a building from a company that moved out of the area. They got a good deal and now they operate with 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
A great percentage of their production is used for post frame agricultural buildings, according to Miller. “Steel shines for use in ag and open buildings; many farmers put up open buildings to store hay or provide some shelter for animals,” he said.
Farmers like steel trusses because they allow for even more head room than scissor trusses. Their most commonly requested truss is the 40′ Miller said because it is economically rewarding to build with that size.
The company is located in Lobelville, Tennessee, about 75 miles to the west of Nashville in a county of about 8,000 people. Very few companies locate there, so there is very little job opportunity which helps with the challenge of finding employees, but even so, it isn’t always easy to find new recruits.
Miller says that they have partnered with the Hope Center to employ people who are trying to rebuild their lives after various types of personal problems. Some of these people have worked very well, becoming trusted members of the team.
Buffalo River Truss has gone mill-direct and negotiated great rates with steel mills such as Steel Dynamics. They now serve Tennessee, and much of the southeast, moving into Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, developing a new distributorship in Iowa, and expanding toward the northeast.
Into The Future …
The company’s culture and philosophy surely play their part in the company’s growth. Miller said that as a Christian company they strive to always be honest and treat people right. They believe that if they work as hard as they can at producing the best product and service, fairly and truthfully, they will succeed in the end.
With this solid foundation, the company is working toward an ambitious goal. They want to become a leader in an industry that they hope will be expanding so that steel trusses are almost as common as wood trusses.
How do they plan to make that happen? They plan on partnering with builders and distributors across the country to provide steel trusses for the post frame industry. With a newer larger footprint and manufacturing capacity they are ramping up their marketing and sales to get the word out.
The quality of their product and service should do the rest. FBN