Thompson’s Welding Services, Inc.
Notice the difference
Business View Magazine interviews Ken Thompson, President of Thompson’s Welding Services, Inc. for our focus on Steel Tank and Pressure Vessel Fabrication.
Founded in 1972, Thompson’s Welding Services Inc. (TWS) is an industrial fabrication company with skilled, multi-craft personnel who work to meet all the technical, scheduling, safety, procurement, and manpower requirements of a project. Experienced and innovative supervisors use proven project management skills to successfully complete the most demanding projects to complete satisfaction. Thompson’s offers a complete shop fabrication service, field installation of boilers, pressure vessels, tanks, piping systems, structural steel, and turnkey solutions. Family-owned and customer-focused, Thompson’s Welding Services does it all.
Ken Thompson, President of Thompson’s Welding Services, reflects on the history of this ambitious family firm: “My Dad, Bill Thompson, started the business here in Hamilton, Mississippi in 1972, as Bill’s Welding Service. Prior to that he’d been working construction. He was a pipe welder, traveling out of town quite a bit, and he worked locally at a chemical plant for a few years in the 1960s. In 1972 he built a small shop and decided to go into business for himself; mostly, working for farmers – cotton farming was big in the area. Around 1974, oil production was growing in this area, and he started doing rig repair work for the drilling companies. This led to changing the name of the business to Thompson’s Oil Field Service in the late ‘70s.”
During the summers of Ken Thompson’s high school years (1979 to 1981), he was heavily involved in the company’s oil field service, mainly welding for natural gas compressors, short pipelines, and a lot of rig repair. The oil and gas industry was very busy and Thompson’s had about a dozen employees. When oil and gas slowed down, they reached out to some local contacts from Bill’s pipe fabrication days and started doing work in the chemical plant industry. The company’s last oil field job was in 1990 – at that time, they changed the name to Thompson’s Welding Service.
TWS began with small jobs in chemical plants in the immediate area, and that has grown to having a staff of 90 employees, including a full-time safety person and engineers. Thompson recalls, “We’ve been an ASME pressure vessel shop for 25 years. In 2007, we built a new fabrication shop and five years later we doubled the size of it. Currently, my brother Barry and I manage all company operations.”
Ken is involved with everything that happens in the shop and in the field, project management, acquiring work, bidding projects, and Barry takes cares of the office side, from managing office personnel to all the financials. He admits, “People say with a family business you’re asking for trouble, and we’ve had our share of issues and challenges, but we were raised in a family working environment so we try to tread lightly on the problem areas and give each other the trust and respect to get through each day. We divide our duties and try not to carry too much baggage into the next day. We know that’s how we can survive and be successful.”
Thompson’s Welding Services is extremely proud of their fabrication and construction skills and is committed to building strong lasting relationships with clients. The company’s diverse experience allows flexibility to fulfill the ever-changing needs of both the customer and the project. In addition, financial stability ensures their ability to pursue very large projects, along with smaller jobs. Working every day with the goal of completing the job as scheduled, to the highest industry standards, at a competitive price, is the company’s strong suit.
TWS fabricates a variety of different products but they are all custom; they don’t mass produce or manufacture a certain piece on a repetitive basis. The company’s main services are pressure vessels fabrication, process piping, and structural fabrication. Three of the primary customers fit the chemical plant definition. Some others are steel mills, such as Steel Dynamics Incorporated (SDI), just 30 minutes away in Columbus, Mississippi. Ken explains, “Our goal is to establish long-term working relationships with our customers, not just do a job or two and worry about another opportunity later. We go above and beyond for quality and satisfaction, providing a service they can depend on, nights, weekends, holidays, for emergency repairs and maintenance jobs. We know if we can offer that 24/7, it gives extra value to companies, some of them we’ve been working with for 20 or 30 years. Tronox, LLC; Westlake Corporation; Steel Dynamics (SDI); Nouryon – we have great working relationships with people at all four of those facilities.”
Valued employees are also key to TWS’s growth and success. Most of the staff are long-term, having been with the company anywhere from 10 to 30 years. Thompson’s takes pride in building relationships with each one and supporting them on and off the job. To meet the challenge of finding skilled labor, TWS has teamed up with the local junior college to offer internships to the technical training and pipe welding classes, and the company has actually hired workers from that. “We just have to make the commitment to find young people who want to do this for a career,” says Ken. “And we do spend time and money teaching and training to cultivate local people to stay in the area.”
NexGen Crane & Rigging is celebrating one year as a subsidiary of Thompson’s Welding Services. It was a logical evolution of the company – in the last three or four years, many projects they were bidding on included crane work as part of the scope and they were subcontracting that out to companies with their own cranes. TWS saw an opportunity to move in that direction and took it. They already owned two cranes and have since purchased three larger cranes and hired specialty personnel in the industry to partner with their welding and fabrication service. Not only do they use the cranes for current projects, they’re also building a customer list for crane work only. So, NexGen works alongside TWS on some projects, and on separate work for the cranes. There are several avenues for growth with specialty rigging and crane customers.
Looking ahead, Ken says, “On the TWS side, the objective is to continue providing quality service to our current customers, while increasing our footprint in the pressure vessel fabrication sector. We try to keep our website updated and informative and we want to generate more business via that platform. Currently, most new business is generated through word of mouth or links to our existing customers. That’s an area we could be more aggressive in – our online presence.
“My dad has done a remarkable job of delegating responsibility, and authority, and decision making for many years,” Ken notes. “I’ve been quoting and bidding jobs since my early 20s, with his oversight, but was given latitude. It seemed easy to me, then, that Dad would relinquish responsibilities and I’m starting to see now that’s not quite as easy as he made it look. Today, my daughter works in the front office, and my two sons are involved in helping to manage crews and are both certified pipe welders. So, I’m learning. Barry’s son works alongside him, helping with financial strategies, and played a major role in getting NexGen Crane & Rigging up & running. Barry’s son-in-law is a Quality Control Engineer. So, the third generation is here and working. We are very fortunate that our father (Bill) gets to see the involvement of the 3rd generation in the family business.”
AT A GLANCE
Who: Thompson’s Welding Services, Inc.
What: Family-owned, pressure vessel fabricator
Where: Hamilton, Mississippi