At 35, Fabcon Remains On A Roll

Having completed 8,000-plus projects throughout the Midwest and Eastern U.S. and Canada from operations in Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania,

Having completed 8,000-plus projects throughout the Midwest and Eastern U.S. and Canada from operations in Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania, precast panel producer Fabcon is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. Since 1971, the company has manufactured, delivered and installed precast wall panels for a wide range of structures: 10,000-sq.-ft. retail stores, 1 million-sq.-ft. distribution centers, and 16-story housing facilities. Thus, from a modest supplier of floor slab, Fabcon has grown to serve a customer base including big box retailers Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, Target, and Wal-Mart.


To coincide with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s Innovation in Manufacturing Day in mid-August, Fabcon staged an anniversary celebration at its Savage, Minn., headquarters. Attended by nearly 600, the event included plant tours; a showcase highlighting Fabcon patents, equipment and panels designs; keynote speakers; and, a sheet cake designed to resemble a VersaCore panel.

Innovation in Manufacturing Day was named by the governor to recognize companies demonstrating continued advancement in manufacturing and technological achievement. Fabcon’s 84 patents in the areas of plant automation, panel design, and manufacturing equipment place the company among Minnesota enterprises honored by the state proclamation.

This celebration commemorates not only our achievements of the past 35 years, but also those of all innovators in the manufacturing industry, said Fabcon President and CEO Mike Le Jeune. Innovation is important to the health of our company and that of the manufacturing industry as a whole. Reinforcing that message were guest speakers Savage Mayor Thomas Brennan; Minnesota Senator Claire Roblin and Representative Mark Buesgens; David Gaither, chief of staff for Governor Pawlenty; and, U.S. Rep. John Kline (R-2nd District).


The recent installation of new finishing machines at Fabcon facilities in Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania marks the second phase of a companywide automation initiative. Designed by Fabcon to create more accurate exterior wall finishes, the automated finishing machine produces tolerances of ? in., while ±∫-in. tolerances are typical of conventional, nonautomated methods.

Additionally, the automated machine promotes design flexibility, allowing complex finishes for each panel without sacrificing efficiency and economy. Custom finishes include imprinted bands at any height on the panel surface. Notes Fabcon Manager of Research and Development Jason Hensley, The new finishing machine creates an imprint finish, a popular option for our large corporate customers, with the greatest accuracy, speed and design flexibility in the market.

Introduction of the new finishing machine followed the first phase of Fabcon’s automation project Û the laser projection system. Eliminating the need to manually transfer panel designs from paper to the casting bed, FabCAD 3D proprietary software interfaces with a computer-aided manufacturing system to project a laser image of designs directly onto panels, allowing accurate panels to be created in the shortest time.

Other innovations to Fabcon’s credit include the segmented concrete screed. In contrast to conventional screeds Û long, solid bars used to level a panel at a precise thickness Û the segmented screed comprises sections that can be raised and lowered independently. Isolating segment operation allows automated equipment to bypass obstructions in the panel, such as blockouts, that would otherwise require hand finishing.

Further customizing the casting process, variable height side forms were devised that can be raised or lowered and then locked into position at any height; plus, they can be adjusted to accommodate any panel thickness. Project efficiency and economy are thus enhanced, since costly hand-finishing is eliminated as concrete is prevented from flowing over the edge.

Also promoting architectural design flexibility and construction efficiency, Fabcon created new beds to produce panels 12 feet and wider. Larger-product capabilities suited demand for casting in dock doors and larger window openings, and helped accelerate field operations by reducing the number of panels to be erected. Additionally, Fabcon’s rolling bed technology allows all equipment to be housed in a small area, as compared to the space required for fixed-bed production. Instead of expending resources and energy to move equipment to areas of the panel requiring work, rolling beds bring the panel to the equipment. Fabcon is thereby able to lower overall equipment lifecycle costs and maintain high tolerance levels with automated machinery.

In 2002, a technique developed by Fabcon to embed insulating foam into precast products led to the design of VersaCore panels. Incorporating a high-density cell structure, expanded polystyrene foam billets suspended within the precast help VersaCore panels deliver a high R-value, significantly improving thermal efficiency. As a result, VersaCore-paneled buildings reduce heating and cooling costs up to 30 percent, Fabcon officials affirm. Now providing even higher R-values for superior thermal efficiency, the VersaCore Plus line consists of three premium panels. Moreover, all models are lightweight for easy transport and installation. Û