Nucor traces its origins to auto manufacturer Ransom E. Olds, who founded Oldsmobile and then, in 1905, REO Motor Car Company. The new company was an innovator, producing the first commercial cars with electric lights, an electric starter, and pneumatic tires.
Through a series of transactions, the company Olds founded eventually became, in 1955, Nuclear Corporation of America. By that time, the company was involved in the nuclear instrument and electronics business. Nuclear bought several companies over the next few years, including a South Carolina maker of steel joists and joist girders called Vulcraft Corp. that would soon provide the spark for the company's remarkable evolution.
Nucor and affiliates are manufacturers of steel products, with operating facilities primarily in the U.S. and Canada. Products produced include: carbon and alloy steel --in bars, beams, sheet, and plate; steel joists and joist girders; steel deck; fabricated concrete reinforcing steel; cold finished steel; steel fasteners; metal building systems; light gauge steel framing; steel grating and expanded metal; and wire and wire mesh. Nucor, through the David J. Joseph Company, also brokers ferrous and nonferrous metals, pig iron, and HBI/DRI; supplies ferro-alloys; and processes ferrous and nonferrous scrap. Nucor is North America's largest recycler.
Commitment to Employees
Eliminating the distinctions between management and hourly employees as much as possible serves Nucor well. Nucor's employees respond positively to Nucor's production incentives. In return, Nucor remains committed to not laying off employees in slow periods. Since its entry into the steel-making business, Nucor has not laid off a single worker due to lack of work. The result is a committed team of Nucor employees and high-quality products. Nucor builds quality into its processes through continuous improvement, innovation, consistent investment in modern equipment, customer focus, and a diligent commitment to safety.
In the words of one Nucor executive, "Workers excel here because they are allowed to fail." Nucor managers at all levels encourage their employees to try out their new ideas. Sometimes the ideas work out, sometimes they don't. But this freedom to try helps give Nucor one of the most creative, get-it-done work forces in the world.
Nucor's lean management supports strong employee relations. Workers know if they have a suggestion, their idea won't get buried in bureaucracy. When a complaint does come up, Nucor has a straightforward way of handling it: Nucor allows any employee to ask for a review of the complaint if he or she feels the supervisor has not provided a fair hearing. The employee can move the appeal quickly to the general manager and then to the corporate office for consideration.
One of the lesser-known ingredients in Nucor's success has been its commitment to locate its diverse facilities in rural locations across America. Nucor has traditionally avoided building its manufacturing sites in major cities. Instead, Nucor has preferred smaller, lesser-known towns such as Brigham City, Utah; Grapeland, Texas; and Waterloo, Indiana.
By selecting non-urban locations, Nucor has been able to establish strong ties to its local communities and its work force. In each location, Nucor is often one of the community's largest and highest-paying employers, providing rewarding careers to employees in their own local communities. That helps Nucor attract the hard-working, dedicated employees that make it one of the world's most productive manufacturers.
Nucor takes an egalitarian approach in providing benefits to its employees. Senior executives do not enjoy traditional perquisites such as company cars, executive dining rooms, or executive parking places. In fact, certain benefits such as Nucor's Profit Sharing, Scholarship Program, Employee Stock Investment Plan, Extraordinary Bonus and Service Awards Program are not available to Nucor's officers. All employees have the same holidays, vacation schedules, and insurance programs. This equality in benefits is a key ingredient toward fostering the teamwork approach that is an essential part of Nucor's business.