6c8ae0b6-f0c8-4651-9c4a-296f19871ae9When was the last time you built a mezzanine whose design criteria included floors that can be shot through? That was the task given to us by Scene 75, the largest indoor entertainment center in the country and the latest finalist in the “Top Family Entertainment Center in North America” from International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA). They set out to build a unique 2 story laser tag structure to thrill their guests in their new facility.

We have been showing you pictures of this project for the last few months as our monthly contest. A few came close (and we gave them prizes), but no one guessed a laser tag arena.

We haven’t had a chance to get there yet (too hard at work on other Steel Structure projects!) If you are in the Cincinnati, OH (Milford to be exact) area- check out Scene 75 and let us know how much fun the Laser Tag is. Like some of our Mezzanine work, you can only see our product in a few locations in the structure. The true test is the strength. Laser Tag structures need to be solid, safe, and dependable. Bluff is proud to be the product beneath so much fun.

Got Rucking?

Have you ever been in a situation when you feel your mind and/or body has been pushed to its limits? Many of us have at different points in our life. Those events can be painful at the time and usually lead to growth and learning. Ryan Steinly, one of our welders, learned this in a recent endurance event.
Ryan participated in a “Go Ruck” event in April. The endurance test was a 6 hour event locally here in Texas. Ryan carried a backpack with 30 lbs of weight and 2 liters of water (his Ruck) and participated in a variety of endurance tests with a team of people for 6 hours.
During the event, Ryan learned a great deal about teamwork. His fellow Ruckers in the event, his “Cadre”, have continued to be close friends. He learned a lot about how much he could accomplish and how much more he could accomplish with a team.
Ryan says that, since the event, his life has really changed. He continues to Ruck and has lost weight. He feels confident in how far he can go and what he can accomplish with a team. That knowledge about teamwork is carrying over to both his work here at Bluff and his relationship with his wife and kids.
He plans to participate in another Go Ruck event in August.

What is Rucking?
From the Go Ruck website, “To put weight on your back and go for a walk. More weight or more miles equals more results, more friends and more time together equals more fun.”
They also detail the “Rucking Rules”:
  • Nobody rucks alone
  • When in doubt, smiles over miles
  • Ruckers encourage each other
We think those are great life lessons….
About Ryan
Ryan learned welding as a 15 year-old through an apprenticeship program in his high school in West Texas. He has been with Bluff for two years and is the lead welder for our aluminum products. Ryan has two children.  Since his Go Ruck Race, he spends his free time Rucking with his wife and his 11 year-old son.
Source: Go Ruck, 2015.

Leadership Lessons From Seahawks Super Bowl Fail: Own It & Grow

Entrepreneurs talk boldly about risk and about embracing the lessons of failure when things go wrong. But what if one’s failure is epic and instantaneous, with 100-million-plus people watching live and most of them agreeing the risk you took was really, really dumb? This Chicago Tribune article asked a few entrepreneurs and leadership experts to put themselves in Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s shoes. Imagine you’ve blown it. What do you do next?

Let’s Hear it for the IT Guy


We’ve all said it: “I don’t know what I’d do without my computer.” It can feel weird to admit and we’re probably all a little tired of hearing it, but it really is true. In this day and age, computerlessness is utterly crippling to productivity. And for this reason we should all thank our lucky stars for IT guys. These are the men and women who not only tolerate computers, they understand them, and they spend their days putting out the technological fires that delay and derail our business.

While some companies employ entire squadrons of IT specialists, Bluff Manufacturing’s needs are met by the one and only Tony Otto, Bluff’s sole IT manager. Tony says that this solo operation fits him perfectly. “As the only IT guy, I don’t just fix printers, I handle data, get pulled into production, manage new additions to the network. It’s a very broadening experience.” And Tony has been preparing most of his life for this, saying he’s always known that he wanted to work with computers. When he was 8 years old, Tony’s dad brought a computer home from work, and Tony fell in love. He started programming at 13, took every programming class he could, read programming magazines, and experimented endlessly. After graduating with a degree in computer programming, Tony became a communications officer with the Air Force, but left in 2010 in search of an opportunity that would allow him to work more closely with computers. After sharpening his skills at a managed IT company, Tony found his way to Bluff Manufacturing, where he had to slightly shift from his technological focus.: “I had never dealt with major manufacturing devices connected to a network before. It’s really a different type of computer. Half of it is what you’re used to, but there are parts that are specifically made to drill something or cut something. There are new pieces to learn.”

Learn he has, all the while supported by Bluff’s very positive, almost family-like culture: “The people here care. People at Bluff will ask if they can help me when I’m stressed, they’ll ask what they can do.” This share-the-load mentality at Bluff is important because, as Tony states, “We’re doing more work than ever to improve as a company.” This progress is, of course, a group effort and doesn’t come without a lot of collaborative problem solving. “There are always going to be problems,” Tony admits, “nothing’s ever perfect. But it’s how you deal with that that matters, and I think there’s a big problem solving mentality; let’s solve this problem together.”

While it’s clear that his love for computers runs deep, Tony says that, at the end of the day, the thing he likes most about working in IT is helping people. “My philosophy is that a computer is merely a tool – but it’s probably the most powerful tool that the human mind has ever come up with. When they work, there are so many advantages. When they don’t, things grind to a halt. So I see myself as critical in making sure we’re running as efficiently as possible and doing our job well as a company.” And for that, we are grateful for Tony and all IT managers everywhere.


Frank Ramirez in the Land of Opportunity

America has long been thought of as a melting pot of cultures, and that reputation is truer today than ever before. Ever-advancing communication and travel technology makes the world a little bit smaller every day. Because of this, cultural exchange plays out on stages large and small all the time. This increasing diversity has the power to enrich our lives and the way that we do business, but it does not come without its own set of challenges.

First generation U.S. citizen Frank Ramirez has been with Bluff Manufacturing for nearly 15 years, working his way up in that time from welder to Plant Foreman. Fifteen years with the company and experience in a multitude of areas within it has given him a good sense of what life on the plant floor and Bluff Manufacturing is all about. Ramirez describes the Bluff plant as “different from any other shop,” saying that the workers on the floor are a tight knit group of buddies, which makes for a good work environment. “You’re important here,” reiterates Ramirez, “you’re not a number.” Frank describes the plant’s atmosphere of inclusion as making for a “family environment,” a description that is particularly true in his case, as his dad is a welder with Bluff. Frank started welding right out of high school, and it was his father who showed him the ropes and taught him the most about welding. Since then, Frank and his father have worked together.

It is this inclusive and supportive environment that allows Bluff’s plant workers to clear any hurdles that language and cultural differences may present. As the borders between cultures in America shrink and dissolve, it is to be expected that not every individual in every workplace will speak the same language – this is where Frank comes in. The plant’s non-English speakers are generally a little quieter and may have a slightly rougher time participating in some aspects of plant life. Frank acts as a good tool for Bluff, translating when needed and working to make everyone feel comfortable on the plant floor. Ramirez says that another central function he serves is to remind everyone of the equality within Bluff. There’s no discrimination in advancement opportunities, and Frank is an important example of this: “From the first day I started working here, I said I was going to reach shop foreman…. That’s why I’m so happy, I reached my goal. A lot of Spanish speaking people are happy here because of that.” Frank says proudly that “We’re fair to everyone. If you apply yourself, we help you reach your goals. A lot of people who are in the office now started on the floor.” This sort of internal advancement ensures that those who progress to management positions have an organic sense of what the company’s all about and what it needs to progress.

While Frank is happy to talk about the diversity in culture and experience within Bluff’s workforce, he makes it very clear that the most important thing about these differences is that they’re just not a big deal. “It isn’t a factor here, the way it might be in other shops. The biggest thing is that Hispanic people see they don’t have any barriers, that they can progress.” After all, America is the Land of Opportunity, and it’s nice to see that in Bluff’s plant, it’s living up to its reputation.