Top 5 – Custom or Prefabricated Metal Industrial Platforms and Stairs

If you are in the market for an industrial metal crossover system, stairway, ladder, handrail, or platform, you need to know the top five ways to help you determine whether customization or prefabrication is the right path for your project. The initial research, bidding, review, and selection process can run as long as the final phase. The final phase typically includes consultation, specification, material creation, and installation. Having some initial knowledge and tools will help you push along the project timeline while reducing errors. The faster the project is completed and the fewer number of errors will ultimately save you money. 

Any industrial project that involves metal could benefit from these top five areas of focus that can help point you down the path of finding a prefabricated and modular solution or choosing custom fabrication for your project. This list is meant to aid in your selection and it is not definitive. Every project is different, so keep that in mind when choosing what’s right for yours. 

What is Your Timeline from Specification to Installation?

Ask yourself how big of a hurry you are in. You should consider your organization’s expectations when coming up with a timeline. Prefabrication will certainly save a good deal of time by cutting out the need for consultation, measurements, custom drawings, review, and approval. Typically, nothing with custom fabrication is perfected on the first try, so new drawings and review are usually needed before approval. 

Custom jobs can also be very pricey and they have longer timelines. If you have the money and the time, however, it is a path worth considering. With a custom solution, you will experience long consultations to ensure that measurements are correct and your needs are being assessed properly. This will reduce the re-reviews and errors down the road. The wait for the desired materials and fabrication could then take weeks or months following this process. The upside, of course, is that you get a solution perfectly suited to your needs. The downside is the time it will take to get there.

Prefabricated products will provide you with a level of customization, but not as much as you would get if it were fully custom fabricated for your needs. If you have a constrained timeline, or if your budget isn’t extensive, a prefabricated solution is worth looking into. There are already manufactured pieces that you can use to build your solution. Customization is minimal as items come in standard shapes and sizes and typically bolt together to provide compliant solutions for your situation.

With a prefabricated solution, a needs analysis is still required with drawings and specifications, but the process is done in a much shorter time frame, usually using configuration software so you can review and approve things faster. If you have a tight deadline, rush jobs may cost more.

What Obstacles Do You Need to Work With and Around? 

Obstacles are everywhere, both inside and out, so you need to take a close look at the environment and consider what you need to work around. Some obstacles can be moved, reduced, or removed altogether, but others will need to be factored into your solution. Take some preliminary measurements.

Additionally, consider if you need a crossover system that can get people safely over industrial pipes outside of a plant. Say that you are looking at the building and realize there is a large tree right where your platform and stairs need to be placed. You can either remove the tree or work around it. It is possible to work around it, but depending on its size and position, a custom solution may be needed. It’s possible to use prefabricated solutions, but not all will work. Customization will likely be required if you choose to work around the tree.

Think about your situation. It may be perfect for a prefabricated solution if you’re not being faced with any unique obstacles. Locations evolve and buildings are built, so continue to look at the area to help you reduce the need for potential reconstruction or removal in the future.

What Environment Are You In?

Potential and constant environmental factors will play a large role in your decision process. Think about what sort of environment your platforms will be placed in. Consider snow, salt water, extreme temperatures, and the types of materials and products that will be around your solution. Your answers will affect the project. Food and beverages often require a non coated metal and require the use of certain materials so there is no contamination. Salty and damp environments also have a taxing effect on metals so powder coating is important.

Compliance and codes will also play a role in your industrial steps and platforms, whether you are choosing a custom or prefabricated solution. The providers and you will need to understand the requirements to make your system compliant with an audit or inspection. Different industries, applications, and environments may result in various codes and regulations to adhere to.

Do Looks Truly Matter?

Usually, functionality over form is very important, but there are some applications where appearance will play a more major role. If you’re an organization who frequently offers tours, allows photos, or just want a clean and aesthetic facility, you’ll need to consider the appearance of the solution you choose. Would you like a specialized handrail design or custom colors? Most prefabricated solutions do not offer customization to that extent. Check with the manufacturer to see the possibilities.

You need to research what your needs are beyond standard fabrication, which offers paint, polish, epoxy, and other special coatings. These all affect timelines and estimated costs whether you’re choosing a modified prefabricated solution or a fully fabricated solution.

Do You Have a Material Preference?

If you have a material preference, this could greatly affect your choice between prefabrication and custom fabrication. In general, it will be difficult to locate a prefabricated solution if you have a preference of wood, hard plastic, or titanium. Most prefabricated solutions are made from aluminum or steel since these are the most common and effective materials to use.

When choosing custom fabrication, you need to determine the volume, weight, and size of the materials you’ll need. These things will factor into the final cost and timeline.


Choosing a direction for your next platform or crossover stairs project is up to you, but these items are important to consider. Having this information at the front of your mind will make you better equipped to make a decision best-suited to your space. Knowing your timeline and budget are the first considerations, but then you need to evaluate your installation location for obstacles. From there, consider the external factors that could affect the longevity of the solution you choose. Finally, if looks matter to you, think about what materials will work best.

If you have any questions regarding your current or next project, reach out to a trained ErectaStep Technical Consultant that will help guide you down the perfect path for your situation!


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