SNJS Shop Supervisor Freddie Claudio Knows Steel Fabrication Inside and Out

Freddie Claudio has been working since he was 12 years old.

When Claudio, 63, took a grinding and painting job at Southern New Jersey Steel in 1984 after retiring as a U.S. Marine Corps aircraft mechanic, he would have been content to take any job that would have him. It was a bad time for industry, and hardly anyone was hiring, but SNJS took a chance on him, he says.

"All I did was walk through the door--I was not [specifically] looking for steel work," Claudio recalls. "They asked why they should hire me, and I said, 'I like work. Give me an opportunity, and if it doesn't work out, we’ll shake hands. No harm, no foul.' I started out grinding for $3.85 an hour--that was minimum wage at the time."

Claudio has served as the SNJS fabrication shop supervisor for the last 15 years. He spent three to four years grinding and painting before he was permitted to start helping out the fabricators.

Now, he runs the show.

"I've always liked working with numbers, and as a grinder, I was impressed with the pitches, bevels, miters…all of it intrigued me," Claudio says. "But miscellaneous stairs and rails are what I fell in love with. It's structural--it's different."

Claudio oversees all shop operations and manages 12 employees, giving them day-to-day assignments each morning. One of the first things fabricators learn, though, is that their schedules can be fluid. Claudio has to be quick on his feet and make split-second decisions when a problem arises with a project or if deadlines change unexpectedly.

"And of course, nothing that's being worked on is a finished product until we check it for quality control," Claudio says. "That’s where me and Courtney, the QC supervisor, come in. She's my right-hand."

This story is part of Visions in Steel: The People Who Bring Designs to Life, exhibiting through April 19 at the Center for DesignPhiladelphia. Visions in Steel shines a light on the fitters, welders, machine operators, and other professionals the steel industry relies on every day to bring designs from concept to reality. Interested in bringing Visions in Steel to your city or your fabrication shop? Reach out to Hope Hrabowy at