COMPANY PROFILE: Keystone Forging Finds its Niche in a Competitive Market
January 10, 2008
In 1893, a small nail mill was established in Northumberland, Pa., to accommodate the needs of the growing community and the surrounding area. Within a few years it was incorporated under the name of The Keystone Forging Company and began its growth to a full-service forging company.
Originally, Keystone Forging Company serviced a thriving horse-and-buggy business and shipped to New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. With the advent of the horseless carriage, Keystone developed products, acquired patents and began to make its transition to servicing the new automotive industry. Concurrently, it continued to find additional markets for forgings in agriculture, hand tools, measuring tools and construction, to name but a few. And during the two World Wars, Keystone was instrumental in supplying forged parts to the military for tanks and other motorized vehicles.
FIA FOUNDERIn 1935, Keystone helped form the Forging Industry Association (FIA) along with six other companies located across the U.S., thus showing an appreciation for the value of cooperative research and development within this small but growing industry. This same attitude persists today just as it did in 1935. Keystone’s management is still supportive and very active in the FIA. The company’s president and COO, Joe Cipriani, has been FIA president and currently is a member of the FIERF Board of Directors. “This keeps us in touch with the changing environment and allows us to give something back to th
PAST MEETS PRESENTCurrently doing business from the same location in which it was founded, Keystone now occupies 125,000 square feet and employs 100 associates. Its focus is on short- and mid-sized production runs for a variety of industries ranging from the automotive to the medical sectors. And yet the company is still producing parts for the buggies used by the Amish communities in Pennsylvania and neighboring states.
Keystone is a far cry from the old board drop hammers and hand-milled dies of the past. Replacing the old die-sinking mills are new state-of-the-art CNC mills, supported by a staff of engineers who design and build tools and assist customers with their forging design needs. Pro-Engineer is the software of choice, and all products and die layouts are 3D-modeled for improved productivity and repeatability in the die.
IN-HOUSE CAPABILITIESNew CNC high-speed milling machines have been added in each of the last five years, dramatically increasing in-house die-sinking capability. A CNC machining center was added in 2006 to increase finishing and production machining capabilities, and there are plans to add another in 2008.
From in-house design, tooling production, forging, heat treatment, production machining and electro-polishing for stainless products – all done on site – Keystone also partners with a variety of capable suppliers. These are pre-qualified and like a family group of businesses that support each other. “We are focusing on expanding our services,” said Cipriani. “Many of our vendors are also customers, so we have a vested interest in our mutual success.”
The company produces forgings from a few ounces to 50 pounds are produced. Its work with carbon, alloy, stainless, aluminum and brass gives Keystone a unique ability to serve a variety of markets both in North America and overseas.
New technology and changing customer needs keep Keystone constantly seeking new and better ways of production. For example, their work with induction-heating companies to build electric slot furnaces and improve upon induction-heating coils greatly increased operational efficiency and yielded a superior product surface finish. The new induction-heating technology will be critical over the next few years to help offset the increasing cost of electricity because of deregulation. Heating efficiency and improved temperature control must continue to keep up with the increased pricing and quality demands. Regarding such efforts, Cipriani says his company’s sights are on the future, but they are diligently aware of their customers’ needs in the present.
AUTONOMYCipriani says his company is watching the consolidation around it very closely and with interest. “We understand we must change and evolve to maintain a competitive edge and stay in the marketplace,” he said. “Keystone is a small fish in a big ocean, so we must give special attention and service to both our employees and our customers.”
Constantly assessing their processes and looking for better ways of production, annual budgets keep them current with state-of-the-art forming equipment, computer software and machining. A commitment has been made by management to reinvest a percentage of revenue each year to ensure an ongoing, modern operation.
COMMUNITY BASEDKeystone is an integral part of the small central-Pennsylvania community where they are located. Its management and employees feel strongly about participation in local civic efforts. From the Chamber of Commerce to community events like local history “Heritage Days,” church events, Little League, United Way, and volunteer fire and rescue services, you will find Keystone employees giving their time and efforts to their community.
A broad base of customers and industries has given Keystone stability and staying power. If one sector is down, another may be up, and this keeps them very steady in today’s volatile business environment. Company focus, diversity of product and a caring group of capable individuals will keep Keystone moving forward.
Cipriani concludes, “We have enjoyed 114 years of success and hope to be part of our community as long as there is a need.”