This Wisconsin forge, having positioned itself to endure a depressed economy, now sees that economy starting to recover. As the economy improves, Green Bay Drop Forge faithfully serves existing customers while aggressively pursuing new markets and applications.

Hot off the hammer, glowing rod ends await further processing.

GBDF’s family of products includes offset wrench blanks, vehicle tow-hook assemblies, parachute clips, linkages for wheel chairs and numerous other parts.

Just a few blocks down the street from Lambeau Field, home of the famed Green Bay Packers, sits Green Bay Drop Forge (GBDF) on about 11 acres of land located directly on the banks of the Fox River in Green Bay, Wis. The forging operation is located in a 16,000-square-foot shop, with the remaining manufacturing operations housed in an adjacent building approximately 50,000 square feet in area. GBDF is an ISO 9001:2000 and ISO/TS 16949:2002 certified forger and value-added finisher of steel forgings ranging in size up to about 10 pounds. Primarily a hammer shop processing up to 2 million pounds per year with hammers ranging in size from 2,000-4,000 pounds, GBDF also upset forges for applications such as hand tools.

GBDF is one of three business units that make up Cleveland Hardware & Forging Co., a long-standing member of and participant in the Forging Industry Association. Cleveland Hardware, a manufacturer of component hardware located in Cleveland, Ohio, and Fox Valley Forge, an upset and press forger of steel forgings located in Aurora, Ill., are the other two business units making up the corporation. The corporation is privately held under the ownership and leadership of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Hoban and their son, William M. Hoban.

Chain links hot off the hammer

Rich History

GBDF is one of the oldest industrial plants in Green Bay. Formed in the early 1900s as a producer of a patented newly designed horseshoe with replaceable wear components, it became known as Green Bay Drop Forge in 1914. However, it wasn’t long thereafter that Henry Ford’s “horseless” invention made the horseshoe market rather challenging.

This sent GBDF off into new markets, turning to automotive, agricultural and other industries, as well as serving and supplying the military during wartime. In 1977, GBDF came under the ownership of Cleveland Hardware & Forging Co. and now serves as its corporate headquarters. Historically, and up to the present, GBDF has forged, machined, heat treated, plated and maintained a stock of standard components such as clevises, eyebolts and tee bolts. Expanding that technology and capability, GBDF has established a recognized strength in its custom capability, giving customers an edge in making inroads into new markets in a challenging economy.

As its motto states, GBDF has been a “target of strength” in forging and machining products for many decades. The company specializes in producing small- to medium-sized linkage components requiring superior tensile, hardness and impact strength. To complement its manufacturing resources, the company has an engineering and design team to ensure that the supply of products meets customer specifications.

Forger takes the bar through the progressive cavities of a forging die.

The Process

Once a customer order is received at GBDF it goes through the Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) process. APQP is a system developed by the major U.S. automakers more than 25 years ago that is still very much in place. It is a process designed to give structure and procedures to the development of a product quality plan for new products, with the ultimate goal of assuring satisfied end customers. As a Tier I supplier to the automotive manufacturers, GBDF is required to follow this process and is audited regularly by their QS/TS 16949 registrar. GBDF has adopted this process, which requires every department in the company to participate, for each and every one of its customers. Not only does this help to assure satisfied external customers, it has the additional benefit of satisfied internal customers, producing a smooth internal flow of product through the ordering, engineering, manufacturing, testing, approval and shipping processes.

Once APQP has been completed, the engineering team takes on the task of designing the tooling utilizing three-dimensional modeling software. The die shop, equipped with several CNC machining centers, then completes the manufacture of the progressive cavity dies. Once the forging die is completed, a plastic cast can be made of the final impression and sent to the customer for part verification.

The forging process advances to the incoming raw material, which is either carbon steel, stainless steel or some exotic alloy in round, square or tubular cross section. Every bundle, whether it comes directly from the mill or through distribution, is identified and tagged immediately upon receipt so the steel can be tracked with its heat code in any place and at any time throughout the process, all the way through to the customer’s finished application. The steel bars are then saw-cut or sheared to length for maximum yield and manageability by the forger.

Meanwhile, the forging die is set up in the hammer utilizing a unique dowel locator system developed by GBDF that reduces setup time dramatically and minimizes mismatch. The sized bars are now transported into the forging cell, where they will be managed and forged by a forging team consisting of a heater, a forger and a hot trimmer.

The steel bars are batched up in a slot furnace by the heater to be brought up to forging temperatures. The heater hands off the heated bar to the forger, who forges the part with multiple blows in the progressive die. In many cases, the part may be of small enough size that an array of identical multiple parts are forged at one time into what is called a “platter.”

At this point, the forging, whether it is a single part or a platter of parts, will be sent to the trimming station. If the configuration lends itself to hot trimming, the forger will pass the hot forging directly out of the hammer to the trimmer, whose trimming press is positioned on the far side of the hammer from the forger. If the part has to be cold trimmed, it will be cooled and sent to the press room for cold trimming. At this point, parts will often require heat treating for normalization prior to any further shop processes.

The prepared forging blank is now ready for any of several machining and finishing operations in GBDF’s machine shop. These operations might include press coining (to final net dimensions), turning, boring, milling, thread cutting, rolling, broaching or other typical (or sometimes unique) machining operations.

After machining, part specifications may require a final heat-treating operation to normalize and relieve internal stresses introduced into the part. Prior to subsequent plating or powder coating, the parts may go through magnafluxing inspection, where any undesirable surface or structural characteristics are exposed through migrating magnetic particles under black light. At this stage, the part often requires mechanical, environmental or atmospheric testing by an independent testing laboratory to certify it to the customer’s specifications prior to shipping.

Sometimes forgings are captively produced and shipped internally to its sister unit, Cleveland Hardware. In these situations, the forgings become integral components in a hardware assembly.

A hammerman (left) forges a platter of T-bolts. A trimmer (right) trims out a platter of T-bolts.

The Future

Throughout its long history, GBDF has faithfully and successfully served market sectors such as agriculture, automotive, heavy-duty trucks, military, off-highway and railroad. The forge aggressively pursues these markets knowing they will continue to be part of its future.

Having positioned itself to endure a depressed economy, GBDF sees that economy starting to recover. As part of that recovery, GBDF finds itself more frequently accepting forging challenges many might avoid in new markets and applications such as those found in the aerospace, custom hand tool, mechanical drive, medical and personal-transportation industries.

It is in this spirit of growth and learning and applying itself in custom applications that GBDF sees its future – one of long-term alliances and relationships with its valued customers and an absolute uncompromised dedication to a quality product.