Growth and Flexibility the Keys to Success at Patriot Forge
Founded as Galt British Forge in 1928, Canada’s Patriot Forge celebrated 85 years in business in 2013. The company has added facilities since the 1970s and targets its investments not only toward forging equipment and space but also toward support services, making it a full-service supplier of engineered forged components.
Patriot Forge is a company that understands how investment and growth affect long-term success. The original company dates back to 1928 and was known as Galt British Forge through the 1950s. During that time they operated a single forge facility in Cambridge, Ontario, that specialized in “while-you-wait” service, supplying a much localized market.
From that time forward the company has continued to grow and evolve. Under current ownership since the 1970s, the company has grown from its humble beginnings into a global supplier of quality forged product, servicing multinational corporations in the power-generation, turbo-compressor, oil and gas, and aerospace markets. In 1995, due to rapid growth in the 1980s and 1990s (including the addition of several new locations), the company merged its operations under the current name of Patriot Forge. Today, Patriot Forge and its subsidiaries ship forged product throughout North America and regularly service markets and customers in Japan, China, Germany, Spain, France and Italy.
Patriot Forge has grown in all areas of manufacturing over the last 30 years and is now planning its growth for the next 30. The company recently launched a five-year plan that looks at growth in several major areas. This plan includes investment in a variety of equipment (forging and non-forging), office and manufacturing space, and manpower. Patriot Forge and its employees find themselves excited about its future. Using the footprint from the last 30 years, Patriot Forge feels confident its new growth plan will mirror the favorable results experienced in the past.
Investment in Forging Equipment Not the Only Key to Growth
Investment in forging equipment is important, but it is not Patriot Forge’s only growth driver. It is true that a larger press will forge larger products. If you do not have the supporting cast of equipment and additional services, however, your return on investment will take a lot longer. Virtually anyone with a press, hammer or ring mill can supply forgings, but Patriot Forge focuses on supplying high-quality engineered forged components. The company’s philosophy is that it is a supplier of “quality forged components – not a supplier of forgings.”
The concept of quality forged components is reinforced by a full complement of in-house support services, including heat treating, mechanical testing, machining, nondestructive testing and others. The key to growth includes investment in all functional capabilities – not just forging equipment.
Patriot Forge has, for example, invested heavily in machine tools and technology. The company currently employs a full spectrum of machining capabilities, including manual and CNC lathes, vertical turning, milling and deep-hole drilling. With more than 40 machines at its disposal, the operation has the ability to supply simple rough-machined parts as well as semi-finished and finish-machined applications.
Another example of the company’s non-forging growth is its NDE services. Twenty years ago, most products shipped did not require Non Destructive Evaluation (NDE). Parts that did require testing were evaluated to a commercial standard of ¼-inch FBH (flat bottom hole). Today, 85% of all products shipped require NDE testing, and the standard evaluation criteria is 1/8-inch FBH or tighter. In an effort to stay on track with industry and customer expectations, Patriot Forge invested heavily in NDE equipment and manpower. The company currently has a fully equipped in-house NDE department that offers a full range of NDE services, including ultrasonic, liquid-penetrant and wet fluorescent testing.
Patriot Forge recently completed Phase 1 of its five-year plan. The press at the Brantford, Ontario, facility was completely redesigned and upgraded. Under the guidance of Erie Press Systems, the company completed a retrofit of its 1,250-ton open-die press with a new frame and supporting structure that increased capacity to 1,650 tons. In addition to the press upgrade, both the forge and heat-treat departments were enhanced with additional furnace capacity. The forge department’s heating capacity increased through the installation of an additional box furnace. The heat-treat department expanded with the installation of a brand-new, state-of-the-art car-bottom furnace that is capable of handling larger parts/loads in an effort to support the 1,650-ton press upgrade.
The company’s headquarters in Brantford, Ontario, is also in the midst of a multi-stage growth plan. The addition of 6,000 square feet of office space, including a modern training and conference-room facility, was completed in early 2013. The new office space is currently occupied by the IT, engineering and accounting departments, with more open space available for future growth. The training room gives Patriot Forge the ability to run in-house training sessions, thus reducing the overall cost of external training. In conjunction with the building addition, Patriot Forge made significant enhancements to its communications infrastructure to allow for further growth in manpower and data storage. Other changes to the office are scheduled for completion in 2014.
All in the Family
Patriot’s sister company in Canton, Ohio, Republic Special Metals, has also benefited from the parent company’s philosophy on growth. The Patriot Group purchased the former Republic Steel facility in 2002 and has upgraded its forging and re-melting capabilities. Since acquiring the facility, Patriot Forge has added a Glama 50-ton mobile forging manipulator and made numerous improvements to the 3,700-ton press. Republic Special Metals has also invested in its VAR and ESR re-melting equipment. The company is currently in the process of upgrading all of its VAR and ESR furnaces with new Consarc Generation 7 automated melt controls, which will improve overall melt efficiency and reduce costs.
Phase 2 at the Brantford manufacturing facility is currently under way. When complete, the plant’s overall footprint will increase nearly 40,000 square feet. This new space is designed to remove bottlenecks within the plant by providing increased lay-down space and improved material handling.
As Patriot Forge grew in size, so too did some of the parts it made. These larger parts caused a lack of functional production space, especially for sawing, machining and shipping operations. The new space currently being built will give each functional area more room and provide an opportunity to become more organized and more efficient. To fill the additional floor space, Patriot Forge plans to add several new machine tools, focusing mainly on additional vertical turning capacity. The company currently has vertical turning capacity up to 120 inches in diameter. Patriot Forge is also exploring the addition of another milling machine to service the shale-gas market. Another exciting part of the expansion is the installation of a new metallurgical research and development lab, which will provide the Material Engineering group the tools and equipment required to run internal projects. These are aimed at streamlining and improving the overall efficiencies of heat-treat and mechanical testing activities.
Even though Phase 2 remains incomplete, the implementation of Phase 3 is ongoing. During the next year, Patriot Forge plans on changing the entire landscape of its division in Paris, Ontario, with a 35,000-square-foot addition expected to be complete in late 2014. The expansion in Paris will be the new home of Patriot Forge’s 1,000-ton forging press from its Bay City Forge division, which closed in 2009. The press will further enhance the plant’s current forging capabilities, which include hammer forging and ring rolling.
Heat-treat capacity will also increase with the addition of several larger furnaces to handle product coming off the press. It is Patriot Forge’s belief that by re-introducing the 1,000-ton press it will be able to re-enter certain market segments that were vacated when the Bay City Forge division closed during the global economic downturn. The new press will also allow the company to explore new markets for more advanced forgings in aluminum and nickel-based alloys. Further expansion of non-forging-related equipment is included in the plan and will be finalized as the project moves forward.
Quality Another Key to Growth
In addition to physical changes in infrastructure and equipment, Patriot Forge is also expanding its quality program. The company is currently approved to AS 9100 Rev. C and ISO 9001:2008, and it holds a valid HAF 604 certificate from the People’s Republic of China. Moving forward, Patriot Forge is investing time and money in its quality program with the goal of becoming ABS, Nadcap and PED certified and ASME QSC approved. Although Patriot Forge’s system is currently compliant with all the aforementioned quality programs, receiving additional certifications and designations will open new opportunities and markets for its products and services.
The final two phases of Patriot Forge’s growth plan are still works-in-process. They are dependent on the successful completion of current projects, the strengthening of the global forging market and the growth plans of its customers. Although base plans have been established, Patriot Forge is still taking a cautious approach to the final aspects of the strategy. Investment in larger machine tools, a larger press, additional facilities and services, and manpower are all areas that have been explored.
As the world economy continues to recover and grow, so too will Patriot Forge.