T&W Forge Builds Business by Selling Value
Ohio’s T&W Forge, part of SIFCO Industries since 2010, is a supplier of alloy, carbon and stainless steel parts to its industrial customers. The company’s major market is the power-generation industry, to which it supplies parts for land-based gas turbines. Other markets include commercial and agricultural equipment as well as components for aerospace applications.
About an hour from its parent company in Cleveland, SIFCO Industries Inc., in an industrial complex in Alliance, Ohio, lie the large facilities of T&W Forge. This huge 250,000-square-foot facility has seen 115 years of manufacturing history in its day, but its deep origins go back even farther than that.
In 1865, Thomas Morgan arrived in the U.S. from Glamorganshire, Wales. He opened Marchand and Morgan, a manufacturer of steam hammers. He sold his interest to Silas J. Williams in 1877, and the company became the Morgan-Williams Company. This business dissolved in 1884, and Morgan formed the Morgan Engineering Corporation. Frank Transue got involved with the business in the ensuing years, and he, along with Silas J. Williams (an Ohio Senator), opened the Alliance Manufacturing Company, which specialized in stump pullers, heaving and dragging machinery, and other products.
In 1895, the Transue & Williams (T&W) Company was formed to produce drop forgings of all kinds. T&W Forge originally opened elsewhere in Alliance, but rapid growth required a physical expansion of the company’s facilities. As a result, the company broke ground at its current location in 1898, and construction was completed a year later. Since then, the company has operated steadily, providing shaft solutions to Henry Ford for his early model; and supplying reliable military parts in support of two World War efforts and other conflicts. In more recent memory, T&W Forge supplied the fully developed automotive industry, as well as blades and vanes for gas turbines, static aircraft parts and aircraft-engine blades and vanes.
In 2010, T&W Forge became part of the portfolio of companies that comprises SIFCO Industries. Today, T&W Forge’s specialty is parts for land-based gas turbines, primarily for the power-generation industry, which account for about 75% of its output. About 15% of its production is parts for commercial and agricultural equipment; and 10% is parts for aerospace applications. In 2013, this plant processed nearly three million pounds of metal.
T&W Forge employs almost 75 people, 20% of which are salaried positions. The hourly associates are members of Local No. 1603 of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers AFL-CIO. Plant manager Scott McNees indicated his operation has had a harmonious relationship with its union membership.
Cutting it Close
Production starts in T&W Forge’s large raw-materials yard. About 70% of the company’s throughput is stainless steel; 20% alloyed steel grades; and 10% carbon steel. Raw material arrives as round or round-cornered bar stock, usually in 4, 5 or 6 inch diameters/sides. However, round stock from 1 inch to 10 inch diameters can be processed. This material is used to make parts from 2-300 pounds.
Once material is selected for a customer order, a recently installed outdoor overhead crane delivers the material to the doors of the plant’s sawing area. Five or 6 years ago, the saw department worked 24 hours to feed the workload of the forging hammers. This department has since gotten more efficient. There are four band saws and one metal-cut saw. The band saws now only run 20 hours per day while supporting higher production levels.
Once the material is cut into billet-sized pieces, about 75% of them go to a welding station, where a stud is resistance-welded onto them to facilitate subsequent handling with tongs. The geometry of the parts determines whether or not it requires a welded stud. Larger, heavier billets are moved about by powerful magnets.
Prepared billets are transported to a holding area, where they await preheating prior to hammering. Each of T&W Forge’s hammers is fed from a preheat furnace. All forgings are hammered, because the only presses in the facility are used for flash trimming.
Once preheated, smaller parts are removed by tongs to the hammers. Larger parts are moved with manipulators onto dies installed in the hammers. All die fabrication and repair is performed by outside vendors.
T&W Forge’s hammers range in capacity from 1,500-25,000 pounds. These hammers were all steam-driven many years ago, but today’s hammers are driven pneumatically. Two electric-motor-driven compressors (located in an adjacent building to the main plant) supply the pneumatic power to the heavy equipment. Operators claim pneumatics offer them better control.
When a heated billet is placed on the hammer, its head is brought down once to knock scale off the part. Larger parts may be pre-formed on one hammer then reheated and brought to a larger hammer for final net-shape deformation. Most parts are struck multiple times to achieve their near-net shapes.
As they come still glowing off the forging hammer, parts are sent to a neighboring trim press, where excess material is removed. There is at least one trim press near each forging hammer. For situations in which additional punching or bending operations are necessary, a second press may be used.
The Heat’s On
Once through all the required hammer and trim press steps, parts are thermally processed. About 90% of all parts are heat treated at the plant, but some customers of carbon-steel parts machine them first and then heat treat them at a later time.
T&W Forge operates four heat-treat furnaces: two production and two batch. Most parts processed in-house are air quenched, though facilities for oil quenching are available.
Each forging hammer station has a “hot inspector,” whose job is to ensure that a quality product is produced each and every time. These inspectors are T&W Forge’s front line of quality control.
Quality is Key
Once parts are forged, trimmed and cool enough to handle, they are inspected at other stations for flatness or other shape parameters. Adjustments may be made mechanically for parts to be consistent with specified flatness or shape contour requirements. After physical inspections and any required adjustments are made, the part goes into a low-temperature heat treatment for further stress relief. The plant also conducts a magnetic liquid penetrant inspection on parts.
Final part dimensions are mapped by a Faro laser scanner, which generates hundreds of thousands of dimensional data points in a matter of minutes. These are computer-mapped and checked against required specifications for dimensional integrity.
According to John Cherr, T&W Forge’s manager of sales and marketing, a challenge he faces is competition from foreign “low-cost” forgers. This type of competition, he said, can only be met by selling the value of his company’s products. This is where the plant’s quality program kicks in. The plant is ISO 9001:2008 accredited and pays strict attention to principles and programs that foster efficiency and quality in the workplace.
An Impressive Customer List
One of T&W Forge’s major assets is its more than 100 years of experience in supplying quality products to its customers. The company has been able to generate a lot of good will in the markets it serves, and it is reflected in its customer list. Among T&W Forge’s key customers are Allison Transmission, Caterpillar, Dana, Doncasters, Eaton, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi Power Systems, Siemens and other leading companies.
Its long history of serving customers like these, coupled with its attention to quality and efficient operations, will continue to serve T&W Forge well as it conducts its second century of business.
SIFCO Poised for Growth
SIFCO Industries opened its second century of existence this year with a vision of growth built on both the strength of its core markets and a renewed focus on a successful past.
After beginning as a steel heat-treating specialist in its early years, SIFCO quickly acquired forging capability and shortly thereafter adopted the fledgling U.S. aerospace industry as its core business in the late 1930s. Over the next 50-75 years, SIFCO would see unprecedented growth. It acquired and/or helped establish forging operations around the globe, expanded into the engine component repair business with operations in Ireland and the U.S., and grew a specialty coatings company.
With all this expansion and changes in its various markets, SIFCO, for a time, became a group of unrelated companies. Thus, over the last four years, the company has worked to strengthen its portfolio of companies by returning to its roots of providing extensive forging capabilities and technical expertise to its customers. It acquired T&W Forge, a major supplier of blades and vanes to the IGT market, and two aluminum aerospace forging component suppliers (Quality Aluminum Forge and General Aluminum Forge). These moves allowed SIFCO to double its maximum forging size, add precision aluminum forging and expand its press forging capabilities, all while increasing value-added content to its customer base. In the process, the company sold Applied Surface Concepts and wound down its engine component repair facility. Consequently, SIFCO is currently a diversified forging and machined component supplier to the aerospace and energy markets.
Looking to the future, SIFCO is committed to an aggressive growth strategy to expand its core capabilities while continuing to provide world-class performance.