National Bronze Still Expanding After 30 Years
NBM commissions a new casting line at its Ohio foundry.
By Tim Triplett, Editor-in-Chief
In its 30th anniversary year, National Bronze & Metals Inc. is still in a growth mode. The Houston-based red metals supplier recently commissioned a new casting line now in full production at its foundry in Lorain, Ohio.
"We're already adding capacity to our foundry, which we launched just four years ago," says Norman Lazarus, NBM senior vice president. Today the foundry has a total of seven melting furnaces and seven casting lines and the capacity to produce 1.6 to 1.8 million pounds of copper and copper alloys per month.
In addition to its Houston headquarters and distribution center and its Cleveland-area foundry, the company also has a warehouse in Toulon, France, and a sales office in Monterrey, Mexico. NBM and its nearly 200 employees serve customers all over the globe.
The company recently received approval from Europe's Safran Group, a major producer of aircraft parts, to supply nickel aluminum bronze alloys for aerospace applications. Two alloys from NBM—AMS 4880 and AMS 4881—are now fully qualified for Safran's landing gear. NBM was instrumental in pioneering the AMS 4881 specification to include the continuous cast process.
The new casting line expands NBM's offerings and improves its customer service, Lazarus says. "We will be able to make alloys like manganese bronze and aluminum bronze up to 16 inches in diameter, and large wear plates, as well." The company also will use the new line to start testing new alloys, including spinodal-type materials used in many general engineering, mining, aircraft, and oil and gas applications.
"The foundry is in full operating mode. We are pedal to the metal" says Andrew Meese, NBM vice president of sales. The company has added to its capabilities, including a new plate sawing operation, to make an even bigger contribution to service center customers. "Our dual inventory in both north and south locations also allows for quicker deliveries and reduces freight costs."
National Bronze & Metals is an unusual case, having opened up shop in the United States as a metal distributor in 1983, then evolving into production. More typically, producers expand into distribution. "Distribution is still our primary business," Lazarus says. "We are still 100 percent focused on brass, bronze and copper alloys. We have 100 different alloys in stock in every form and shape."
Aerospace and oil and gas have been the biggest growth markets for NBM in the last few years. Like the economy, the copper market has struggled to gain much traction. 2013 was a fairly flat year, Lazarus says. "It was kind of like running on the spot. We did not make much progress." He is forecasting better conditions to come. "We anticipate some continued growth in 2014 and 2015--and hopefully a little faster than the last two or three years."
NBM remains a family-owned enterprise founded by Lazarus' grandfather. He and his family are originally from South Africa. A brother and a cousin run a sister company in their native country, Nonferrous Metal Works, which also operates a copper foundry and distribution operation. The company now employs members of the family’s fourth generation. Lazarus has two young daughters that he would like to see involved in the business someday. He recognizes how difficult it is to perpetuate a family business through the fourth generation. "We're trying to get the next generation very much involved," he says.