New Foundry Recasts NBM’s Market Reach
By Tim Triplett, Editor-in-Chief
With the advanced capabilities of its modern new foundry, National Bronze & Metals Inc. plans to expand into new alloys and new markets all over the world.
National Bronze & Metals Inc. has begun production at its new foundry in Lorain, Ohio. Located on the same site as the company’s former foundry just west of Cleveland, the new $22 million facility is a game-changer for NBM, says Norman Lazarus, senior vice president and third-generation leader of the family-owned enterprise.
“We purchased land from two neighbors, which gave us the space to build a brand new foundry from the ground up. It is state of the art in every way. There is nothing like it in North America,” he says.
NBM broke ground on the project in early 2007 and commissioned the new facility three years later. “With the economy falling apart, we actually slowed things down so we would not have all this additional capacity coming on line while demand was so low,” Lazarus notes.
As the new building was being constructed, and new melting and casting equipment installed, NBM continued to service customers with product from its old foundry, which began production in 1998.
“We had been running that operation at full capacity 24/7, so we were maxed out. We decided if we were going to do a new foundry, we would start with a clean sheet of paper and make it the most advanced foundry that could possibly be built,” Lazarus says.
The melt shop in the new foundry is 10 times larger, at about 60,000 square feet, housing six melting furnaces and six casters, all computer-controlled. The entire facility includes 145,000 square feet of space for production, processing and warehousing. It currently has a staff of 47, and will employ about 65 when at full capacity.
The induction furnaces were made by Inductotherm, Rancocas, N.J. “We tried to use as much American equipment as possible in everything we did in the plant, but the technology for the horizontal casters was not available, so we had to go with European casters,” Lazarus says.
The new melt shop gives NBM the capacity to produce 1.6 million to 1.8 million pounds per month, about four times the capacity of its former plant. More importantly, it gives the company the ability to produce more demanding alloys for aerospace and oil and gas applications, substantially expanding NBM’s market reach. “The new foundry has changed our product mix, allowing us to add far more sophisticated alloys because of the new controls in place in the melting and casting processes,” Lazarus says.
As both a producer and a master distributor of all types of brass, bronze and copper products, NBM stocks over 90 different grades in sheet and plate, tube, wire, bars, rounds, hollows, rectangles, wear-plates, squares, hexes and made-to-order shapes. It sells its own products and those of other mills, as well. About 70 percent of NBM’s business passes through distributors and service centers. “The range of products we supply to the market is so broad, it would literally be impossible for one manufacturer to produce them all,” he says.
The new foundry will offer a complete range of continuous cast bronze, brass and specialty copper alloys, including any alloy in the CDA 800 and 900 series, except alloys containing beryllium and chrome. This includes heat-treatable alloys such as aluminum bronzes and spinodal alloys, which can all be certified for aerospace applications. “We are currently working on getting our AS9100 aerospace accreditation, and we hope to achieve this objective by August or September of this year,” Lazarus says. In addition, NBM now has the ability to continuous cast both solid and hollow bars or billets up to 16 inches in diameter and flat plates up to 20 inches wide in a large range of thicknesses.
NBM will serve customers in the Northeast, Midwest and Canada out of the new Lorain facility, which added 30,000 square feet of warehouse space, while continuing to ship to the rest of the U.S. and Mexico from its distribution center in Houston.
To service customers in Europe—notably the aerospace and automotive industries—NBM opened an office and distribution center in Toulon, France, in 2008. NBM already has been certified as a supplier by Europe’s Safran Group, one of the largest aircraft parts manufacturers in the world, as well as several other large manufacturers, Lazarus says.
The new Ohio foundry helps NBM achieve three strategic goals, Lazarus explains: to expand into more high-end alloys; to expand sales in growth markets such as automotive, aerospace and alternative energy; and to expand sales of environmentally friendly lead-free alloys, such as NBM’s Model 3 and Model 10 DZR free-machining brasses. “Both of our alloys can be recycled far more efficiently than other lead-free DZR brasses, plus our product has far better machining characteristics. Lead-free alloys are a very high priority,” Lazarus says.
“Because of our global positioning, the upgrade in quality and the dramatic improvement in the efficiencies of production, we will be able to capture larger market share. That is really our intention,” he adds.
He is realistic about how long that may take in the current economic environment. “We believe there will be a slight upturn, but nothing dramatic this year. Hopefully, 2011 and 2012 will be stronger years. For 2010, we just hope things are a little more stable.”