Copper & Brass
Wednesday | 24 March, 2010 | 2:55 am

Tradition & technology

By Lisa Rummler

March 2010- In the business world, longevity equals success. If a company can’t pass muster, it won’t last long.

But if a business has been around for more than a century, as is the case with Concast Metal Products Co., Mars, Pa., it must be doing something right.

A privately held company for more than 60 years, Concast continues to thrive today.

concast metal productsConcast began in 1891 as a producer of brass and bronze ingot in Pittsburgh. Fast-forward 70 years, and the company kicked off the production of continuous cast products.

Concast has produced copper alloys in bar and tube form since 1961. In 1995, its Birmingham, Ohio, facility started to cast aluminum and manganese bronzes horizontally.

These are just a handful of the innovations Concast has ushered in over the years. But Al Barbour, president and owner, says some of the biggest changes occurred during the last two decades.

"Twenty years ago, we used to [be], basically, a one-product, one-alloy company, which was CDA 932 bar stock," he says. "Then, we added 954 aluminum bronze and then 863 manganese bronze as standard products."

From there, Concast continued to branch out into other alloys, and it now offers wrought products, including C31400, C31600, C51000, C54400 and C63000. Diversifying its product line in this manner has been a benefit for Concast, as well as its customers, says Barbour.

"We’re [now] moving away from a commodity-type product offering and into a specialized product offering," he says. "And for our customers, it’s one-stop shopping. They don’t have to look anywhere else [for what they need]."

But amid all the changes at Concast, the company has remained true to a few key business principles, according to Barbour.

"We’ve always had an emphasis on making a competitive product at a high quality," he says. "That’s always been our push, particularly in the last 20 years. We want to have a competitive product, but we also want to combine that with high quality so that our customers don’t have any problems. They call here, they get their product, they get what they want and we want to be easy to deal with."

In addition, Concast emphasizes the importance of customer service throughout its entire operation. However, Debra Beevers, marketing director, says this is just one part of the company’s strategy for success.

"We balance our tradition of customer service with advanced production methods," she says. "Concast has made sizable capital investments in new equipment, production technologies and in our team."

People, places and products
Between its two facilities, Concast has more than 100 employees, including metallurgists, chemists and sales engineers. Its Mars plant has five vertical casting lines and houses the company’s administrative offices.

The Birmingham plant features nine horizontal continuous casting lines, as well as 50,000 square feet of warehouse space that holds 875 standard product sizes from 0.5-inch diameter to 20-inch diameter.

Accordingly, it also serves as the shipping hub for most of Concast’s products. These include a complete line of copper alloy products, such as C93200 and C95400.

Beevers says leaded bronzes, aluminum bronze no-lead replacement alloys, manganese bronze and made-to-order shapes are available in hundreds of alloy specifications. Additionally, Concast produces and markets continuous cast bar, tubes and solids, including proprietary alloys.

The company’s customers run the gamut from distributors to job shop machine houses to OEMs. Concast’s end-use markets include bearings and bushings, aerospace, automotive, heavy equipment, plumbing, and industrial valves and fittings.

Casting a wider net
Concast recently expanded its Birmingham facility to include wrought products, establishing itself as a leading domestic manufacturer with these offerings.

"The term ‘wrought mill products’ applies to sheet, rod, bar, tube, plate and wire produced by rolling and extrusion mills, as well as forging," says Beevers. "Each of these products starts with metal that has been cast into a form or shape that’s suitable for further processing into a specific product. Our wrought products are cast and cold drawn, not extruded.

"Rods are brought to final dimensions by one or more cold-drawing operations with suitable intermediate anneals when necessary," she continues. "After the final draw, the rods are straightened mechanically and cut to the desired length."

Barbour says the impetus for Concast’s move into wrought products stems from a desire to better serve customers.

"We had some customers whose supply chain had changed over the past couple of years, where the product availability wasn’t out there, and they were going to become dependent on imports," he says. "So we looked at that as an opportunity to be able to service our customers with wrought products and figured out it was within our capability."

Concast also branched out into GreenAlloys, products that have a lead content as low as 0.05 percent. Barbour says the development of GreenAlloys stretches back about 15 years.

"It had to do with diversifying the product line, so we predate a lot of other companies [that started offering] green products over the past three or four years," he says. "We were doing it back in 1993 and 1994. Even back then, we had customers who wanted environmentally friendly products."

Around this time, Concast joined forces with The Federal Metal Co., Bedford, Ohio, to produce the Federalloy series of lead-free copper alloys.

Barbour says this marked Concast’s first venture into environmentally friendly alloys and that Concast is the only U.S. foundry licensed to produce these alloys.

In another example of commitment to green products, as a sublicensee of Sambo Copper Alloy Co. Ltd., Osaka, Japan, Concast produces Eco Brass. This is a lead-free silicon brass.

Down the road
Looking ahead, Barbour says wrought products will play a larger role at Concast. He stresses, though, that the company will still focus on cast products.

"We’d define ourselves as a specialty producer of copper alloys, so we want to be able to expand into the wrought over the next one to five years, where it’s going to be a substantial amount of our sales," he says. "We look at that as what we’re going to be and have both cast and wrought products."

As Concast continues to evolve, Barbour says the company will remain true to its roots while meeting the changing demands of the marketplace.

"The vision is to build off the tradition of the company," he says. "We’re going to have products that are available and have the inventory to back it up so that we can service people quickly with the wrought products, as well as what we’ve done with the cast products." MM

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