Firm Force: Fabrication company relies on heavy-duty, large-format machinery to cater to a vast variety of customers’ niche needs

Above: O’Neal Manufacturing Services creates large, heavy fabrications that require specialized facilities and a high degree of expertise.

January, 2024- At the turn of the 20th century, Birmingham, Alabama, was transforming from farmland into a booming industrial center to match the region’s growing need for steel. Kirkman O’Neal, with his experience as a naval officer in World War I and work in a U.S. Steel Corp. shipyard, recognized the opportunity he saw for metal fabrication in his hometown. In 1921, O’Neal purchased Southern Steel Works, a small steel fabricating business focused on customers whose material needs did not meet the high-tonnage minimums that large steel mills required at the time.

Just five years after the company was founded, a Birmingham newspaper quoted Kirkman O’Neal as saying, “We turn out each piece of work and each contract the very best that can be done.” His grandson, current chairman and CEO Craft O’Neal, says, “We’ve seen many changes and faced many challenges in our industry. Our success has come through navigating the opportunities that hard work brought our way, by embracing amazing advances in technology, as well as through the efforts of the exceptional people we’ve been privileged to work with.”

O’Neal Manufacturing Services (OMS) carries on the tradition of customer-oriented metal fabrication services. As part of the O’Neal Industries family, O’Neal Manufacturing Services offers multistage processing capabilities and repetitive parts production for original equipment manufacturers requiring largescale manufacturing support, says OMS Director of Sales and Marketing Michael Richey. “By functioning as an extension of each customer’s business and providing a complete supply chain solution for unprecedented production efficiency, OMS has [become] a reliable resource for largescale and labor-intensive jobs that require specialized facilities and a high degree of manufacturing expertise.”

GROWING STRONG OMS

has provided comprehensive manufacturing solutions to customers in a wide range of industries over the past 10 years. It serves manufacturers of agricultural and material handling equipment, construction, renewable energy and others. The company now has 10 locations encompassing more than 1.5 million square feet of space in the United States and Mexico. OMS provides “expert metal fabrication solutions from highly skilled teams [using] advanced equipment who offer the highest level of quality and on-time delivery,” Richey says.

The OMS team purchases most advanced manufacturing equipment to upgrade and advance its processing capabilities. That includes technology from TRUMPF Inc. More than 37 TRUMPF flat-sheet laser cutting machines, tube laser cutting machines and press brakes are used at OMS facilities in Alabama, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas and Monterrey, Mexico, to support work done for large OEMs and contractors.

OMS’s latest cutting-edge technology investment is a flexible large-format bending machine from TRUMPF Inc 

HEAVY INVESTMENT

OMS operates a manufacturing shop in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, northwest of Pittsburgh. The shop’s relationship with TRUMPF dates back more than 17 years to the purchase of a 4,000-watt CO2 laser cutting machine and a LiftMaster for automated loading and unloading. This initial investment was made in response to customer demand for precision laser cutting services. The laser cutting machine is now just one of the many owned by the company, but OMS’s latest cuttingedge technology investment is a flexible large-format bending machine from TRUMPF Inc. In April 2023, OMS installed a TruBend 81000, which TRUMPF says is its largest press brake in the United States.

Large parts are important to the work done at 240,000-square-foot Ambridge fabrication center, which serves OEMs in the heavy construction, bridge, rail, truck and trailer, marine, and power transmission industries. The oversized capacity of the TruBend 81000 enables OMS to accurately bend nearly any application, even components up to 23 feet long.

“The overall size of this press brake, combined with its incredible accuracy, provides us with even more production repeatability for large formed parts,” says Gus Cassida, OMS general manager in Ambridge.

ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY

The fine points and technical details, Cassida points out, were as important to OMS’s decision as the massive 1,100-ton press force of the large bending machine. “The TruBend 81000 is not just a big press brake; it’s a very advanced press platform that allows for much-improved production control, repeatability, scrap reduction and improved production output,” he says.

“We reviewed and considered large press brake options from multiple manufacturers, but it was technical advancements that TRUMPF offered above and beyond the capacity of this press that separated their machine from the others,” according to Cassida. The advancements in programming, tooling, extended opening and throat depth, heavy-duty bending aids, and automatic laser-controlled bending assistance “are just a few of the reasons we decided to partner with TRUMPF.”

“This press brake is a game-changer for our business,” Cassida continues, “The TruBend 81000 will allow OMS to expand our large part business with our current customers while growing our position with new customers and new markets.”

OMS projects its revenues will exceed $360 million in 2023, and more than $45 million in Ambridge alone. That success can be attributed to hard work and resilience, a flexible attitude and a willingness to implement new technology to meet future challenges.

O’Neal Industries Chairman and CEO Craft O’Neal remarks, “We’re still getting started, with fresh thinking, always looking ahead, and preparing for the future.”

    Workers can tackle a range of parts and bending operations without having to change the machine setup for each operation, says Gus Cassida.

VERSATILITY

With a press force going up to 1,100 tons, the TruBend 8000 series is an efficient powerhouse for processing long, thick pieces of sheet metal. The machine is also suitable for bending high-tensile materials such as Hardox or Weldox engineering steels. Station bending is another option available with the TruBend 8000. By moving workpieces from one station to the next, each equipped with different upper and lower tools, workers can tackle a range of parts and bending operations without having to change the machine setup for each operation. This makes the TruBend 8000 machines particularly suitable for companies that bend large parts in small batches, including fabricators in vehicle manufacturing, mechanical engineering, and building services.

SOFTWARE

The TruBend 8000 series comes with TRUMPF’s TruTops Boost bending software for offline programming. The machine operator uploads a 2D or 3D model of any part into the program. The software independently creates a 3D simulation, including collision monitoring, which the operator can then adopt for the bending process, either in its entirety or with minor manual changes.

TruBend 8000 machines are also designed to facilitate the trend toward greater sustainability in manufacturing. Users can choose to equip their machine with an on-demand drive, which automatically adjusts the motor’s revolution speed to the movement of the press beam. As well as limiting noise generation, this feature can also reduce energy consumption by up to 26 percent.

With a 34-inch open height and a stroke of 27 inches, the TruBend 8000 machines allow operators to easily bend and remove workpieces that require a large box height. The press brake is available with numerous optional extras designed to facilitate the bending of heavy parts. These features include a bending aid that makes operators’ lives easier by automatically supporting the workpiece during the bending process. Machines can also be equipped with a special tool clamp for high tonnage applications.

O’Neal Manufacturing Services, 724/251-2002, http://onealmfgservices.com/

TRUMPF Inc., 860/255.6000, http://trumpf.com/