Industrial Patterns

SIC 3543

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing industrial patterns.

According to industry statistics, 853 establishments operated in this category for part or all of 2010; these firms employed 6,249 workers. Total value of shipments for 2010 was an estimated $732.1 million. The U.S. Census Bureau�s Annual Survey of Manufactures reported that overall shipments for the combined "other fabricated metal products manufacturing industry" (also including enameled iron and metal sanitary ware manufacturing and all other miscellaneous fabricated metal product manufacturing) totaled $13.4 million in 2009, down from $16.7 million in 2008. This combined industry sector employed a total of 75,194 workers in 2009, of whom 56,163 worked in production. Companies in the industrial pattern manufacturing industry tended to be smaller in size, with 97 percent of companies in the industry employing fewer than 100 workers.

Bodine Aluminum Inc. of Troy, Michigan, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing, had 2010 sales totaling $64.3 million and 800 employees. Bodine has plant operations in Troy, St. Louis, Missouri, and Jackson, Tennessee. Ross Aluminum Foundry LLC of Sidney, Ohio, had more than $18.6 million in 2010 sales and 300 employees.

Industrial patternmaking companies make patterns for forming and molding metal. These patterns are used by other companies to produce metal ornaments, tools, automobile parts, cutlery, and other goods. Major consumers include the architectural metalworking industry; producers of pipes, valves, and fittings; and miscellaneous repair shops. Meanwhile, other specialized industries purchase patterns to make engineering and scientific apparatus, prefabricated structural metal, car parts, railroad equipment, and other metal products.

Industrial patterns are often used in foundries to create molds and dies for iron, steel, and other metals. Foundries typically melt scrap in an electric furnace. The liquid is then poured into a mold, which is usually formed from sand, metal, or ceramic material. The metal cools and solidifies into any number of complicated shapes, such as an engine block, a turbine blade, or a surgical instrument.

Copper was the first material that metallurgists learned to melt and form. By 4000 B.C., smiths had developed sophisticated smelting (melting and molding) techniques. Iron ore was first smelted in 1500 B.C. to make utensils and weapons. The advancement of the blast furnace, which was invented in 1323, was hastened by the industrial revolution in eighteenth century England. Advanced metallurgical and patternmaking techniques evolved during the 1800s and particularly during the 1900s, in the wake of both world wars.

U.S. industrial patternmaking emerged as a separate industry from the 1950s through the 1970s. Patternmakers continued to enjoy relatively healthy growth during most of the 1980s as the demand for metal products, such as architectural metalwork and automotive parts, swelled. By 1988 the industry was generating revenues of about $719 million per year and employing a workforce of 10,500. A real estate depression in the late 1980s that reduced demand for architectural metals, coupled with a general nationwide recession, hurt competitors in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sales slipped to about $530 million in 1990 and employment decreased to 8,100. Generally, industrial patternmaking follows the trends of the industrial sector. The industry was helped by surging auto and house sales during the mid-years of the first decade of the 2000s but negatively affected by the downturn in the U.S. economy during the decade�s late years, when both the U.S. auto industry and the housing market went bust. To compensate, the industry focused on high-quality customer service and products, advancing technology, consolidation, and smaller jobs and quick turnarounds.

Although the U.S. economy had begun to right itself by the early 2010s, the long-term employment outlook for the overall metalworking industry remained dismal. Jobs for machinists and metal workers were expected to decline about 13 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. For the specific industrial patterns manufacturing industry, the number of employees dropped nearly 17 percent from 2001 to 2004 (from 7,081 to 5,904 jobs). For example, the demand for machine setters, operators, and tenders of metal and plastic products was projected to decrease through at least 2018 due to openings in overseas plants plus improvements to production technology. Also, shipment values declined from $636 million in 2001 to approximately $566 million in 2004, a difference of 11 percent. However, shipments increased to $584 million by 2007 and further to $660 million in 2008.

Those in metal manufacturing will stay competitive through the development of product technology and innovation in order to be ready to meet the future needs of a demanding marketplace. For example, new computer technologies are continually improving casting times by facilitating the usage of computer-generated models rather than time-consuming patternmaking. In the first decade of the 2000s, enhanced control systems for molding improved control and performance, and also reduced broken molds and inefficient processes.

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