Industrial Process Furnaces and Ovens

SIC 3567

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

Firms in this industry are primarily engaged in manufacturing industrial process furnaces, ovens, induction and dielectric heating equipment and related devices. Products not included in the classification include bakery ovens (SIC 3556: Food Products Machinery); cement, wood and chemical kilns (SIC 3559: Special Industry Machinery, Not Elsewhere Classified); cremating ovens (SIC 3569: General Industrial Machinery and Equipment, Not Elsewhere Classified); and laboratory furnaces and ovens (SIC 3821: Laboratory Apparatus and Furniture).

The concept of using heat to modify a material in some desirable manner originated very early in human history. Its application gave us names for eras like the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, as scientific advancement combined furnace design and fuels to achieve higher and more controllable temperatures and chemical reactions within the combustion or heating chambers. The Industrial Revolution brought the biggest advancements and launched the Steel Age as industry abandoned charcoal as the most common fuel and adopted coal and coke. By the end of the twentieth century, natural gas and electricity were displacing much solid fuel use, and by 2008, shipments in the industrial process furnaces and ovens industry were valued at $2.5 billion.

However, near the end of the twentieth century, many of the industry's prime customers did not utilize the new technologies. For instance, the steel industry used the Bessemer process, which involved blowing large volumes of heated air through molten iron in a furnace. The American steel industry began using the process in the 1860s. The open-hearth method, developed in the same decade, produced larger volumes of steel over longer periods of time, allowing for better quality control. By 1907, the open-hearth method was more popular than the Bessemer was. In the 1950s, however, furnace designers found they could improve the performance of the Bessemer furnace by using oxygen instead of air, and the Bessemer furnace once again took the lead. By 1990, U.S. steel producers were using the Bessemer oxygen furnace for 59.7 percent of production, the open-hearth method for 3.5 percent, and electric furnaces for 36.8 percent.

This was only after more efficient foreign competition forced U.S. steel manufacturers to close outdated smelters and blast furnaces across the country. The area around Pittsburgh once supported 80,000 steel manufacturing jobs, but by 1990, fewer than 4,000 remained as the industry shut down and shifted production to newer mini-mill facilities.

In the 1990s, concern over air quality prompted passage of the Clean Air Act, which mandated reductions of nitrous oxide emissions from such facilities as smelters and blast furnaces and designated such facilities as prime areas of concern. The legislation required special operating permits and monitoring provisions.

Both U.S. exports and imports decreased in the 1990s and early 2000s. Asia and Western Europe were consistently the top foreign markets for the industry during these years. Along with nearly every manufacturing sector, this industry was hit hard by the transfer of jobs overseas as well as increased competition from foreign markets.

In 2003, the Industrial Heating Equipment Association (IHEA) reported that nearly one-fifth of domestic industrial energy use was process heating, as most consumer products required its use. Technology was being used to focus on making the systems more efficient, reliable, and cost effective, while at the same time improving both safety and automation. New research was developing a variety of laser sensors, as well as fiber optic and other advanced measurement process controls. In conjunction with the Department of Energy, the industry was moving toward the use of computerized assessment and control software. By the late 2000s, technology trends in the industry included the move toward more environmentally safe energy sources such as solar energy.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, this industry had approximately 322 firms employing 11,170 workers in 2008. The majority of these establishments employed fewer than 100 employees. The Annual Survey of Manufactures reported that about 60 percent of employees were production workers earning an average hourly wage of $18.67. Value of shipments in 2008 totaled $2.5 billion.

Although the industry suffered from the economic recession of the late 2000s, the outlook was brightening in 2010. For example, orders for industry leader Conceptronic increased 103 percent in the first six months of 2010 as compared to the same period in 2009.

Figures from Supplier Relations US showed that the industry's total revenue was $2.0 billion in 2009. About $467.8 million worth of imports came from 59 countries, whereas exports to 144 countries were worth $800 million.

Industry leaders in the early 2010s included Conceptronic Inc., a division of CVD Equipment Corp. and based in Ronkonkoma, New York. CVD Equipment had overall sales of $10.5 billion in 2009. With manufacturing operations worldwide, Conceptronic's clients included Ford, Chrysler, Hitachi, and Motorola, among others. Pittsburgh-based Chromalox Inc. was also an industry leader and had operations in North America, Europe, and Asia. Springfield Wire Inc. had manufacturing facilities in the United States (Springfield, Massachusetts) and Mexico, and had also opened a plant in 2003 in China.

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