Metal Heat Treating

SIC 3398

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in heat treating of metal for the trade.

A variety of forms of heat treating are used to make metals more durable and to improve their mechanical performance for manufacturing. Heat treating processes include brazing, annealing, hardening and tempering, normalizing, nitriding, and carburizing. In each of these processes, controlled heat is generated from an electrical or gas-based source and applied to metals, making heat treatment an energy-intensive industry. Heat treated metals are required in components produced for aerospace, industrial machinery, heavy equipment for construction and agriculture, motor vehicles, and general manufacturing.

After 2001 the U.S. Census Bureau, for the purpose of employment record keeping, combined this industry with two others, creating a single, large industry category called Coating, Engraving, Heat Treating, and Allied Activities. Employment in this large industry in 2009 totaled 111,117 workers, down from 126,607 in 2005. Of these, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that about 75 percent were production workers earning an average hourly wage of $17.07.

The total number of establishments in this industry declined in the 1980s and 1990s. Industry shipments of heat-treated metals totaled $3.19 billion in 1995, which was roughly a 23 percent pre-inflation increase over the previous year. In the 1990s the value of this industry's output grew more than 50 percent before inflation.

Early in the twenty-first century, the employment levels of many occupations in the primary metal products industry, which included heat treatment facilities, were decreasing. Occupations that faced reductions of more than 25 percent included miscellaneous hand workers, electricians, metal pourers, metal/plastic machine workers, furnace operators, and welders. Occupations that faced reductions between 10 and 25 percent included production worker supervisors, general laborers, heat-treating machine operators, furnace operators, truck and tractor operators, crushing and mixing machine operators, inspectors, crane operators, material movers, machine tool workers, secretaries, machine feeders, science and mathematics technicians, material moving equipment operators, and metal molding machine operators. However, positions for sales workers held fairly steady.

According to Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), there were an estimated 700 establishments engaged in heat treating of metal for the trade in 2010, down from 757 in 2005. Total sales for the industry reached $1.1 billion in 2010, down only slightly from 2008's figure of $1.2 billion. Employment decreased almost 2,000 in the same period, from 16,493 in 2008 to 14,751 in 2010. The majority of plants were located in Michigan (93), California (80), Ohio (71), Illinois (49), and Texas (48). Collectively, these states accounted for more than 52 percent of the market share with $602.1 million in sales.

Other figures from D&B showed that metal heat treating plants accounted for 84 percent of all industry establishments in 2010, with sales totaling $1 billion and 12,510 workers. The brazing (hardening) of metal subcategory represented 7 percent of businesses and had $76.1 million in shipments with 1,073 workers, while shot peening (treating steel to reduce fatigue) made up 4 percent of industry establishments with sales of $22.3 million and 580 employees. The process of annealing of metal was performed by 10 establishments with 303 workers who generated $16.4 million in revenues. Tempering of metal was performed at 15 companies that had sales valued at $14.7 million, whereas 8 metal burning plants contributed $12.6 million to the industry total.

In the late 1990s the metal industry sought to take advantage of the new opportunities offered by the Internet. In 1998 Cleveland-based industry leader LTV Corp., which generated sales of almost $4.3 billion, joined with Steel Dynamics Inc. from Butler, Indiana, and Weirton Steel Corp. of Weirton, West Virginia, to create a World Wide Web-based dynamic portal trading system called MetalExchange through which to sell steel. Weirton's existing online sales site had generated about $50 million per year during the prior two years. Then, in late 1999 General Motors (GM) announced it would conduct all $87 billion worth of its steel purchasing online by the end of 2001. Online commerce promised increased efficiencies, reducing purchase order processing from $100 to $10 by 2001. GM chose to conduct its business through MetalSite, an outgrowth of MetalExchange, with added equity partners Bethlehem Steel Corp. of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Chicago-based Ryerson Tull Inc. GM's proposed processing fee of 1 to 2 percent fell to between 0.25 and 0.5 percent before even getting online, with the steel industry hoping that it would disappear altogether. However, like many online ventures, MetalSite failed to live up to expectations, and the site was shut down temporarily in June 2001 while new owners retooled it. Even after a relaunch, however, the venture could not maintain financial viability and declared bankruptcy in the late 2000s.

However, the Internet was still used extensively in the industry into the early 2010s. An example was Management Science Associates' (MSA) Raw Material Data Aggregation Service, Blending Optimization Software Suite (BOSS), and Process Automation and Control Systems, which were software and web-based programs that helped metal manufacturers track raw material costs, perform interfacing, and perform a variety of other tasks. According to MSA's Web site, the BOSS "determines the least-cost combination of raw materials needed to produce a given heat, lineup, or production schedule, taking into account all of the various operating and quality constraints."

One of the industry leaders in the early 2010s was Curtiss-Wright Corp. of Parsippany, New Jersey, with three divisions, one of which was Metal Treatment technologies. The company had $1.8 billion in sales and 7,600 employees in 2010. Another important player was Wheeling-Nisshin Inc. of Follansbee, West Virginia, a subsidiary of Nisshin Steel. Wheeling-Nisshin had $434.4 million in revenues in 2010. Wheeling-Hisshin's aluminizing and galvanizing facilities and continuous galvanizing line facilities together produced about 700,000 tons of treated metal a year.

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