Miscellaneous Fabricated Wire Products

SIC 3496

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing miscellaneous fabricated wire products from purchased wire, such as noninsulated wire rope and cable, fencing, screening, netting, paper machine wire cloth, hangers, paper clips, kitchenware, and wire carts. Rolling mills engaged in manufacturing wire products are classified in the Primary Metal Industries. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing steel nails and spikes from purchased wire or rod are classified in SIC 3315: Steel Wiredrawing and Steel Nails and Spikes; those manufacturing nonferrous wire nails and spikes from purchased wire or rod are classified in SIC 3399: Primary Metal Products, Not Elsewhere Classified; those drawing and insulating nonferrous wire are classified in SIC 3357: Drawing and Insulating of Nonferrous Wire; and those manufacturing wire springs are classified in SIC 3495: Wire Springs.

Industry Snapshot

The miscellaneous fabricated wire products industry produces a wide variety of wire-based goods, including barbed wire, bird cages, conveyor belts, hog rings, and paper clips. The largest single product manufactured by the industry is noninsulated ferrous wire rope and cable. While ferrous and nonferrous wire cloth, ferrous woven wire products, fencing, and fence gates all claim significant shares of the market, the majority of products manufactured by this industry is too limited to be represented statistically. Materials used by the industry include steel castings, plastics and bolts, stainless steel, and copper and aluminum wires. Steel wire is the most heavily used category of wire.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, shipments for the industry were valued at $4.35 billion in 2009, down from $5.48 billion in 2008 and $5.69 billion in 2005. Of the total value of shipments in 2009 (with all products made from purchased wire), about 22 percent came from other ferrous wire products (excluding springs); 16 percent from other fabricated wire products not specified by kind; 13 percent from noninsulated ferrous wire rope/cable/other; and 34 percent from other fabricated wire products. Smaller categories included steel fencing and fence gates (6 percent); ferrous wire cloth and other woven wire products (4 percent); steel nails/staples/tacks/etc. (3 percent); and from nonferrous wire cloth and other woven wire (3 percent).

Background and Development

Barbed wire, the most famous of miscellaneous fabricated wire products, changed the course of U.S. history. According to Henry D. McCallum and Frances T. McCallum, authors of The Wire That Fenced the West, "The introduction of barbed wire in the 1870s had remarkable social and economic consequences. Before the invention of barbed wire, fences were intended to keep animals and trespassers out. Because barbed wire effectively kept animals in, the landholding concepts of cattlemen and small settlers changed radically with the new power that barbed wire gave them."

Before barbed wire, ranchers used plain wire, wooden fences, and natural hedges to mark their territory. These boundaries, however, were generally impractical, labor intensive, and highly penetrable. When a rancher had only his family to tend the animals, maintaining a fence around the perimeter of hundreds or thousands of acres was out of the question. Because containment was so difficult, the rancher kept his stock at a low, manageable number. Getting rich in the West through cattle and horses required a considerable investment in cowhands and a steady cash flow to keep them. The invention of barbed wire paved the way for large herds of cattle that needed little supervision. Credit for the invention is generally given to Isaac Ellwood and Joseph Glidden, who saw a sample of a wooden fence with sharp wire projections on display at the 1873 DeKalb County Fair in Illinois and quickly set about patenting and manufacturing barbed wire.

Barbed wire also influenced how wars were fought. Barbed wire was first used as a war defense system during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 to 1905. In 1914 the American Steel & Wire Division of United States Steel Corporation and many other U.S. manufacturers sent mile after mile of barbed wire to Europe, where it was tangled into barriers that were impenetrable by ground forces. During World War II, a new military occupation was created as a result of barbed wire's use. "Frogmen" were trained to cut clearings for submarines and ship propellers through the carloads of barbed wire dumped by the Japanese into the sea.

The number of establishments involved in this industry fluctuated wildly during the 1980s and 1990s. The value of shipments rose from $2.4 billion in 1982 to almost $4.1 billion in 1994. The industry workforce grew moderately, rising from 36,800 employees in 1982 to 41,100 by 1994. The Great Lakes region traditionally led the nation in shipments of miscellaneous fabricated wire products because of the area's access to raw materials. Other leaders came from coastal states.

Industry shipments remained steady in the late 1990s, hovering at roughly $5.6 billion 1998 to 2000. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1,680 establishments operated in this category during the early 2000s. For spring and wire product manufacturing industries in 2005, 55,149 employees received a payroll of nearly $2 billion. Of these employees, 62,262 worked in production, putting in 89 million hours to earn wages of $1.3 billion. Although shipments in 2005 reached almost $5.7 billion, aided in part by the U.S. housing boom, the industry slowed after that, along with the rest of the economy, and by 2009 the value of shipments was just over $4.3 billion.

Current Conditions

According to Dun & Bradstreet, in 2010 approximately 1,379 U.S. establishments engaged in manufacturing miscellaneous fabricated wire products from purchased wire. Together these firms generated $2.36 billion in annual sales and employed 38,307 workers. The average establishment employed 29 workers and generated $2.2 million in revenues, although 72 percent of firms employed fewer than 25 people. Top states in terms of revenues in the industry were, in descending order, Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Michigan, and California. Together these states were responsible for more than 50 percent of sales in the industry in 2010.

End users of these products vary widely, ranging from mattress and bedspring makers to tire makers, logging camps, and highway and building construction. Major products manufactured included concrete-reinforcing mesh and wire, wire cages, conveyor belts, uninsulated wire cable, and fencing materials.

Industry Leaders

Industry leaders in the early 2010s included Riverside Enterprises of Troy, New York; Ivy Steel and Wire of Houston, Texas; Digger Specialties Inc. of Bremen, Indiana; and Haldex Inc. of Kansas City, Missouri. Ivy Steel and Wire made wire mesh for reinforcing concrete construction and was a division of MMI Products Inc., which had sales of $134.8 million in 2010. Haldex acted as a subsidiary of Haldex AB in Sweden and specialized in wire used in automobiles.

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