Screw Machine Products

SIC 3451

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing automatic or hand screw machine products from rod, bar, or tube stock of metal, fiber, plastics, or other material. The products in this industry consist of a wide variety of unassembled parts and are usually manufactured on a job or order basis. Establishments included in this industry may perform assembly of some parts manufactured in the same establishment, but establishments primarily engaged in producing assembled components are classified according to the nature of the components. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing standard bolts, nuts, rivets, screws, and other industrial fasteners on headers, threaders, and nut-forming machines are classified in SIC 3452: Bolts, Nuts, Screws, Rivets, and Washers.

Industry Snapshot

The screw machine products industry is defined more by the process of manufacture than by any specific product. Although screw machine product manufacturers produce a wide variety of products for many types of industries, they all use a variation on the screw machine, which is a large piece of machinery, usually driven by computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), that allows roughly cylindrical material to be subjected to a variety of tooling and machining operations as the material is turned about its axis. Screw machines can have up to eight spindles that act upon the part being machined and are able to quickly produce highly precise parts. The screw machine, by ensuring the interchangeability of manufactured parts, was a major contributor to the development of modern manufacturing and assembly processes.

According to the Precision Machined Products Association, 2,654 companies engaged in manufacturing automatic or hand screw machine products from rod, bar, or tube stock of metal, fiber, plastics, or other material in the late 2000s, and the workforce was estimated at 74,630 throughout North America. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the precision tuned product manufacturing industry shipped products valued at $15.15 billion in 2008, up from $9.86 billion in 2005. These companies utilized traditional methods combined with cutting-edge technologies, such as automatic screw machines, computer-controlled (CNC) single- and multiple-spindle lathes, and CNC turning and machining centers, to manufacture billions of component parts to precise specifications. This industry machined components used in a multitude of end products, including anti-lock brakes, transmissions, fuel injection systems, car airbags, computer hard drives, video recording equipment, medical diagnostic equipment, and power tools.

Screw machine product manufacturers are located primarily in the industrialized regions of the Northeast and Midwest and near aerospace manufacturers in the West. The industry is dominated by small companies employing fewer than 50 workers, most of whom are highly skilled machinists. Many of the shops are privately owned, and most are located near the industries that buy their parts. In addition, many large companies that use screw machine products manufacture those products in-house. The automotive industry is the major purchaser of screw machine products and accounts for 23 percent of the industry's shipments.

Organization and Structure

The majority of screw machine products are manufactured on a job or order basis. The purchaser of a product provides the manufacturer with a precise description of the part desired, and the manufacturer then sets up its machines to produce that part. Part runs may call for the manufacture of as few as 100 or as many as one million parts, requiring a single screw machine or a shop full of machines to produce the part on time. Because of the nature of their business, screw machine products manufacturers rely on the flexibility of their equipment and employees to accommodate the different needs of the various purchasers of screw machine products.

Three types of screw machines are used by manufacturers: Swiss, single-spindle, and multiple-spindle machines. Using these machines, a machinist may perform up to 32 different types of cutting and forming operations. Fred W. Lewis, discussing the screw machine products industry in the Handbook of Product Design for Manufacturing, stated, "The amount of work done is limited only by the number of tool positions available and the tool layout engineer's ingenuity." The tool layout engineer designs the CAMs that control the various machining operations and sets up the machine, which is then capable of producing millions of identical pieces. Many manufacturers are turning to computer-controlled rather than CAM-controlled operations because of the longer set-up time required for CAM-driven machines and the level of expertise required to operate them. Computer-controlled screw machines, however, are not necessarily more productive than CAM-driven machines.

The flexibility inherent in machine and machinist allows screw machine products manufacturers to produce parts for many types of industries. While large manufacturers diversified their production, small companies were more likely to specialize and might produce as much as 80 percent of their total output for one company. This degree of commitment means small manufacturers experience the same economic downturns or upturns their customer experiences. The actual screw machines account for the major capital expenditures of manufacturers in this industry. The screw machine is a remarkably durable piece of machinery, however. It can be rebuilt and overhauled, and computer controls can be added to enhance the machine's flexibility, thus spreading capital outlay out over a long period of time.

The screw machine products industry is characterized by a high degree of structural stability; the machinery it uses, the processes involved in manufacture, and the kinds of products it produces have remained essentially the same for nearly 100 years. Many manufacturers use screw machines that are decades old. Most employees learn their trade through hands-on training or a form of apprenticeship, although workers increasingly receive training in vocational education programs. Thus, the screw machine operator from two generations ago would recognize many of the operations being conducted in today's shop, although the veteran workers might be surprised to see young operators who had not gone through an apprenticeship programming computer-controlled screw machines to work on plastics and fibers as well as metals.

Background and Development

Although the first machine-cut screws were produced in 1800, at the dawn of the first industrial age, the concept of a screw dates back as far the third century B.C., when the Greek mathematician Archimedes designed a water-powered, screw-driven system to lift water. Much later, in the mid-1400s, Leonardo da Vinci drew plans for a screw-cutting lathe. However, it was Henry Maudslay, an English mechanic, who in 1800 first cut a piece of lead on a lathe into the helical pattern we know as a screw. Early screw manufacturers were hampered by the lack of any standards for measuring their products or ensuring their uniformity. Thus, each producer made a different size and pitch of screw, making it very difficult to replace parts when needed.

The early manufacture of machined metal parts in the United States occurred primarily in the increasingly industrialized Northeast states, where small shops produced parts for the machines that would fuel U.S. economic growth. Such shops used belt-driven lathes that were powered by water or, occasionally, an ox tied to a treadmill outside the factory. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century, however, that a small group of machinists near Windsor, Vermont, created the machine tools that preceded today's screw machines. Out of this innovative environment of skilled inventors and machinists, which included pioneers Francis A. Pratt, Richard Lawrence, and James Hartness, came Christopher Spencer, who in 1873 created the Hartford Automatic Screw Machine.

According to Donald E. Wood, editor of Automatic Machining and author of From Archimedes to Automation: The History of the Screw Machine, Spencer's automatic screw machine was "the prototype for all single-spindle machines in use today." This machine was manufactured by the Hartford Machine Screw Co., which is the oldest continuing screw product manufacturer in the country. Soon Pratt & Whitney Co. of Hartford, Connecticut, and Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Co. of Providence, Rhode Island, began manufacturing screw machines that were famed for their precision and accuracy. The creation of precision screw machines contributed greatly to the development of modern manufacturing, as screw machines made products for the growing automotive industry and other developing industries. According to Wood, "The mass production of consumer goods, and its parallel problem, precise interchange ability of goods components, came only after machine tools had been devised which could make products alike in a rapid manner, and standardization of measurement had been established."

Although the screw machine was initially designed to produce threaded fasteners, users of the machine soon recognized that it was capable of producing a vast number of products. In fact, standardized screw thread manufacturers soon turned to a different process, called cold-heading (see SIC 3452: Bolts, Nuts, Screws, Rivets, and Washers). Because the screw machine could create any roughly cylindrical, symmetrical piece of stock, it soon was used to manufacture gears, pulleys, push rods, rollers, and other products. By 1960, more than 1,500 screw machine product manufacturers had over 30,000 employees and operated over 40,000 screw machines to produce nearly $1 billion in annual sales of special component parts.
Industry shipment values rose from $8.32 billion in 2002 to $9.79 billion in 2005. The cost of materials also rose during this time, from $2.8 billion to $3.8 billion. According to the Precision Machine Products Association in 2005, companies averaged sales of $3.2 million, and the average growth rate of the industry was projected to be three to five percent into the late 2000s.

Volatile market conditions made it virtually impossible for manufacturers of screw machine products to determine a price for their end products without taking a loss when the raw material prices continued to fluctuate. Between December 2008 and January 2009, the Precision Machine Products Association (PMPA) reported the price variation of aluminum at 31.4 percent, copper at 28 percent, nickel at 55 percent, and steel at 62 percent.

Another issue surrounding the industry was the shortage of materials in general, and since the precision turning industry is gauged by the cost and availability of raw materials, news of inventories at a 17 year low for steel and aluminum products was cause for alarm. Consequently, as economic conditions improved, it was expected to be difficult to fill orders if low inventories persist.

Current Conditions

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the value of products shipped increased significantly during the latter 2000s, from $9.86 billion and $10.63 billion in 2005 and 2006, respectively, to $14.67 billion and $15.15 billion in 2007 and 2008, respectively. However, the economy fell into a recession during 2008, and although the industry sustained overall growth for the year, orders began to drop during the final quarter of the year. Although U.S. Census Bureau data are unavailable, in its annual World Machine Tool Output and Consumption Survey, Gardner Productions reported that machine tool production in the United States fell by 41 percent in 2009 compared to 2008. Global production declined by 32 percent, from $81.3 billion to $55.2 billion. China, the global leader in machine tool production, bucking the trend, increased its production in 2009 by seven percent, from $13.96 billion to $15 billion.

Particularly hard hit in the United States was the automotive industry as two of the Big Three U.S. automotive manufacturers failed and had to be bailed out by the federal government. As a result, the screw machine industry's dependence on the auto industry fell from 30 percent of industry total revenues in 2005 to closer to 20 percent by the end of the decade. Some companies were literally retooling to reach out to other business segments to replace business lost to the automotive sector. To compete with the influx of cheaper imported products, primarily from China, U.S. companies emphasized service, adaptability, and quick turnarounds.

Industry Leaders

Top companies in this industry in the late 2000s included Lawson Products, of Des Plaines, Illinois, which had 2009 revenues of $378.9 million; MNP Inc., of Utica, Michigan, which had 2009 revenues of $94.8 million; Federal Screw Works, of St. Claire Shores, Michigan, which had 2009 revenues of $35.4 million; and Chicago Rivet and Machine, which had 2009 revenues of $21.4 million.

Workforce

Manufacturers of screw machine products traditionally employed highly-skilled workers, although the aging of highly trained employees and the availability of more accessible computer-controlled machines suggests that the workforce of the future will be younger and somewhat less skilled. Because learning to set up a CAM-controlled screw machine takes years of training, finding qualified employees has been one of the industry's biggest problems. Operators traditionally learned the intricacies of setting up a machine through an apprenticeship, but vocational training programs and on-the-job training supplanted formal apprenticeships. In addition, the Precision Machine Products Association, located near Cleveland, Ohio, provides training manuals, videos, and seminars for its members. The industry's move to greater computerization was driven less by the inherent technical benefits of computer control than by the greater ease of training that computers allow.

Most employees in the screw machine products industry are machinists of some sort. Because manufacturers are provided with design specifications for their products, they employ no designers. Manufacturing engineers specify the machining operations and CAMs required to produce the job based on the design they are given, and machinists set up the machines and supervise their operation. In many smaller firms, the principal owner also is the head engineer.

Employment for the industry remained fairly constant from 1984 to 1988. Employment levels reached 45,900 in 1989 but dropped to 40,600 in 1991. Employment later rebounded, and in 2002 the industry had 75,665 employees, which dropped to 74,073 in 2005. Of these workers, 58,383 were in production in 2005, earning an average hourly wage of $16.53. In the mid-2000s, approximately 2,892 establishments in the United States manufactured screw machine products. Most of these establishments reported fewer than 20 employees. In May 2009, the turned product and screw, nut, and bolt manufacturing industry employed 74,630, of which two-thirds (49,700) were production jobs. Production workers earned an average hourly wage of $17.27.

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

News and information about Screw Machine Products

Contract Award: AAutomatic Screw Machine Products Wins Federal Contract for "Nuts and Washers"
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; February 24, 2017; 266 words
...Contract Value $81,000.00 federal contract on Feb. 23 for "Nuts and Washers."Contractor Awardee: Automatic Screw Machine Products Co. Inc., 709 2nd Ave Se, Decatur, AL, 35601-2517 For any query with respect to this article or any other...
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...a $50,065.75 federal contract on July 20 for "GEAR RACK PER DRAWING."Contractor Awardee: Prescision Screw Machine Products, 30 Gooch Street, Biddeford, Maine 04005-2015, United States For any query with respect to this article...
Contract Award: Precision Screw Machine Products Wins Federal Contract for " COMMERCIAL HARDWARE"
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; July 19, 2017; 257 words
...awarded a $26,812.43 federal contract on Jul. 18 for " COMMERCIAL HARDWARE."Contractor Awardee: Precision Screw Machine Products Inc., 30 Gooch St, Biddeford, ME, 04005-2015 For any query with respect to this article or any other content...
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...Affairs (LARA): Berkley Screw Machine Products, Inc. in Rochester Hills...present this award to Berkley Screw Machine Products. Manufacturing facilities...s bottom line." Berkley Screw Machine Products, Inc. is a family owned...
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US Fed News Service, Including US State News; October 6, 2012; 412 words
...Growth issued the following news release: Berkley Screw Machine Products, Inc. of Rochester Hills will receive an award...the award to the Team of Berkley Screw. Berkley Screw Machine Products is a family owned company founded in 1965 and is...
Contract Award: Automatic Screw Machine Products COMPANY Wins Federal Contract for "Nuts and Washers"
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; January 26, 2011; 245 words
...has awarded a $53,424 federal contract on Jan. 26 for "Nuts and Washers." Contractor Awardee: Automatic Screw Machine Products Co. Inc., 709 2nd Ave., SE Decatur, AL 35601-2517. For any query with respect to this article or any...
Contract Award: Automatic Screw Machine Products Wins Federal Contract for "Nuts and Washers"
US Fed News Service, Including US State News; January 25, 2011; 249 words
...contract value $570,894 federal contract on Jan. 25 for "Nuts and Washers." Contractor Awardee: Automatic Screw Machine Products Co. Inc, 709 2nd Ave., SE Decatur, AL 35601-2517. For any query with respect to this article or any other...

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