Steel Springs, Except Wire

SIC 3493

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing leaf springs, hot wound springs, and coiled flat springs. Establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing wire springs are classified in SIC 3495: Wire Springs.

In 2010, 228 establishments operated in the specific segment of the industry covered by SIC 3493: Steel Springs, Except Wire. These establishments employed 7,500 workers, and annual industry revenues were $830.4 million. About 66 percent of the businesses in the industry employed fewer than 25 workers, 23 percent employed between 25 and 50 workers, and the remaining 11 percent employed more than 50 workers. For more information on the spring manufacturing industry as a whole, consult the essay on SIC 3495: Wire Springs.
Industry leaders in 2010 included Tuthill Transport Technologies of Mount Vernon, Missouri. Tuthill Transport designed and manufactured steel spring and other suspensions for truck, trailer, and specialty vehicles under the Reyco Granning brand name. Hilite Industries of Cleveland, Ohio, also supplied the auto industry and was part of Hilite International. New Mather Metals Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, had a second factory in Franklin, Kentucky, and was a division of NHK Spring Company.

The automotive industry is the largest consumer of steel springs. The Spring Manufacturers Institute Inc. (SMI) reported that sales to automotive customers accounted for the largest portion, followed by industrial equipment customers, which accounted for 8.8 percent of sales. The economic downturn in the late 2000s, however, brought vehicle manufacturing to a slow crawl, which in turn affected the steel spring industry. Industry experts were optimistic for recovery in the industry in the early 2010s.

In the early twenty-first century, alloy, carbon, and stainless steels were the most commonly used spring materials because of their strength. Titanium, however, was gaining popularity because of its superior strength, light weight, and resistance to corrosion. Titanium's high cost was once prohibitive, but new, less expensive titanium alloys expanded its use.

Advances in technology boosted the production capabilities of some spring manufacturers, but this is not a requirement for survival in the industry. In Springs magazine, George Keremedjiev, president of Tecknow Education Services Inc., noted that spring manufacturing companies were using anything from "state-of-the-art electronics in tooling to machinery and tooling that seemingly is frozen in time back in the 1950s." In other words, the technology employed in spring factories can run the gamut from old machines fitted with electronic sensors that check spring positioning to the SMI's Advanced Spring Design Software (ASD) program, which enables the most novice engineer to successfully design springs. The lack of nationwide standards for spring making has hindered the greater implementation of technology.

Because the capital investments required for advances in technology are high, companies must consider both the competitive advantages and cost-effectiveness of modernization. If a company is able to maintain or increase sales volume with old assets, it may not be beneficial to modernize its machinery because of the cost involved. SMI noted that modernization would be an inefficient use of assets unless it helped "to produce a higher profit percentage on net sales." Nevertheless, Keremedjiev predicted that modern methods of production are needed for a spring manufacturer to achieve production processes of the highest quality. Furthermore, Scott Rankin of Vulcan Spring said there is universal recognition that technology will change the industry. Spring making, once known as the "black art" because of its difficulty, can now be mastered by a "spring maker with a month's knowledge and the ability to type numbers on a keyboard," Rankin noted in Springs magazine.

An advancement in the industry that seemed to be worth the investment to some companies was the use of robotics. The use of robots for some of the repetitive-motion tasks necessary for some types of steel spring manufacturing enhanced work productivity as well as provided safer working conditions.

As trade barriers were removed throughout the world, the American spring industry had to compete for foreign manufacturing customers. Supplying American springs to foreign customers will keep the industry competitive because, according to SMI's Pete Peterson, "We don't worry too much about Japanese springs landing in America. But we must worry about the finished products coming here." To compete globally, some American spring makers counteracted manufacturers' preferences for national suppliers by forming joint ventures with prominent foreign spring makers. One such joint venture allowed Associated Spring to establish relationships with Japanese automakers through its association with NHK Spring Co. Ltd. of Japan, that nation's largest spring maker.

In addition, the industry saw continued competition from Chinese manufacturers, who during the 2000s took advantage of the favorable currency exchange available by undervaluation of the yuan, as well as the FSC/ETI tax benefits responsible for hurting many American manufacturing segments, to give large discounts to buyers on Chinese imports.

Spring makers were optimistic in the mid-2000s due to increased production, particularly in the segment of the industry that manufacturers products for OEMs. Despite the upward trend, employment stayed at very low levels, and competition from foreign competitors remained a real threat to the U.S. steel spring manufacturing industry.

© 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.

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