Could you tell our readers about the genesis and history of Willman Industries?
The company has been around since roughly the late 1800s. It was an all-around job shop making everything from pots and pans to bicycle parts, as well as charging batteries for local residents.
Around 1940, Ed State purchased the foundry and renamed it State Foundry. We were one of the first foundries to pour Ductile Iron in 1949. Engineers from around the world came to foundry to learn about the process. He sold it in 1965 to Medalist Industries, and the foundry became one of 25-30 companies that Medalist owned and operated.
In 1972, Clay Willman came to the foundry as the foundry president. After several years, he moved up to be a corporate group president for Medalist Industries. In the mid-’80s he returned to the foundry with the idea to purchase it Medalist, which he did in September 1987. Clay and his family have owned it ever since. We currently have about 180,000 square feet of manufacturing floor space, and we employ approximately 150-160 people.
How long have you been at the company? Tell us about your role and responsibilities.
I’m going on 37 years. As the vice president of sales, I’m in charge of sales operations and marketing. I get involved with engineering design discussions with our customers and potential customers. I also oversee the efforts of our in-house sales staff, which handles the majority of our business.
Tell us about Willman’s product and service portfolio for the gear industry. Who are its customers?
What stands out for the majority of our customers are the highly engineered, high-value-added castings we make for them. They have a lot of time, effort, and energy invested in the castings we make for them as far as machining, manufacturing, and assembly in high-quality products that they provide to their customers. Willman Industries’ high-performance, high-integrity castings are found in the finest products of many of the most demanding and respected companies around the world. We essentially consist of two foundries — one for no-bake castings up to 40,000 pounds and another for green sand castings up to 1,500 lbs.
We are very diverse as far as the various industries and wide customer base we serve. We have probably 150 active customers across multiple industries including mining, construction, power grid transmission, power generation, gearboxes, drivetrains, compressors, custom machine manufacturers, paper, oil & gas, military vehicles, pumping, recycling, and valves, among many others. In the gear industry, there’s the large earth-moving equipment customers like Caterpillar and Komatsu. We do a lot of powertrain-type castings, planetary carriers, transmission components and housings, and drivetrain components. We also have a lot of customers who need us to work on the gearboxes in their product. We could do anything from straight gearing to planetary gearboxes, jacking systems for oil drilling platforms, diesel and natural gas engine components, gas turbine components, and large centripetal and reciprocal compressors.
We work with a growing, wide range of outside machine shops to meet every machining requirement. We can provide machined castings as a tier-one supplier to end-users. We also offer in-house heat treatment for stress relief and annealling for smaller castings, as well as contract heat treating for any size castings.
Willman has had quite a long history. What does the future hold for the company?
Willman Industries has continued to invest better equipment and physical resources in an effort to expand our capabilities and increase productivity to meet our customers’ unique needs. We’re conducting research on ductile iron materials that would exhibit higher elongation for given tensile and yield properties. We’re also working on developing the material and the chemistry and doing testing while working with customers to identify their requirements. In some applications, we’re looking for stronger materials for their application that could result in some weight reduction on their components or a possible replacement of steel castings in some applications, for example.
What sets Willman Industries apart from others like it in this market?
Our people. We have a very stable management and hourly workforce. We have lots of people with high-quality technical backgrounds. That’s the key to any operation. I think the environment from a safety standpoint is key, especially at Willman Industries. The incident rate here at Willman Industries is half of what it is for the national average for foundries. We’re very proud of that and very conscious of that, and working to even improve on this.
Our largest focus in our new campaign to current and potential customers is that we are a safe haven foundry. We’re a safe, solid company — and we’re growing. We continue to reinvest into the facility. Over the last 15 years, we’ve reinvested in new equipment, buildings, and other assets, in excess of $25 million. We are ISO certified as well as ABS-certified, DNV-certified, and we’re also a Meehanite-licensed foundry. We are also debt-free, so we’ll be here long-term, with an ever-increasing capacity and capabilities.
Over the last 30 years the number of grey and ductile iron foundries in the United States has been reduced by 50 percent. During this same time frame, Willman Industries has more than doubled in size, and we have monies approved for further expansions and improvements.