Q&A with Kathy Saunders

Director of Marketing

Ellwood City Forge

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How long have you been with Ellwood City Forge, and what is your role?

I have been with Ellwood City Forge (ECF) for almost 30 years, primarily in sales and marketing positions. While I currently have some direct sales responsibilities with key customers, my main role is to promote ECF to customers in North America and around the world, as well as find new market and product opportunities.

Please tell us a little about ECF. 

Ellwood City Forge is part of Ellwood Group, Inc., a privately held corporation that has been in the forging industry for over 105 years. Headquartered in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, we are family-owned and share our family values with our employees. ECF operates four manufacturing facilities in Ellwood City and New Castle, Pennsylvania, and Cleveland, Ohio. We have over 500 employees across our four facilities.

We produce concentric and eccentric contoured forgings and single cross-section products from carbon, alloy, stainless, tool steels, and nickel alloys in weights up to 110,000 pounds, lengths to 57 feet, and diameters to 140 inches. Within the Ellwood Group, Inc., we are fully integrated — from steelmaking and open and closed die forging to horizontal and vertical heat treatment, rough and finish machining, fabrication, welding, and cladding.

What are the industries that ECF serves?

We supply forgings for the most demanding applications in markets such as power transmission and gearing, oil and gas, power generation, mining, industrial machinery, metal processing, aerospace, infrastructure and construction, defense, and shipbuilding.

Describe ECF’s capabilities and products related to the gear industry.

ECF produces forgings from 1,000 to 110,000 pounds in single cross-sections or custom-forged shapes manufactured to customer drawings. We provide forging, heat treatment, machining, and testing of shafts, bars, hubs, rings, and sleeves. Pinion shafts and gear blanks are some of the products we provide to the gearing industry. We utilize common gearing grades, such as 4320, 4340, 9310, and 17CrNiMo6, but can forge many other grades of steel.

What are ECF’s biggest challenges, and how do you address those?

Our biggest challenge is related to the general economic conditions in the industrial markets. As a result, we are seeing more offshore forging competition, which is compounded by the changes in currency value. We have numerous advantages, however, over the offshore forging suppliers, such as our high quality, reliability, flexibility, and faster lead times. We pride ourselves on our exceptional customer service, and we try to make it easy for our customers to partner with ECF.

How does ECF address safety concerns?

We are fully committed to the safety of our employees and visitors. We know that our employees are our greatest asset, and we take every action possible to make sure that our employees return home safely to their families. We have adopted the 24/7 Safety Culture, which includes peer observations to reinforce positive safe work practices, and we find ways to improve on unsafe practices. Weekly safety meetings for all employees focus not only on how to be safe at work, but also how to be safe at home.

What is it about ECF that sets it apart from others in the same industry?

Our commitment to reliability makes ECF the open die forger of choice for our customers. We want our customers to know that they can count on us to receive their forging when we promise and to get fast quotes and accurate answers to their questions. We are reliable — with our due-date performance and our customer service.

What advantages does ECF offer to its customers?

Our full integration can be a huge advantage for our customers, saving them time and money. We have strong technical skills within our metallurgy group. We also have a research and development arm of Ellwood Group that works with ECF and our customers to develop new grades and processes, as well as make improvements to existing grades and processes. Our financial stability is another advantage — we operate with no debt and fully fund our investments without outside help.

Can you give me an example where ECF worked with a customer to solve a specific need? 

We recently had a customer who had the opportunity to win an order, but only if he could provide 15 finished forgings in an expedited lead time — approximately 25 percent of the normal lead time for the product. The customer contacted ECF for help. ECF reviewed the operations required to produce the forgings (including forge, heat treatment, machine, bore, test, and shot blast) and promised to ship within three weeks, which was a Rapid Response lead time for this product. Everyone at ECF was committed to meeting the promise that we made, and the forgings shipped in 16 calendar days. The customer was extremely grateful and has awarded us additional business because of our reliability.

Is ECF involved in industry associations?  

ECF is involved in numerous industry associations including the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA), Forging Industry Association (FIA), International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC), Petroleum Equipment & Services Association (PESA), and National Slag Association (NSA). 

What is in the future for ECF? 

We plan to be around for another 100 years. In good times or bad, we continue to invest in our facilities and employees so that we can maintain our status as a world-class forge shop. 

MORE INFORMATION  www.ellwoodcityforge.com