It only takes two minutes — two minutes from the moment the plant tour begins — to realize there is something very different about Scot Forge, the 120-year-old forging company based in Spring Grove, IL, about 40 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. Every employee greets visitors with a smile. Every question posed is answered in detail. Every procedure witnessed is thoroughly explained. Every system employed is completely defined. On any given day, every person who visits Scot Forge gets the sense that he or she is the most important visitor the plaid-clad firm has ever had. This feeling is even more impressive given the type of end-use applications Scot Forge makes parts for: nuclear submarines, mining trucks, oil and gas applications, infrastructure, power generation, and space applications. Whether it’s a bevel gear for an industrial application or the wheels for the Mars Curiosity Rover, Scot Forge delivers.
Starting out in 1893 as a small hammer shop in Cicero, IL, Scot Forge has since grown into a global leader in open die and rolled ring forging with more than one million square feet of manufacturing space across three wholly-owned plants and two joint ventures located in Spring Grove, IL, Franklin Park, IL, Clinton, WI, Newcastle, PA, and Detroit, MI.
Scot Forge offers a unique culture in which every employee is an owner. They are all highly motivated since they all share in the company successes. “Scot Forge is a customer-centric, 100% employee-owned company,” Mark Brouwer, executive director of corporate sales at Scot Forge told Gear Solutions. “And we realize that it’s the customers who are writing our checks, so we do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
This kind of team spirit allows Scot Forge to produce rolled rings up to 240” diameter and open die parts ranging from five lbs to 80,000 lbs in a range of ferrous and nonferrous materials while ensuring they’re meeting every one of their customers’ needs in terms of design, quality, and delivery. The company also offers a full complement of heat treat processing and rough machining as required by customers. “We all share in the rewards, so it’s a totally different culture from most companies,” continued Brouwer. “Everyone has a stake in the company. We often take our most seasoned employee owners off the shop floor to help develop new forging and manufacturing solutions. That kind of insight can often provide a competitive advantage for our customers.”
A significant portion of Scot Forge’s business is laser-focused on the needs of the gear industry. The company has invested more than $25 million per year into manufacturing and process improvements, continually adding machine tools and other technologies while expanding the presence of forging in the gear industry. These days, a finished gear assembly can contain several parts produced by Scot Forge that include hammer forgings, press forgings, rolled rings, and step shafts. When needed, Scot Forge can also supply the length of bar stock to produce the required gear. To that point, Scot Forge’s Clinton facility specializes in the production of forged bar stock in standard as well as strict chemistries and hardenability grades used by many gear designers. Jeff Grubich, bar product manager at Scot Forge, says that the flexibility of Scot Forge’s production capabilities means that the company can offer quick turnaround requirements when only a small amount of large-diameter bar is needed.
Combining their forging process capabilities and thousands of in-stock tools at their Franklin Park facility, Scot Forge can produce parts closer to net shape with forged-in features coupled with a speed-to-market strategy. In addition, through Scot Forge’s Ringmasters joint venture, they can produce seamless rolled rings up to 125” OD in carbon alloy and stainless steel with leads times as short as 1–3 weeks.
Quality control is crucial when considering the applications of different gears, which include critical usage in power generation plants, large mining shovels, wind power, and overhead cranes with gear applications. In fact, Brouwer notes that there are several different forging techniques from a gear production standpoint that can play a key role in the strength and durability of the gear, including: single or double hubs, rolled rings, hammer or press rings, step shafts, and solid blanks to name a few. Scot Forge has been ISO certified since the early 1990s and is also AS9100C approved, an aerospace designation for high-quality systems.
“One of the most important aspects of a forged gear is the grain flow,” he explains. “The directional alignment of grains through the forging process deliberately orients the grains in a direction requiring maximum strength. This alignment also yields ductility and resistance to impact and fatigue. With rolled rings, the grain flow typically runs circumferentially. When your grains are refined and you have a proper grain flow, it strengthens the part. Alternative manufacturing methods such as a weldment have a joint, which can be a major problem. And with castings, there is no grain flow or directional strength.”
Scot Forge can also easily shift resources within the company. “If there’s a ‘bottleneck’ situation in the shop, we can flex our resources due to our employee owner culture and redundancy of assets” says Brouwer. “We operate very lean and our team wears multiple hats, cross-trained to perform a number of different functions. This keeps the cost of manufacturing down. We have the flexibility to make one part and the production capacity to handle a larger volume of custom-made parts, using a variety of processes and materials.”
The company was originally known as Atlas Forging. In 1978, the name was changed to Scot Forge to promote the uniqueness of the company, along with the Scottish heritage of the founding Georgeson family. Today, Scot Forge takes its Scottish roots to a place you’d never imagine. Whether they’re flying around the world, strolling around a trade show, or hosting customer visits at their facility, they always wear plaid. It’s a unique and very recognizable way to express the brand.
Crazy? Maybe, but it works. Plaid has become as synonymous with the company as the quality of the forgings they produce, the solutions tailored to the most demanding customers, and the A+ customer service they provide. So next time you see someone in the forging or steel business wearing a plaid coat, the chances are pretty good they work for Scot Forge!