I understand that the MPP Ford Road Division is the company’s gear specialist. Tell us a little about its history and capabilities.
MPP Ford Road was originally a company called Carbon City Products, which was founded in 1957 in St. Marys, Pennsylvania, so we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year. Metal Powder Products was launched in 1946 and purchased Carbon City in 1986 as part of a plan to achieve growth through strategic acquisitions. This was MPP’s second major site purchase, and it now has six locations in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. As you’ve mentioned, MPP Ford Road handles much of MPP’s gear work, although all of our manufacturing locations have gear-making capabilities. MPP Ford Road has experience in virtually all types of gears, including spur, helical, face, rack, and spiral bevel gears. The smallest gear we’ve produced had a pitch diameter of one hundred thousandths, and our largest was an internal ring gear with an eight-inch ID.
What markets do you serve, and where are your customers found?
Our largest single market segment is gearing for the lawn and garden industry. The second is power hand tools, and the third involves industrial machinery applications. We ship our products throughout North and South America, and we also have gears going to China and India. We are always investigating new markets around the world and constantly evaluating our overseas strategy.
MPP has a reputation as being very detail-oriented. Tell us how you begin building a relationship with your potential customers.
Like any sales process, it’s quite fluid. The more we know about a customer’s needs, the better job we can do for them. And here I’m speaking not only of the gear’s dimensions, etc., but also how it will be used and what will be expected of it in the application environment. After the initial inquiry has been made, we will conduct a technical review of the customer’s drawing and/or his application, and then gather as much additional information as we can to help the customer select a material within our wide range of expertise that best meets his design intent. One of the unique attributes of powder metallurgy is that materials can be tailored to the application. Powder metal is not limited to only the available wrought metal alloys. At that point we could have a site visit to discuss more about the assembly and the mating components.
One of MPP’s strongest points is bringing a technical team to the forefront, so once it’s time to make that visit I will do so along with our gear designer, metallurgist, quality control specialist, and our plant manager, who is ultimately responsible for manufacturing the gears. The most important thing to point out is that we are selling a process, not just a component. This process involves combining the materials, the tooling, and the manufacturing consistency and repeatability. Again, the more we understand about the customer’s application and the functional environment, the better we can tailor a material and a process to give them exactly what they need.
I’m curious about your R&D efforts. Tell us about the MPP Technology Center.
The Technology Center is attached to our corporate headquarters in Westfield, Indiana, and its primary role is to investigate processes and materials outside of the normal production environment. It gives us the opportunity to explore new materials and technologies without taking away from the company’s ongoing production activities, and it also serves as a resource for all of MPP’s manufacturing sites, should they require additional input. It’s a tremendous investment by the company, but it supports our goal of developing relationships with our customers by bringing forth the maximum benefit of the best materials, mechanical and physical properties, and precision in order to meet their manufacturing requirements.