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Ohio Star Forge launches expansion

Keywords: Tags  Ohio Star Forge, Bill Orbach, special bar quality steel, SBQ, capacity expansion, automotive supply chain, Hatebur, hot-forming machine Corinna Petry

CHICAGO — Ohio Star Forge Co., which makes parts for the automotive, off-highway equipment and bearings industries, among others, plans to double its forging capacity with a $20-million expansion.

The company has purchased land adjacent to its 180,000-square-foot plant in Champion Township, Ohio, and will construct a 33,000-square-foot addition to house a new production line, chief executive officer Bill Orbach told AMM. The line will be built around a high-speed horizontal hot-former made by Reinach, Switzerland-based Hatebur Umformmaschinen AG.

"We have four Hateburs in production now," Orbach said. "Once the fifth machine is installed, we will be able to produce components from 1 inch to 6.5 inches in diameter," and Ohio Star’s output will nearly double to 70,000 to 71,000 tons of forgings per year from 36,000 tons currently.

The decision to expand was driven in part by the "pretty strong" trend of European and Japanese automakers with assembly plants in North America sourcing their raw materials locally, Orbach said.

An even more compelling reason is that "there has been a lack of capacity due to consolidation of steel and forging capacity. A lot of (forging) companies went under after 2009 or merged; plus, some capacity was taken out of service and shipped to China," he said.

"There are other machines like ours in North America, but the last was installed in 1998," Orbach said. "We dug into it, and (found) no one has added capacity in that (large) size range. It’s the perfect opportunity at the perfect time."

Start-up is scheduled for Nov. 1. The company employs 96 people and expects to add another 30 to 35 workers over the next three years as it installs peripheral machinery to support existing processes, such as bar-heating equipment.

Ohio Star has been gathering order commitments for product from the new line for "close to a year now," Orbach said. "Activity has picked up tremendously in the past couple of months as we got closer" to finalizing the investment.

Orbach credited the state, Mahoning County and Champion Township economic development authorities with helping to advance the project with job creation grants, property tax abatements and other incentives.

Using hot-rolled special bar quality (SBQ) products, Ohio Star manufactures hot-forged products for automotive drivetrain and wheel hubs, specialty industrial and natural gas applications, off-road equipment, fasteners and bearing components. The Warren, Ohio-based company has produced 900 million forgings in its 25 years of operation and expects to hit 1 billion right around the time of the new line’s start-up.

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