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Smith Brothers Slitting grows capacity

Keywords: Tags  Smith Brothers Slitting, steel, processing, coils, Corinna Petry

CHICAGO — Smith Brothers Slitting, a toll processor that started up in 2007 in Detroit, has expanded its processing capacity for a niche product.

The company, which specializes in slit coil narrower than most service centers are willing to bother with, has expanded to a second location in a former Ford Motor Co. stamping plant in Maumee, Ohio, founder and sales director James Gannes told AMM.

"My family was in the split (breakbulk) and delivery business a long time," he said. Established in 1939, the previous company "bought steel, slit it, trucked it to customers and financed it. I am the third generation and my son, Alex, is the fourth."

Smith Brothers doesn’t compete with the dozens of slitting houses that have 60- and 72-inch-wide lines. "We are in the 50-inch-wide-and-under business," Gannes said. "We take narrow coils and slit narrower coils out of them. We will slit and resize to whatever a customer needs."

In Detroit, Smith slits light-gauge material 0.010- to 0.125-inch thick and widths from ⅜ to 15⅛ inch. By 2012, "our Detroit plant was running at capacity. We saw a need for heavier-gauge slitting—up to 0.25-inch thick—but the Detroit plant couldn’t handle the extra work," Gannes said. He sought capacity in the Detroit area, "but we ended up 75 miles away (in Maumee)," where Ford had closed a 1-million-square-foot stamping plant in 2009 and put it up for sale.

Gannes had a colleague who purchased the plant as a turnkey operation. "There were 54 presses in that building and a complete machine shop—exactly the way Ford left it. Ford had just completely remodeled the plant and installed a scrap collecting operation," he said.

The plant continues to produce first-operation blanks and stamped parts under new ownership, but Gannes leased space to install a 48-inch-wide slitter in the facility and has been ramping up for six months.

Changes in steel selling have opened up opportunities for a niche player like Smith Brothers. "Mills used to not sell to anybody unless they had a plant or equipment. But anyone, even off the Internet, can buy a coil. We are going after folks buying steel off the Internet, stampers that need resizing or other slitting houses that need narrow widths and won’t waste time on their own equipment. We do what nobody wants to do (slit narrow steel) but needs to have done," Gannes said.

The company hopes to reach $700,000 in annual sales very soon.

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