Some industries are able to measure their size and scope by looking at government data. Not so with the U.S. forging industry. The U.S. government classifies plants according to the major end product based on the North American Industrial Classification system of numerical coding, known as NAICS.
Under this system, job shops that make forgings for sale are classified by the government in two NAICS categories: iron and steel forgings (332111), and nonferrous forgings (332112). For more information, go to the U.S. Census Bureau website at www.census.gov/epcd/www/naics.html
Captive forging departments of manufacturing operations that produce forgings for their own use are not classified by the government in the two forging NAICS groups. Data concerning these forging operations are buried in other classifications such as motor vehicles, machine tools, agricultural equipment, plumbing fixtures, and especially hand tools, to name a few. This dramatically understates the forging industry’s size and importance.
FORGING’s circulation database is the basis of our census. For each forging location, we ask a subscriber to fill out a questionnaire with basic qualifying information about that plant location. We augment that information with data from other sources, including company websites on the Internet.
We distribute the magazine to some fastener manufacturers and artisan “blacksmiths,” but we do not include them in our census results. We also make an effort to exclude non-forging locations of companies that forge metal, such as company headquarters at separate sites, even if personnel at those locations are involved in forging process development. Likewise, forged-part design facilities, and users of forgings are not counted.
Every effort was made to remove from the census any records of forging companies that ceased operations prior to December 2003.
Mapping the numbers
The 2004 Census includes data on 398 forging locations in the United States.
The color-coded U.S. map shows how forging operations are distributed by state. The top nine states in terms of numbers of forgers are indicated in (light blue), the next nine states in terms of forging population are indicated in (gray), and the states with three or fewer or none at all are indicated in (tan).
We do not compare the data from year to year because some changes are due as much to better research as to any actual increase or decrease in numbers of forging units.
Forging operations range widely in size, from small shops with fewer than 10 employees to large manufacturers that report more than 1,000 employees. Our survey of employment size is intended to focus on the number of employees involved in forging metal at a particular location, but it is evident that many questionnaire respondents provide employee size answers based on total company size or total number of employees at that location, whether or not they are all involved in forging operations. We have made an effort to identify and correct such answers.
Primary Metal Forged data reflects the metal most commonly forged at each shop, representing the industry on a unit basis. Many plants forge more than one type of metal, thus the All Metals Forged figures presented here do not equal the sum total of plants in each category.
The most commonly forged metal is carbon steel, which has been reported as primary metal at 190 plants, and at 264 total plants. Alloy steel was indicated as the primary metal forged by 77 plants, and one of the metals forged by 235 plants. While only 22 U.S. forgers claim stainless steel as their primary material forged, our research shows 155 shops forge it along with other metals.
The number of closed die forgers dominates the industry as the primary forging method, exceeding the number of open die plants by a margin of more than two-to-one (202 vs. 90). Another 18 units claim ring rolling as their primary forging activity, while 50 companies have some ring rolling capabilities.
Other forging methods are performed as the primary process at 19 locations throughout the United States.
Our census reveals that 36 of the 50 states are home to one or more facilities where forging operations are performed.
Once again Ohio, laying claim to 20.1% of this nation’s forging plants according to our data, lies at the epicenter of the U.S. forging industry. Combined with its five contiguous neighbors—IN, MI, PA, WV, and KY-the region accounts for 58.7% of the country’s forging facilities. Further evidence of geographic concentration of the industry: If the region is expanded to include NY, TN, IL, and WI, that figure jumps to 84.9% of U.S. forging operations.
Ohio includes 31 shops that do primarily closed die forging, while 14 operations claim open die forging as their primary process.
Ohio’s next-door neighbor, Pennsylvania, is home to 49 forges—16.4% of census totals. Twenty-three operations are primarily closed die, 15 open die, and one primarily rolls seamless rings.
Illinois, with 43 forge shops, and California, with 40, follow closely after Pennsylvania. In Illinois, 33 shops perform primarily closed die forging and nine open die forging, with no facilities doing primarily ring rolling. California has 25 primarily closed die shops, ten that are mainly open die forgers, and four that are ring rollers.
In our census, Michigan shows 29 forging operations, including 21 primarily closed die shops and seven mainly open die shops. One Michigan operation claims to produce mainly seamless rolled rings.
Texas shows 27 forging operations, including 11 primarily closed die shops and 10 mainly open die shops. Four Texas shop claim to produce mainly seamless rolled rings.
The other state with more than 20 forgers is Indiana. Of its 24 forgers, 18 list open die forging as their primary process, four for open die, and one for ring rolling.
Canada and Mexico
Our study of the North American forging industry identifies 30 forging locations in Canada. Of these, 21 indicate they work mostly with closed die forging, eight say they are mainly open die forgers , and one works primarily as a ring roller.
Carbon steel is the primary metal forged by 16 shops, another seven forge primarily alloy steel, four work mainly with brass/copper, and one lists stainless steel as its primary metal
Ontario has 24 forgers, of which 18 focus on impression die forging, and five on open die forging. Forgers in other provinces are as follow: Alberta, three; Quebec, one; British Columbia, one; and Nova Scotia, one.
Reliable statistics regarding the forging industry in Mexico continue to be elusive. We know of six forging operations from our circulation database and research, but there probably are a total of about 20 forgers in that country, most of which are closed die operations.