Thursday, January 10, 2013

No Shortage of Work, Job Openings at Glunt Industries

WARREN, Ohio -- Glunt Industries Inc., Warren, is busy, is growing, and is hiring. Still, Gary Shells, Glunt’s corporate manager, laments it’s becoming increasingly difficult to replace some of the more experienced tradesmen near retirement.
“If I could hire five to 10 more machinists right now, I’d do it,” he says. “It’s difficult. It’s not a terrible situation yet, but if things don’t turn around as far as the younger generation getting into the skilled trades, it’s going to be difficult.”
The job skills market isn’t quite as bad as it was 10 years ago when the region’s manufacturing base experienced a large number of retirements, Shells recalls. Then, it was especially challenging to find skilled machinists to fill these needs.
Technology has changed the entire nature of the manufacturing trades, he continues. Today, the skill levels not only demand understanding the basics of manual machining, but the electronics involved as well.
“You’ve got to know how to program, how to edit programs, and how to read programs,” Shells says. “Whereas before, most of your machines were manual.”
Glunt Industries reconditions, repairs and manufactures new just about any piece of equipment found in a rolling mill operation, especially in the steel and aluminum industries.
Skip Fick, a journeyman machinist with Glunt for 28 years, says he first started training in vocational education while attending Warren G. Harding High School. “I started working here when I was 17,” he says, and excelled through an apprenticeship program that Glunt provides for its employees.
Fick operates a large bridge mill that on this day, Jan. 2, is machining valve boxes. “This is a CNC, five-axis machine,” he explains. “All of it is programmed.” A conventional machining process would take about 10 set ups, but this operation can machine the part in a single sitting.
Most of the parts are machined to specifics provided by the original equipment manufacturer, or O.E.M., Shells adds. In some cases, should the job call for reconditioning an older part, the specs could date to the 1950s or the 1960s.
“Our three primary skill sets are welding, assembly and machining,” Shells reports. “Machinists are the most difficult to find.”
To help develop and bring in new talent, Glunt Industries provides a training reimbursement program that helps pay for employees to improve their skills. “We’ll reimburse tuition provided the employee is taking job-related classes and maintains a 3.0 or better grade average,” Shells says.
Glunt sources most of its materials from foundries in the Midwest, and only on rare occasions does the company import metals, Shells says. The company contracts with suppliers such as Ellwood City Group in New Castle, Pa., and U.S. Casting Co., Canton, and Columbiana Foundry in Columbiana.
Business slowed slightly during the fourth quarter, but it’s “not anything to be worried about. We’ve seen this many times,” Shells says. Often, companies start pulling back toward the end of the year, and orders historically weaken during the holiday season.
The company’s primary market is reconditioning and repairing existing equipment for rolling mill operations, Shells says. “It’s a huge cost savings for the customer.”
A new mandrel – a large shaft on which steel is coiled – could cost a manufacturer upward of $700,000. But a repaired mandrel could come in at 25% of that cost. “There’s a big market there,” he remarks.
To keep pace with demands in the industry, Shells says that Glunt has always reinvested in new technology.
“Most of our milling machines are CNC controlled,” he says. In a single set up, these machines are able to drill, turn and bore to precision a specific part or component. “It makes it very efficient,” he says.
Such efficiency is critical in a very competitive market, Shells says, noting turnaround time is crucial when it comes to securing new business and maintaining a solid client base.
As an incentive to its employees, Glunt Industries takes 20% of its gross profit and pays it back to its workers based on a merit schedule.
“If you’re one of those guys that works very hard and contributes to the profitability of the company, and you’re an asset, you may get a big check,” Shells. “That’s always been our philosophy. Reward those who contribute to the profitability of the company.”
At Glunt’s plant on North River Road – the company has another operation on Dana Street in Warren – most of the manufacturing and remanufacturing is focused on rolling mill equipment such as gearboxes, mandrels, rolls, spindles and cylinders. The company employs about 150 between the two plants.
The company also performs most of its small machining jobs in-house, which has proven a more reliable alternative than using outside contractors for parts, Shells adds.

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