A Massachusetts producer of saw and metal products has been helping other businesses retain a cutting edge within their fields. Lorie Russo explains how.
This company’s job is to help you “cut it.” But, for a while in the 1980s, the future at this Fitchburg, Mass., manufacturer of saws, metal and wood products seemed a little like the dull edge of a blade.
The story about how Simonds retrieved its place among the leaders in the blade manufacturing industry reads like a novel about underdogs reclaiming their title. Now 168 years old, Simonds had been family-owned until the early 1960s, and from 1980 until 1988 was owned by Household Finance. By 1988, recalls Marketing Manager Eric Pfeiffer, the business had reached a low point for a number of reasons: “We were at the point where you had to issue galoshes and an umbrella at the door on a rainy day.”
At that time, management and private investors bought the fledgling business and reinvested what Pfeiffer describes as an “incredible amount of money” into the business, re-establishing the company’s focus. “It took management believing in the business and people with good ideas to turn the business around,” says Pfeiffer. “Focus on the operational aspects of the business, the needs of the customer and product innovation rescued the business and re-established it as a leader in the industries it serves.”
Since then, Simonds has experienced a “good, steady increase.” With the purchase of much new equipment, it is meeting and exceeding the performance needs of the customer.
The Entire Scope
Simonds has provided state-of-the-art, high-quality cutting tools for more than 160 years, and offers one of the broadest and most trusted lines of cutting tools for wood, metal, paper and plastics found anywhere in the world. The line includes metal cutting saw blades, such as carbon, weld-edge, and carbide band saw products; hacksaw blades and high-speed saw blade welders; steel rule blades for cutting and creasing folding cartons, corrugated boxes, business forms and labels; an assortment of high-quality files; circular saws; knives; wide-band saws; narrow-band saws; and filing room equipment for the primary wood processing market. In addition, the Simonds Weld Edge Quality System, American Pattern File Quality System and the Bits & Shanks Quality Systems are all ISO 9002 certified.
The company operates out of plants in Fitchburg; Newcomerstown, Ohio; Big Rapids, Mich.; Corona, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Springfield, Ore.; and Spangenberg, Germany. It operates distribution centers in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., Delta, British Columbia, Brampton, Ontario, Canada, and Sheffield, England. More than 25 percent of its products are exported into the global marketplace.
Since redefining its place within its industry, Simonds has developed a host of new products for its markets. Says Ray Martino, company president, “We are continually developing and researching new products and looking for unmet needs within the industries we serve. We are constantly trying to innovate and serve the customer, and are driven to find solutions for end-users.”
For the logging industry, the company has developed a number of new products in the equipment division to improve on productivity. “We have engineered machine tools that sharpen saws and that level saws (to put in the proper geometry for optimum use).” Simonds also has offered new products to facilitate better saw control.
In the area of files, Simonds has designed the Legend file for the farrier trade, specially designed for the accurate job of horse-shoeing. Among the line of metal-cutting blades offered by Simonds are those that are carbide-tipped for cutting through hard or abrasive materials as well as blades that can cut through exotic materials such as uranium, titanium and beryllium. Simonds also offers the Si-Clone blade that can cut through high-nickel, chrome and other exotic alloys.
Simonds’ BundleBand® is a new band saw developed for cutting bundles of metals, such as pipes. “It’s excellent for very harsh applications; it’s a very unique blade within the industry,” Martino says. Simonds also has introduced new metal band saws, welders and files serving a broad base of markets, including steel foundries and automotive manufacturers – virtually any industry using metal-cutting tools. These new products have been designed to improve on speed or cutting accuracy while enhancing the longevity of the blade.
Additionally, Simonds continues to offer its Trademark series of circular saws, wide-band saws and narrow-band saws. The Red Streak® narrow-band saw is ideal for portable sawmills, single-head, multiple-head, Scragg or band edger. The Trademark series of band saws goes through Simonds’ strict inspection, and only after meeting tough quality standards does the saw get etched with the Trademark series logo. Saws are then shipped with a signed copy of the Simonds quality assurance certificate.
New Channels, New Business
Worldwide, Simonds maintains 1 million square feet of manufacturing space. As far as expansion plans, Martino explains the company’s goals are two-fold. Internally, Simonds plans to market existing products to new channels, such as construction and, to some degree, retail for the professional tradesman. Simonds also intends to purchase additional businesses whose products can be sold and distributed through the sales force, Martino explains. For example, last November Simonds purchased the manufacturing operation of another company, which produces hole saws that cut circles through metal and wood.
“Now we can grow the product line by selling to a broad customer base,” he explains. “We’re constantly expanding our opportunities for growth that way.”