U.S. Manufacturing Corp. delivers a proprietary cold extrusion process in the production of shafts and axle housings and other parts for Ford, GM and Chrysler RAM trucks that are stronger and lighter weight than anything on the market. Lorie Greenspan finds out how the company has helped to advance the industry.
U.S. Manufacturing Corp. (USM) designs and produces axle housings and shafts for the North American light vehicle and heavy truck markets, including sport utility and pickup trucks. That’s where the ordinary part of the description ends.
Because USM not only makes axle housings and shafts and other parts, but it makes these highly specialized, variable wall products in one step, and literally, in seconds, making USM’s products stronger and lighter than anything else in the industry.
It all has to do with a proprietary process the company invented that produces shafts that are hollow in the middle and yet, still substantially stronger than a solid bar.
USM has supplied these products to the auto industry since the 1970s and today is both a tier one and tier two supplier: tier one to Ford and General Motors, and tier two to other systems integrators like AAM, Dana and Magna. The company maintains 750,000 square feet in the old Arsenal of Democracy building in Warren, Mich., where US Army tanks were manufactured from the start of World War II until the early 1990’s. It also has another 275,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Silao, Mexico.
Tubes and Shafts
Among the company’s key products is its VARI-LITE® variable wall axle tubes, made through a proprietary cold extrusion process which produces a variable wall tube with greater strength and significant weight savings when compared to other more traditional methods of manufacturing.
USM’s process is capable of providing a variable wall design with an oval I.D., providing even greater weight and cost savings. This process optimizes the use of material at the neutral axis of the tube, further reducing both the weight and material cost. These tubes can be seamlessly integrated into an existing product design.
The company’s unique cold form tubular extrusion process also enables the company to provide its customers with mass optimized hollow front and rear axle shafts, transmission shafts and steering racks that provide significant weight savings while providing the required functional strength previously limited to solid sections.
“We can produce hollow transmission shafts that are 400 to 500 percent stronger than the traditional solid shaft,” says CEO Brian Simon, whose father founded the company in 1964. “There are technologies out there but they can’t do it as efficiently or to the magnitude we do, they can’t do the reduction we’re doing, whether it’s a six foot long or a one foot long extrusion.” USM is able to cold form these products in as little as 7 seconds.
Other processes employed by the company include:
- Warm form extrusions: USM’s warm form extrusion process provides near net shaped products for the light and heavy truck industry offering both a weight and cost savings based on a reduction in the material and machining cost;
- Precision machining: The company provides expertise in all facets of production machining. In addition to machining of its axle tube housings USM also provide machining for a wide variety of products such as differential cases, axle shafts, yoke shafts, steering racks, half shafts and carriers;
- Welding: USM also possesses vast expertise in inertia, friction, MIG and resistance welding.
Supporting global platforms with planned expansions into Europe and Asia Pacific, USM maintains all certifications, including TS-16949-2014 and ISO 14001-2015 in Warren and TS-16949-2016 and ISO-14001-2013 certifications for its USM de Mexico operations. The company has also received numerous awards, including a Clean Corporate Citizen award in 2008 as well as the American Axle Supplier of the Year Award, the American Axle “Scale” Supplier of the Year Award, Dana Approved Supplier, Visteon Preferred Quality Status and the GM Mark of Excellence.
“We’re a clean corporate citizen and we like to give back to the society in which we operate,” says Simon, adding that the company measures every output of energy in terms of its overall carbon footprint. “We are conscientious and we understand the needs of the automotive industry.”
In fact, USM operates through a core set of guiding principles, which the company maintains “are never compromised and are not negotiable. They guide our behavior, foster continuous improvement and create a safe work environment where success is inevitable.” These principals, whose first letters spell out the word SPIRIT, including self-respect and respect for others, positive attitude, integrity, responsibility, improvements and teamwork.
To foster this, the management team provides leadership, training and development opportunities through clear direction and open communications. Employees are valued, trusted and empowered to carry out their responsibilities.
So, taking this one of a kind attitude toward success and coupling it with its proprietary extrusion process, the company is planning to branch out into supplying other industries outside of automotive.
“This year we will do close to $290 million and with new booked business we should be in the $370 million range within the next two years,” says Simon. With 1100 employees, all of the company’s growth will be organic.
And that is good news, both for U.S. Manufacturing Corp and the companies for whom it has become a valued supplier.