April Terreri has the story of the successful network of Dayton Progress Corporation companies, the leading supplier of quality die components to the metal stamping industry.
Dayton Progress isn’t exactly a household name. But we all enjoy products made better because of this company’s commitment to producing superior precision componentry. Every day, we use products fabricated from machinery using Dayton Progress-made components. A product is only as good as the forethought of design engineering and the quality of workmanship of the tooling necessary for its manufacture. If that tooling contains components manufactured by Dayton Progress Corporation, you can bet your last Buffalo-head nickel that the product will be the best anywhere in the world.
The company’s middle name is “Progress,” in fact, in spirit and in delivery. The Dayton, Ohio, company that began humbly in 1946 as a one-man operation is now the world’s leading and largest supplier of quality die components to the metal stamping industry, with subsidiaries in Canada, England, Germany, France and Japan.
Robert Gargrave was an enterprising young tool and die maker who recognized a need for standardized punch components for customers. “He recognized that all the companies around using this type of product were making their own punches by taking a piece of steel, machining it and then heat-treating it,” says James Albrecht, vice president of sales. “Then they would finish the product so they could put it in a die. Mr. Gargrave realized this was a waste of toolmakers’ time, so he started his own punch company to manufacture standardized punch components.”
To the Core
Dayton’s two core business segments are the manufacture of punch and die components for the metal stamping industry, and precision-ground special tooling. Dayton’s punch and die components are used by metal fabrication companies. The list of such operations includes automotive, appliance, electronics and agricultural industries as well as tool and die shops that build dies for a variety of manufacturers. Dayton’s customers are loyal. “They keep coming back to us because of the consistency of our quality. Our delivery system is unparalleled by any of our competitors,” says Albrecht.
Each and every part Dayton manufactures is unique. “Our customers give us specs and we manufacture according to those specs,” says Albrecht. “Every catalogue item we make comes from a semifinished blank and is finished to that customer’s requirements, which are specified when he places his order with us.” Precision is serious business to Dayton engineers, who work to tolerances within .0002 inch.
A Global Tooling Giant
The company earned its global prominence in the precision-ground special tooling industry. In fact, Dayton is the largest precision-grind shop in the world. “We provide customers worldwide with products that have been heat-treated and processed with precision grinding, in almost any desired shape or configuration,” says Albrecht. Since the performance of a punch depends on factors other than size, concentricity and finish, the total performance is in direct relation to the quality of heat
treatment. “No company pays more attention to heat treatment than we do, and we have a metallurgist who oversees all heat-treat processes. Our customers rely on our quality in these processes, as they can achieve greater productivity.”
Because of the company’s commitments to these standards, Dayton is well respected after 54 years of consistently delivering quality and on-time superior performance and products. “When a customer orders from us, he knows he will get the right part and he will get that part on time,” says Albrecht.
Service from the Network
In addition to its predictable quality and on-time delivery, Dayton customers also rely on the company’s technical service. Dayton’s remarkable worldwide network of regional managers and more than 200 industrial distributors is key to the company’s continued success. “Our 17 regional managers around the country work with customers, not as salespeople but more as engineers,” explains Albrecht. These are seasoned professionals, all either tool and die makers or tool designers who have had the hands-on experience working with, and even building, these tools. “They have developed vast amounts of information in working with numerous customers,” says Albrecht.
The regional manager is a key link between Dayton’s customer and its plant. “He is in the field in major metropolitan areas and he is readily available to the customer,” says Albrecht. Regional managers work with distributors and their sales people to educate them, both in product and in the technical aspects of the business.
Dayton industrial distributors market a variety of industrial tools along with Dayton’s. The industrial distributor plays a key role in the ordering process, and Dayton procures its customers almost exclusively through its network of distributors, whose technical abilities are crucial in presenting products to customers. “With an active customer base of about 14,000, there is no way that we could reach and service customers around the world without our distributors,” Albrecht says.
Savings for Customers
The company’s innovations, such as the Dayton slug retention alteration, have saved customers hundreds of hours of down time and have generated thousands of dollars in savings by having customers’ dies perform better though the use of the slug retention device. “When you make a hole in a part, the slug retention prevents slugs from pulling back onto the die surface so that the customer gets better performance from his tool,” explains Albrecht.
Albrecht credits the company’s continued success to middle management and Dayton’s 1,000 “great workers producing the parts in our manufacturing plants,” which occupy more than 200,000 square feet. The Dayton system is an integrated information and communications network involving every facet of the Dayton operation, from the industrial distributors right through the shipping department. The company maintains a large inventory of semifinished products, reducing lead times and thereby allowing customers to minimize their own in-house inventories.
In an industry where precision is a major premium, Dayton continues to lead in providing that precision. “We will continue to be the world market leader in giving our customer the correct parts on time,” says Albrecht. “We also want to be the leading low-cost producer.”
Dayton’s goal is to continue growing to keep pace with the increasing volume of orders. To keep pace with its customers’ demands, Dayton uses electronic order processing techniques and state-of-the-art manufacturing concepts. The company recognizes that in the future, it will be more difficult to get skilled people. Thus, one of the company’s strategies will be to embrace new processes and automation.
The time is growing near when Dayton will implement office automation and automated plant manufacturing. “Even the process of dealing with customers will all tie in with information technology and the Internet somehow. That’s where we will drive more of our future so that we will be able to do a better job faster and with less handling of the order or the product,” concludes Albrecht.