Oberg Industries develops precision components, tooling and assemblies for world-leading manufacturers, providing them a competitive edge. Materials – application and handling – is a key element, reports Dan Harvey.
Any of the fortune 500 companies it serves will describe the value.
For more than six decades, Oberg Industries has manufactured precision components and tooling made from a variety of materials. Indeed, this Freeport, Pa.-based enterprise understands materials very well.
“This company brings together material knowledge and material machining. We don’t design, but we help customers design better – they get elements such as better flow and longer product life in the most cost-effective fashion,” comments David Rugaber, executive vice president, sales and marketing for Oberg Industries, which provides precision metal manufacturing for numerous industries.
As far as materials, the company doesn’t just limit itself to tungsten carbide and stainless steel, says Rugaber. “We have a lot of experience using inconel, stellite, titanium, cobalt chrome, molybdenum and so on.”
That goes back to the company’s establishment, which occurred in 1948, when founder Donald E. Oberg, who had passion for innovation and precision, pioneered usage of tungsten carbide components for the manufacture of high-speed stamping dies. “The company’s beginning is a classic entrepreneurial story,” says Dave Bonvenuto, executive vice president and general manager, Oberg Medical. “Don Oberg left the business he was working for, started a small shop, attracted a small circle of likeminded people, and grew the business.”
Mr. Oberg may not recognize his company as it currently exists – but like Walt Disney, he had a vision, and that proved a guiding force. That vision attracted engineering expertise to provide cost-effective solutions for customers around the world that face the most complex production challenges.
That gets back to material expertise. “Items such as titanium, inconel, stellite, and cobalt chrome – we know how these materials interact with one another, and with manufacturing applications and, taking it one more step forward, with business success,” comments Bonvenuto. “We can work with a wide variety of materials quite easily. People might take it for granted. But for us, it is a major differentiator and comes out in our design for manufacturability [DFM] phase of projects.”
FOUR FOCUS AREAS
The in-house capabilities – and subsequent positive results – serve customers in a broad range of industries. The company is highly diversified, but it classifies four industries as its main focus areas. “These include aerospace, container [goods and tooling], energy [oil and gas exploration], and medical,” says Rugaber. “These segments are major elements of our strategic growth plan, and that’s where we’ve pushed a great deal of capital – both in terms of financial and human resources.”
Meanwhile, the company doesn’t ignore other sectors and opportunity areas. When you cut up the diagrammatic pizza pie, you’ll see that housing and construction, consumer products, and automotive each represent a slice.
But the aforementioned “four” has been where Oberg has concentrated its activities. Rugaber describes how Oberg comes into play in the aerospace industry: “In that marketplace, we work on proprietary projects,” he says. “A customer may not know how a solution can be made, so we deploy our quality systems and manufacturing processes to make high-end, continuous production parts that go into a lot of different aircrafts.”
Similarly, Oberg addresses challenges arising in the medical industry. Again, innovation and vision is key. Consider this specific challenge: A leading company in joint replacement orthopedics had manufactured a set of pedicle screws to a print tolerance so tight, that the hexalobular driver that was to be used to insert the screws could not be manufactured consistently. Enter Oberg and its proprietary Molecular Decomposition Process® (or MDP) for grinding. The MDP process offers a technical advantage over conventional or electrochemical grinding due to its DC current power generation and proprietary algorithms.
Oberg was able to not only manufacture the hexalobular drivers and save the customer about $3 million of pedicle screw inventory – but the company went a step beyond to put in place a kanban program to provide ongoing supply of the drivers, all the while also achieving inspection correlation with the customer and ultimately leading to an Oberg-Inspect product.
Bonvenuto adds, “The customer in this instance saw us at our finest. We deployed a proprietary technology on a very challenging product. We showcased our manufacturing engineering, quality engineering and program management talents under pressure – and lastly showed that with our size of company that we can assist with working capital. The result has been an expanding relationship with this wonderful customer.”
Those two industry examples point to Oberg’s numerous capabilities. The company specializes in precision metal stamping, tooling, multi-axis machining, turning, EDM (electrical discharge machining), grinding and lapping.
Facilities include more than 50 stamping presses (with capacities ranging from 5 to 400 tons), more than 30 multiaxis machining centers, over 30 wire and RAM EDM machines, and more than 15 multi-axis turning centers. Always making new equipment investment, the company strongly focuses on integrating the most advanced technology to enhance DFM.
“We’re unique in that we have all of those capabilities in house,” says Bonvenuto. “Great stamping houses and tool and die houses exist – as well as milling and turning houses – but we provide it all within one company.”
That results in a close partnership with customers. “When we sit down with a customer – in any industry – and discuss new projects, we analyze and determine the most efficient, cost-effective fashion to make a product. With all of the capabilities under ‘one roof,’ so to speak, we are better able to assess and provide recommendations through our DFM process.”
That “one roof” actually includes four facilities. “We have two closely located campuses in Pennsylvania – in Freeport and Sarver – that have a total of about 350,000 square feet,” describes Rugaber. “One focuses on machining operations; the other focuses on stamping operations. We also have a facility in Costa Rica [Barreal de Heredia] and in Mexico [Tecate], each employing more than 100 people.”
The facilities are a certified: ISO 13485 for medical; AS9100:2009 for aerospace, and ISO/TS 16949:2009 for automotive and ISO 9001:2008. “We’ve also undergone a complete facility validation effort,” adds Bonvenuto. “All equipment has gone through installation and operational qualification validation, and all special processes that we do in house have gone through process qualification as well.”
Further, Oberg excels in risk management. “Through the years, it became in-grained in our DNA,” says Bonvenuto. “As our four growth markets mature and progress in their respective focus with risk management, our automotive experiences in particular have prepared us well to provide this level of expertise.”
Of course, employee competency and involvement is part of the success. “For each customer, we put together a team that includes a dedicated quality engineer, program manager, and manufacture engineer – all of the necessary resources,” says Bonvenuto. “In this way, we understand what the customer’s needs are and how we can best service them. Technical competence and experience levels are very high, and we combine this with market knowledge.”
Adds Rugaber, “What this translates into is that customers receive complex parts that are made correctly. We adhere to tight tolerances and precision. Our reputation is that we do that consistently and insistently. The Oberg part will work and work well every single time.”
Indeed the company has come a long way. Donald Oberg established the business in 1948 (in Tarentum, Pa.) with just 12 employees. Today the workforce includes 750 and annual sales, according to Rugaber, reach $110 million a year.
After Mr. Oberg founded the business, the company immediately shifted into high gear, as he pioneered usage of tungsten carbide in the stamping die industry. In the 1950s, after Oberg purchased 7.5 acres in Freeport, the company began to expand. During that decade, the founder also initiated an innovative apprentice training program that would fill the company ranks with highly skilled employees.
As the company moved into the 1960s, it formed new business units to focus on machining and grinding specific size ranges of round tungsten carbide and steel components. In the process the business became recognized throughout the world as a leader in designing and manufacturing precision stamping dies.
In the 1970s, the company continued evolving, as it brought CAD into its engineering department. During that era, the enterprise also purchased one of the first wire EDM machines used in North America. In the 1980s, the company’s named changed from Oberg Manufacturing to Oberg Industries, to better underscore the broad range of integrated businesses and capabilities that now formed the corporation.
In the 1990s, Oberg Industries opened its Sarver facility, and began offering metal stamping and automated assembly services and provided assembled or sub-assembled components from design through production.
In the new century, Oberg Industries formed its wholly-owned subsidiary, Oberg Medical, to focus on the demands from the growing medical market. Also, it set up its Costa Rica production facility, to meet the demands of global manufacturing competition – and it extended operations into Mexico.
Today, its reach is extensive. “Some product lines are sold in Mexico and throughout the Americas, as well as in Europe and Asia” reports Rugaber. “But, by far, the majority of sales are in the Americas.”
Rugaber says that, as the company moves forward, it seeks to achieve balanced growth in the markets it serves. “This relates to cycles,” he explains. “One industry could be in a cyclical downturn while another is in an upturn. At the same time, there is a consistent theme running through all of our activities: We are using our same core competencies of precision metalworking.”
Bonvenuto expands on that point: “One thing to understand, as we work in different markets, we have equipment and personnel that we dedicate to those markets. We’re not just a big job shop. Market knowledge and customer knowledge is critical so that we can understand the challenges facing our customers and make recommendations to solve them. We do more than just sell a machine shop.”
According to Rugaber, Oberg Industries will continue pursuing growth in the aforementioned four strong market areas. “We will also continue investing in new equipment – the latest and the greatest – as that will keep us competitive,” he says. “Investment also includes personnel. Our company was the first in Pennsylvania to have a state-certified apprentice program which is used as a benchmark for other companies. Also, while we do hire external talent, we strongly focus on nurturing talent. We hire young people, and train them about what is the right way to do business.”
Don Oberg would be proud of the Oberg of today. His vision and passion for manufacturing and growth is alive and well some six decades later. Truly with Oberg, with capability come solutions.