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Bill Gasbarre credits his father’s initial experience in the industry as one of the driving factors for the company’s direction it has followed and adhered by to this day. “Having been immersed in the manufacturing scene early on in his career, he was able to develop a pressing machine that not only had the operator in mind, but also the maintenance man as well,” he says, adding, “we use that same philosophy today, keeping every potential player in mind when designing and engineering our products for our end users.”
Although these days, Gasbarre Furnace Group is manufacturing much more than just pressing machines, as the company and its three subsidiary units, Sinterite, C.I. Hayes, and J.L. Becker, comprise a three-headed business that offers a multitude of solutions and services tailored to the needs of the powder metallurgy and heat treat industries.
In fact, these three companies represent realizations of a long, careful effort of building as strong and dynamic of a company as possible, a process that dates back twenty-five years ago to 1991, when the company first bought Sinterite. “Only impacting the powder metallurgy business at the time, we developed a friendly partnership throughout the early 80s with an individual in the furnace business, swapping tales about certain companies that were buying presses and how they were going to need furnaces as well, and vice versa” Gasbarre says, adding, “long story short, this individual came to us and told us he was going back into the parts making business and offered to sell the company to us, given our shared knowledge of customer bases for his products and our own.”
Two years later, the transaction was completed and the newly acquired furnace company became known as Sinterite. “That really expanded our capabilities and opened our eyes to the possibilities we could achieve as a business,” he says, adding, “We started looking at other aspects of our company where we could improve and grow.” He says that they figured out, for example, that they were spending over a million dollars a year on outsourcing their precision tooling for press companies. So in 1997, they went out and bought a precision tooling company and integrated it into their business.
Strategic additions like that one became the standard over the next decade and a half, as they bought C.I. Hayes, a furnace company, in 2003, and J.L. Becker, a heat treating company, in 2011. Gasbarre says that these decisions have proved instrumental in the success that Gasbarre Furnace Group enjoys today, providing flexibility and customization in what is an increasingly sophisticated marketplace.
“C.I. Hayes was a company that was founded in 1905, so they have a lot of history and experience in their market,” he says, adding, “bringing them into Gasbarre gave us high temperature and vacuum furnace capabilities that we simply didn’t have before.” With the addition of J.L Becker, he says the company was also able to take on an expanded role in the heat treat industry and offer a completely new product line to the market, including “integral quench and car bottom furnaces, products we had never been able to manufacture when it was just Sinterite and C.I. Hayes.”
Trio of Options
Gasbarre says that the three-headed approach the company has taken on has proved integral in their ability to do as much business in as many different markets as possible. “These three furnace companies, when you look at them together, really give us a large market base that has very little crossover between them,” he says, continuing, “we didn’t just make these acquisitions to get rid of our competition, we did it in a strategic manner that has allowed us to grow the market base and spur our product line.”
And their success is shown in the way they manage their product line, as Gasbarre says that when they receive an order for continuous belt furnaces, the order automatically goes to Sinterite. J.L Becker typically funnels in orders for vacuum furnaces, but if they receive requests for a model that they don’t make, they simply refer it to C.I Hayes, whose additional capabilities enable them to come through for the customer and as a result, keeps the business entirely within Gasbarre Furnace Group.
One of the biggest examples of the expanded business opportunities and the success that results from it, was shown in 2013, with Gasbarre Furnace Group producing a record year in terms of revenue. “Through our different channels of business and a lot of hard work, we were able significantly impact each of the markets we’re in,” he says, adding, “J.L. Becker in particular was a strong catalyst of business for us and having only been part of our company for two years prior to 2013, it really validates our initial decision to bring them into our company, and excites us about the future.”
Gasbarre says that although they pay strong attention to the quantitative aspects of a potential decision, whether it be towards the development of a new product, tackling a new market, or acquiring a new company, they also commit a strong part of their philosophy towards the continuous presence of an open line of communication between them and their customers as a way of gauging what is missing in their respective industries currently, and what might be needed in the future.
For example, he talks about a new product in the works for the heat treat industry that came as a result of the experience of one of their sales managers at J.L Becker. “This individual had been in the heat treat industry for quite some time prior to joining our team,” he says, adding, “soon after, he came to us and said, ‘there’s this aspect of the manufacturing process in heat treating that is causing customers a lot of issues and costing them quite a bit of money,’ and after he talked with them, he developed a long term, sustainable solution for it and we took his idea and ran with it.” While Gasbarre couldn’t specify exactly what the product is, he says he expects it to “change the heat treat industry’s manufacturing sustainability and efficiency,” and expects to unveil it later this year.
And that’s where the value is found in Gasbarre Furnace Group, for as much trust as they have built from their customer base, they commit themselves even more towards the input and expressed needs from their employees and end users, and it’s a mentality that has continuously paid off for them. Take 2006, for example, when a potential customer based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, called them up with an issue regarding transforming their batch equipment in a more continuous process, enabling them to be more efficient in their production.
“These guys had a big issue inside their plant from a logistics standpoint, and were someone we had never done business with prior to the project,” he says, continuing, “we sat down with them for almost three hours, and after mutually establishing trust, we were able to come up with a solution for them, providing a continuous line for their facility that took them to another level.” He says that the company has since become one of their biggest customers over the years, and represents an example of the level of quality of partnership that they try to replicate and apply whenever they do business.
Gasbarre says that while he has learned a lot in his 41 years with the company, one of the things that has always remained constant and unchanging throughout his career is his company’s commitment to both its employees and the customer. “Between our own workers and the individuals I conduct business with on a daily basis, we try to create outcomes that are beneficial to all,” he says, adding, “I like to go to sleep with a clear head at night, and given what we have here at Gasbarre Furnace Group, I can say I sleep quite soundly, knowing that we bring quality products to the heat treat and powder metallurgy industries day in and day out, and meeting our customers with the same trust and respect that they give to us.”