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16th Annual Census of North American Forging Operations

16th Annual Census of North American Forging Operations

Once again, we have undertaken to locate and count North America’s forging plant sites, or the units that currently use forging processes in their operations, whether those operations are conducted on a commercial or captive basis. This census report is the 16th edition in the annual series produced by FORGING magazine.

The editors of FORGING undertake this census project because there is no other authority that counts both jobbing and captive forging operations to arrive at industry totals.

It is well known that the U.S. government collects information about forging operations, as do the governments of Canada and Mexico. These efforts are based on the North American Industrial Classification System of numerical coding (aka, NAICS. For more information on NAICS, visit the U.S. Census Bureau website at

Job shops that make forgings for sale are classified in two NAICS categories: iron and steel forgings (332111), and nonferrous forgings (332112).

But, non-job-shop locations with forging operations are classified according to the major end-product of these sites. This means that captive forging departments of manufacturing operations that produce forgings for their own use are not counted by the governments in the two forging NAICS groups. Data concerning these forging operations are buried in other classifications, such as motor vehicles, machine tools, agricultural equipment, plumbing fixtures, and especially hand tools, just to name a few. Thus. government statistics understate the forging industry’s size and scope.

At FORGING, the starting point for our compilation of the North American forging industry census is our circulation database.

We maintain this database by asking a lead subscriber at each forging location to complete a questionnaire with basic qualifying information about that plant location. To compile our census, we confirm and augment that information with data from other sources, including information published by the companies themselves.

While we distribute a limited number of copies of the magazine to artisan “blacksmiths,” we do not include them in our census results. We also make an effort to exclude non-forging locations of companies that otherwise forge metal, such as company headquarters at separate sites, even if personnel at those locations are involved in forging process development. Likewise, forged-part design facilities and users of forgings are not counted in the census. Finally, we have made an effort to remove from our census count any records of forging companies that ceased operations during 2007.

Where they are, and what they do

The 2008 Census of North American Forging Operations includes data on 389 forging plant sites in the United States. Our tri-color U.S. map shows how forging operations are distributed by state. The top 10 states in terms of numbers of forging operations are shown in tan on the map, the next thirteen states in terms of forging population are indicated in olive, and the remaining states with three or fewer forgers, or none at all, are indicated in blue.

Forging operations range widely in size, from small shops with fewer than 10 employees to large manufacturers that report more than 1,000 employees. Our survey of employment size attempts to focus on the number of employees involved in forging metal at a particular location, but it is evident that many of our respondents provide employement figures based on total company size or total number of employees at that location, whether or not they are all involved in forging operations. We aimed to identify and refine such answers.

Primary Metal Forged data reflects the metal most commonly forged at each shop, representing the industry on a unit basis. Many plants forge more than one type of metal, thus the All Metals Forged figures presented here do not equal the sum total of plants in each category.

The most commonly forged metal is carbon steel, which has been reported as the primary metal at 176 plants, and among the metals forged at 286 total plants. Alloy steel was indicated as the primary metal forged by 105 plants, and as one of the metals forged by 276 plants. While only 23 U.S. forgers claim to specialize in stainless steel as their primary material forged, our research shows 174 shops forge it along with other metals.

The number of closed-die forgers dominates the industry as the primary forging method, with 286 plants identifying closed-die forging as their main focus. A total of 78 plants reported that they were primarily involved in open-die operations. Forgers with some closed-die capability number 295, while 160 have open-die forging capability. Another 21 units claim ring-rolling as their primary forging activity, while 60 companies indicate some ring-rolling capabilities. Other forging methods are claimed as the primary process at four locations throughout the United States.

One word of caution to readers who are tempted to compare data from one year to the next: We do not prepare such comparisons because we find that many changes in the totals are due as much to variable reporting by respondents and also to improved research as to any actual increase or decrease in numbers of forging units.

Geographic concentration

Our census reveals that 35 of the 50 states are home to at least one facility where forging operations are performed, but the bulk of the industry is concentrated in the area adjacent to the Great Lakes.

Ohio could be called the center of gravity of the industry, with 64 forging plants or 16.5% of the nation’s forging units, according to our data. A six-state region consisting of Ohio and its five contiguous neighbors — Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky — accounts for 43.7% of the country’s forging facilities. If the region is expanded to include New York, Tennessee, Illinois, and Wisconsin, that figure jumps to 64.8% of U.S. forging operations.

Ohio has 51 shops that report doing primarily closed-die forging, while 10 operations there claim open-die forging as their primary process. Pennsylvania is home to 42 forges, 10.8% of the census total. Sixteen operations are primarily closed-die shops, 21 are open-die shops, and three are primarily seamless-ring rollers.

The next three states in FORGING’s top five are Illinois with 46 forge shops, Michigan with 35, and California with 33. In Illinois, 39 shops perform primarily closed-die forging, seven do open-die forging, but none report that they are primarily a ring roller. Michigan has 30 shops doing primarily closed-die production, three doing mainly opendie production, and two that are primarily ring rollers. California has 25 primarily closed-die shops, four that are mainly open-die forgers, and four that are ring rollers.

Rounding out the top 10 forging states are Texas, Indiana, New York, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, in that order. The distribution of forging operations in these states is shown in the table of primary forging processes.

Canada and Mexico

Our study of the North American forging industry identifies 24 forging locations in Canada. Of these, 17 work primarily with closed-die forging, five are mainly open-die forgers, and one reports it is primarily a ring roller. Carbon steel is the primary metal forged by 12 shops in Canada; nine primarily forge alloy steel, and three work mainly with brass/copper.

Ontario has 18 forgers, of which 14 focus on impression-die forging, three mainly perform open-die forging, and one is mainly a ring roller. In other provinces, the numbers of forgers are: Quebec, three; Alberta, two; and Nova Scotia, one.

The FORGING circulation database indicates that there are seven forging operations in Mexico, one focusing on rolledring production and six performing closed-die forging.

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