Highlighting Area Businesses – Franklin Bronze

Franklin Bronze Takes the Gold

In a region where turnover is high among employers in the manufacturing sector, Franklin Bronze Precision Components (FBPC) in Franklin, Pennsylvania, has figured out a formula to attract and retain workers.  This company pays a competitive wage and establishes a healthy work-life balance.

“We’re treated well by Franklin Bronze, and the loyalty of the owners helps with that,” said Chris Barber, production manager and 22-year veteran of the company.  Barber added that the average employee tenure is about 10 years.

Franklin Bronze’s formula has contributed to building a solid workforce.  Unlike many employers in the region who are happy if employees show up daily and pass a drug test, FBPC “gets good candidates and doesn’t have that same problem,” said Dave Greene, operations manager for the company.

Franklin Bronze is also willing to use today’s technology to attract workers.  “Facebook has been a good tool for getting the word out about job openings,” Greene said.  He noted that allowing employees to selectively use their cell phones on the job has been beneficial to the company and its employees.  “I’ve gotten a picture of a problem part from someone at work while I was home; the technology helps to keep production moving,” Greene added.

The company was founded in 1878 and started as a bronze foundry, according to Michelle Winters, sales/marketing coordinator at Franklin Bronze.  Today, FBPC is an investment cast foundry and pours a wide variety of alloys including bronze, brass, stainless steel, nickel and many others.

Investment casting, sometimes referred to as lost-wax casting, is used to create a mold.  Specifically, a wax mold is made in the shape of a desired part and then dipped several times in a slurry mix to create a tough outer shell.  After a predetermined amount of dry time, the mold is heated to remove the wax and then filled with molten metal. The result is a precise investment-casting component.

According to Greene and Winters, making molds for the glass bottle plants accounts for about half of their products.  “There’s a saying that 80 percent of glass work is used to supply beer bottles throughout the world,” said Barber.  “We’re the starting point that leads to the glass bottle in the end,” he added.

What are some of Franklin Bronze’s secrets to success?  “We’re very fast for the industry,” Greene said.  Barber reiterated that point:  The glass industry is about speed.”

The company also does its own in-house tooling and machining.  “This saves time,” according to Winters, “because we are all working towards the same end goal and our tool makers and machinists are familiar with the parts, customers and industries we serve.”

Franklin Bronze won a national award in 2015.  The Investment Casting Institute sponsored a “casting contest,” and FBPC won that year for its entry, a bi-metal neck ring.  The company’s product “allows for a 20-30 percent savings in material compared to sand castings, and up to 50 percent as compared to using continuous cast bar material,” as reported by the Investment Casting Institute.

According to its website, Franklin Bronze makes products for the glass industry, as well as the automotive, oil & gas, marine, and many other industries.  According to production manager, Chris Barber, “We have added a lot of industrial business in the past decade and continue to do so in order to balance the workload.”

Regarding the future, FBPC is increasing its productivity by training more of its employees in Lean Manufacturing, which is a type of workplace training used in several industries.  Lean generally refers to eliminating waste from processes, utilizing various continuous-improvement techniques. “Having more employees trained in this program will lead to a safer, more productive workplace,” Barber said.

Franklin Bronze currently has over 100 employees, according to Barber, but they’re looking to grow.  “This good economy has actually made it harder to find qualified employees, because they can find jobs elsewhere.  However, we’ll need more people to continue to expand our market.”

Dave Greene, the company’s operation manager, mentioned that most of the people that FBPC hires are general laborers.  “We train new employees in-house, and the pay will be higher for those who are working in tougher conditions, such as in the foundry,” Greene said.

Both Greene and Barber said there are also jobs for those with higher-level skills.  Machinists, tool makers, and maintenance personnel with the ability to fix some of the automated machinery are needed, too.  “It’s always good to find people who can repair electronic circuits to minimize downtime on a machine,” Barber said.

“We like people who are used to being on their feet, so a food server might find a good job here,” Greene said.  And Franklin Bronze is dedicated to its employees, too.  “Our goal is to retain our employees until they retire,” Barber added.

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