Pace Industries, Quality Mould lead Latrobe area's comeback in manufacturing
Manufacturing is making a comeback, evidenced by two Latrobe area manufacturing businesses — Pace Industries, Airo Division, and Quality Mould Inc. — recognized by Gov. Tom Corbett with ImPAct Awards.
Pace Industries, Airo Division, won the Southwest Region's Jobs First award.
D.J. Danko, president of Quality Mould, claimed the region's Entrepreneurial Impact award in ceremonies held May 30.
Pace, with more than 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Derry Township, stood out for its job growth and employee retention.
“It's about job growth, gaining and retaining employment over the last few years,” company President Dan Krinock said. “When we won this, based on last year's numbers, we were right around 350 employees, and even today we're closer to 370.
“We continue to grow,” Krinock said. “It's also about investing in our employees with education, training, benefits.”
The plant produces aluminum die-cast parts for a variety of industries, including parts for Harley-Davidson motorcycle engines.
By adding robots to the manufacturing process and expanding the company's ability to perform finish work, such as wet painting and powder coating, Pace Industries, Airo Division, honed its edge in competing for contracts.
“We're more precise in our processes with robots. Since we've added the robots, we've added a lot of jobs,” Krinock said. “The jobs that we're adding are more technical, higher-skilled. That was one of the fears when we started to go to automation: You're going to add a robot; you're going to eliminate people.
“Well, we've become more competitive. The more automated we are, the more competitive, the better process, the better the quality, the better the opportunity to go out and win more work,” he said.
Local school districts, the Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center and Westmoreland County Community College programs are helping to feed the need for skilled workers.
“That will help to create the pipeline for workers,” Krinock said. “We need more workers. We want to continue to grow, but we need the skills and skill sets to be able to continue to grow in this area.
“Eighty-five percent of our workforce lives within 10 miles of our plant,” he added. “It's community. We grew up in this community. We like to support the community, and we think the best way we can support the community is by growing jobs.”
Quality Mould took a major hit when light bulb manufacturers such as General Electric went overseas for glass molds.
“We're one of the last glass mold manufacturers in the country. All of our competitors went out of business, and we've just gone into other avenues,” Danko said. “Three years ago, GE shut down one of their plants. That was a million dollars a year we lost. That was a third of our business.”
In response, Quality Mould diversified to tackle more machining work and expanded from the glass industry to work with power generation companies, oil and gas producers and the military.
“We basically haven't had to lay anybody off or let people go. We've kept the current employees, and we're looking at growing the company,” Danko said. “We'll have a chance to grow, and a couple big contracts with some power generation companies we're working on. We've really got a good potential to grow the business in those areas.”
The similarities between mold making and machining eased the transition for Quality Mould.
“The word's always been that it's easy to make a mold maker a machinist; it's harder to take a machinist and make him a mold maker,” Danko said. “There's a lot more skills and different things (with mold making) than machining. You can see a lot of the design and the detail.
“We go after the more complex parts. We have five-axis machines. There are mill lathes combined that do the part in one setup, as opposed to taking it from the lathe and putting it in the mill to put the holes in it.”
The company, which employs 25 and has a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing area, machines armor kits for military vehicles and parts for electrical breakers.
It is working on a method for refurbishing parts used by natural gas drilling companies in the hydraulic fracturing process.
Quality Mould still pulls in glass mold projects, including the production of molds used to form a chandelier in the United Nations building in New York City and molds used by JSG Oceana of Jeannette to produce glass bowls for kitchen and bathroom sinks.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or firstname.lastname@example.org.