The American Trim Story
Our Beginning - The Journey - Looking Forward
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As I reflect upon my 60 years of relationship with American Trim, from helping my dad start a tool shop to what has matured to the present organization, I marvel at all the accomplishments that have been attained as well as the special efforts of all the people who helped build the company to where it is today. To the people who have worked in the past as well as those who are working today to make and develop tools, processes and the final products we ship daily, I say to each one of them, "Thank you" for all your efforts. We do appreciate you!"
~Leo Hawk - Chairman Emeritus
In the Beginning…
In 1948 the Hawk family started what is today known as American Trim with only four employees - Henry Hawk and his three sons, Henry, Leo, and William. They began in a small 40 x 60 building in Lima, Ohio that the family constructed to use as a work area for their tool and die shop.
They called their small establishment Lima Tool and Die. Henry's dream was to use the talents he had gained as an engineer to grow a business that he could be proud of and pass on to his family. The goal of the new business was to develop products with an added value component like plating on steel while providing superior pricing to his clients.
The first application of this strategy was appliance handles for ranges. Henry knew that the handle would be an important part of the customer's decision to buy one brand or model versus another based on this important "touch point."
Henry also knew the piece price for the typical handle and was confident he could use his talents to produce them at a reduced cost with an improved design.
On the Road – Establishing Relationships and Building a Company
Henry developed a sample of handles that were neatly showcased in a black velvet holder that Mrs. Hawk had sewn. Leo, Henry's middle son, took this display to range manufactures across the United States to show them how he could help improve their current cost and appearance. In the 50's, there were almost 50 range manufacturers.
Buffed chrome plated steel was the secret weapon. The Hawks knew that they could make handles that would replace the die-cast handles used on ranges. The chrome plated steel had an added benefit of being much lighter which would decrease manufacturing and shipping costs all the while keeping quality and function the same.
Leo's hard work and persistence paid off. He showed these handles to a range manufacturer who loved the idea. The range manufacturer became his first customer when he was told the piece price for the handles. He instantly said, "Can you make me 50,000 of those?" Leo knew they could do it and that event was the launching point for the company. Quickly, he went to work to scale the operations to support the demand for the handles.
At the same time, Leo built relationships with his new customers. In those days, it was common that dinner included his client and his wife and sometimes even the children. These relationships became friendships that endure to this day.
The Hawks continued to get orders and as the idea of the handle started to evolve, appliance manufactures asked for more stylish handle designs. Leo would design models out of wood and paint them to look like metal. They would present these prototypes and make necessary changes until the customer liked the flow of the handle. This idea is very similar to today's computer aided designed prototypes made from resin.
Through plant additions of not only space but new presses and equipment, the Hawks expanded to meet the demands of the customer. They now had 24,000 square feet of manufacturing space and the ability to stamp, plate, and anodize aluminum.
As Lima Tool and Die expanded they believed a name change was in order. Superior Metal Products better described the evolution the company had taken.
Being entrepreneurial, the Hawks thought if they could improve upon the manufacturing of handles, they should consider other aspects of the range as well. Their goal began to expand past handles. They now wanted to be an all inclusive manufacturer of decorative metal appliance parts.
They got together with the owners of Tennessee Stove Works, Bob and Hardwick Caldwell, who started them along the right track. Their next expansion was to purchase the Old Battery building in Wapakoneta, Ohio. With this new purchase, they had the capability to manufacture and plate in a continuous flow.
Rebuilding the Company after a Setback
Along every path are stumbling blocks and in the early 60's the Hawk family experienced a fire that wiped out all of their presses and nearly destroyed the entire manufacturing facility. They would have lost the entire building if Leo and his brother Henry wouldn't have crawled inside to stop the fire from spreading. This was a setback, but the Hawks were up for the challenge. They started from scratch and were quickly refocused on rebuilding all the pieces of their business.
Back on the Road to Expansion
Then in the 70's they purchased a facility that allowed them the capability to roll form. They expanded out of Ohio by purchasing a plant in Spring Lake, Michigan. With this purchase, they started to supply parts to the office equipment industry.
Then in 1987, Superior Metal formed a joint venture with Erie Ceramic Arts (ECA) called Superior-Erie Ceramic Arts Coating Company, to install and operate the powder enameling system in ECA. ECA was a family owned business located in Erie, PA that specialized in porcelain enamel coating.
In December, 1992, Superior Metal Products acquired ECA, as well as ECA's share of the joint venture with Superior, and ECA's share of a second joint venture with the Ferro Corporation named Ferro-ECA Electronics. The Ferro ownership was acquired in March 1993.
In May, 1991, Superior Metal acquired Cullman Products in Cullman, Alabama. The acquisition of Cullman Products (founded in the late 50's) added to the Company's roll forming capabilities, re-introduced anodizing as a finishing option, and provided a site in the South to better support customers in this area of the United States. Shortly after the acquisition, powder coating capabilities were added in Cullman to support market needs.
In December, 1992, Modern Ink Technology was formed within the company to develop and produce specialized coatings for the appliance industry.
The Formation of American Trim
In January 1996, Superior Metal Products started a joint venture with Alcoa. This facility was then known as Stolle Products Plant #2 located in Sidney, Ohio which was making consoles for all Whirlpool washers and dryers. With this venture, the company became American Trim.
American Trim Today
American Trim has grown and expanded into a major supplier for the appliance industry as well as the heavy truck industry. The early heritage in decorated metal continues as American Trim designs, develops and forms innovative and high quality components for our many clients.
An Advancing View
American Trim is continually looking ahead at the issues that will change U. S. manufacturing for the company and their customers. In our Lima, Ohio location, you will find a research and development facility and lab that will rival and surpass companies many times our size.
We have received over $10 million in grant funding from the Third Frontier Wright Projects to develop agile manufacturing in the areas of Electomagnetic Forming, Physical Vapor Deposition, Digital Printing and advanced surface modification. Our partners in these grants include education (Ohio State University, Ohio Northern University, Rhodes State College) and industry (General Motors and Edison Materials Technology Center).
This journey, started through a vision of the Hawk family, demonstrates a drive, persistence, and a belief that if a customer has a need we can find a way to meet it has continued as an underlying belief making us a lastingly, innovative company.
Each transition along the way creates different market opportunities and trusted solutions for our customers. Today, American Trim continues to transition and evolve as a trusted expert to our clients by providing innovative solutions that will improve the forming, finishing and coating for metal and composite substrates.