Kiraly Tool and Die Reflects Industry’s Resurgence
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Consider Kiraly Tool and Die Inc. a reflection of the rebirth of manufacturing in the Mahoning Valley and of the new direction manufacturing is headed as this small business eyes the acquisition of a 3-D printer this year.
It’s “one of our strategic purchases,” says owner and founder Steven Kiraly.
Opening in January 2000 on Crescent Street in Youngstown, 2012 proved Kiraly’s best year of growth with sales reaching $1.75 million, 28% better than 2011.
“To say the least, it was a very busy year,” the company owner reflects. “That’s a direct result of manufacturing growth as a whole in this area because 75% to 80% of our customer base is within driving distance of this area.”
Kiraly, whose father and uncles have manufacturing backgrounds, says he was pointed at going to college when he graduated from high school before “manufacturing caught my eye.”
A journeyman tool and die maker and journeyman machinist, Kiraly worked at General Extrusions Inc. in Boardman, an aluminum extruder that fabricated in-house. “It helped build a desire to start my own business,” he says. He also followed the examples set by his two older brothers, both of whom have their own companies.
Kiraly started the company specifically focusing on serving the aluminum extrusion industry. “If you look at the entire nation, the largest concentration of aluminum extruders are centered right around this area,” he points out. “You can drive off in any direction and hit an aluminum extruder or fabricator.”
Since those early days, however, Kiraly Tool has expanded beyond that focus. “One of the key things that my customers told me from the very beginning was to start diversifying, never to put all my eggs in one basket,” Kiraly says. “So taking their advice, building on the core business that we had, we started branching out into other facets.”
Today some 30% of Kiraly Tool’s customer base is exclusive to the aluminum extrusion industry and 30% to steel production.
The remaining 40% is custom manufacturers for which it provides general machine work. Those include companies such as Brilex Industries, Delphi, Parker Hannifin and Taylor Winfield. “In a very short amount of time, we were able to slowly diversify into these fields and establish a diversified customer base,” Kiraly says, “which I think is the key to anybody’s success.”
Indeed, diversification has been key to growth at Kiraly Tool. Because local competitors “had their foothold” in some of the area aluminum companies, “it seemed like it was easier to grow our sales in these other areas,” Kiraly says.
“We like the fact that we’re diverse,” he says. “It’s just important that we keep expanding on our capabilities.””
Since opening in the former Youngstown Microfilm building 13 years ago, Kiraly Tool has twice expanded the building, first putting an office addition on four years ago. Last year, the company added 4,500 square feet of manufacturing space, giving it just over 10,000 square feet overall.
This year Kiraly Tool intends to focus on expanding its capabilities by purchasing “key pieces of equipment that will allow us to capture more business from our customer base and make us more attractive for capturing new business, bringing down out lead times and improving our throughput.”
One piece of equipment is the aforementioned 3-D printer. Kiraly first became exposed to the technology when he was doing work for one of the local Delphi plants six or so years ago. Back then, the pieces were brittle and had to be handled carefully. “I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see something like that evolve over time,” he remarks.
“It evolved to where you can have interacting parts. You can actually make final products,” he adds.
“It just makes it easier on the guys when you hand then an actual prototype part. It’s easier to see from the individual standpoint,” says shop foreman Larry Deidrick.
Deidrick, who began as a journeyman machinist when Kiraly Tool opened in 2000, finds that each year the equipment has more features, options and capabilities. “It definitely makes it easier on us as machinists,” he remarks.
“This was our first CNC machine when we first started the business and we could only afford one,” Kiraly says as he points to the machine in question. “Now you see there’s very few manual machines and more computer-controlled machines.”
One of the newest pieces of equipment is a CNC wire EDM, or electrical discharge machine, which is used primarily to shape pieces of hardened tool steel, the components to a stamping die.
“But the unique thing about how the EDM technology has evolved is how you can use it for anything,” Kiraly says. “It’s one of those machines where you can actually spend a couple of hours setting up multiple jobs and it’ll run completely unattended,” allowing the operator to leave and operate another machine or two. It can also be monitored by computer offsite.
“Everything’s computer based now,” says Terry Marzano, senior machinist and wire EDM operator/programmer. “When I first started, we were straight-lining, which means we were typing all of the program code right into the machine, and I’ve seen that completely go away to the point where everything’s like conversational programming or offline programming. It’s so much faster.”
Finding qualified workers “is probably our biggest obstacle at this point,” Kiraly laments. A founding member of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, formed to address the shortage of manufacturing workers locally, Kiraly Tool is looking for two additional workers so it can increase its workforce of 13.
“We use all the traditional methods of trying to hire and obtain attractive applicants. But what we’re finding out is more often than not we’re literally just stealing good employees away from other manufacturing companies in the area,” Kiraly says. “That’s not necessarily creating new jobs for the area.”
The company looks for individuals just beginning a career in manufacturing with a “basic skill set” of a good math and computer background. They also need to be drug-free and show up for work on time and dress appropriately, “something that we can build upon,” Kiraly says.
The company is looking for candidates in their 20s generally for positions in production because of the time and expense and time involved in upgrading their skill sets.
“We kind of look at the older generation more for estimating and tool designing, using their experience that they’ve had over the years and not necessarily trying to reprogram them for the latest computer-controlled machinery,” Kiraly says.
“There’s always something new going on as far as how you’re going to do something, how you’re going to set it up, and then there’s other things that you can get into as far as software [and] programming, so it’s nonstop as far as the challenge.” says Bill Kelgren, a tool and die maker, programmer and operator three years at Kiraly Tool.
Over time, many parents have pushed for their kids to go to college, contributing to a situation “where we don’t have a lot of candidates coming into manufacturing,” Kiraly says. And so the perception set in that a manufacturing job couldn’t support a middle-class lifestyle, a position he disputes.
“The average wage of my employees is right around that $22-an-hour mark, and with just a moderate amount of overtime. It’s nothing for my employees to make between $60,000 and $70,000 a year,” he points out.
“We’re talking about employees that have been in the trade for roughly eight to 10 years and have no college background, just a strong machine, strong computer background.”
Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the January edition of The Business Journal, which focused on the work of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition and the Industry Partners of Mercer and Lawrence Counties. CLICK HERE to subscribe to our twice-monthly print edition.
Copyright 2013 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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