Fourth-generation metalworking shop works to generate student interest in manufacturing careers

Beverage Machine & Fabricators machined part
Part (convector plate) before machining
Beverage Machine & Fabricators part being machined
Part during machining
Beverage machine & fabricators finished machined part
Part after machining

In 1904, George Hewlett founded Cleveland Union Engineering Company in Cleveland’s Flats area. The company handled industrial metal manufacturing, welding, fabrication and steel erection. Hewlett’s daughter married John Geiger, who is the grandfather of the current owner, also John Geiger, and great-grandfather of Jake who also works for the company. In the 1920s, it began to develop and build equipment for the distillery and brewing industries to clean and pasturize milk jugs and beer bottles, hence a name change to Beverage Engineering. In the 1940s, it moved to its current location on Lakewood Heights Boulevard and transitioned its focus from beverage machines to machining for the war effort, and in 1957 it found its current incarnation as Beverage Machine & Fabricators, Inc. What do these changes signify? Adaptability! And, Beverage Machine has found its niche.

Though the company no longer is part of the beverage machine industry, it has continued its journey in the metalworking industry and now machines (cuts or finishes) hard-to-machine metal parts made from inconel, monel, stainless steel and titanium. It also has larger machines that can handle bigger, heavier pieces (up to 10 feet in diameter and 24,000 pounds) for the steel, energy, power, mining, nuclear, aerospace and defense industries. For example, it did a project for SpaceX last year, a company that designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. Beverage Machine also only handles one-off pieces and smaller orders rather than high-volume production. Its orders range from one to 25 pieces at a time. Five years ago, it added waterjet cutting to its capability, which broke the company out of traditional metal machining. Using the waterjet, the company has done work for sign and glass companies and machined the glass awards for last year’s Tri-C JazzFest. With one piece of equipment, it expanded capacity and its customer base.

All of Beverage Machine’s customers are regional, and they are served by only 16 employees. The company mainly employees machinists and is looking to and is willing to train a suitable candidate. Josh Smith, Beverage Machine’s waterjet technician, says that the impact on today’s labor problem started years ago when schools did away with shop programs and put the focus on college prep. He’s worked for the company for 16 years, and his dad has been the plant manager for 25 years. He says, “When I went to school, the perception was that JVS [joint vocational school] was where the stoners and illiterates went and that everyone who can think goes to college.” He says that in five years everyone in the industry will be retiring, and there’s going to be a shortage of skilled labor. He adds that the industry has to reach students when they are 11 or 12 to show them that jobs in manufacturing are cool and innovative. To that end, he has started “ThinkSpark,” a grassroots movement to create a foundation in Lorain County to inspire and mentor youth to consider careers in manufacturing, to partner with schools and connect children with technical programs, to develop a makerspace for youth in the program, and to create a robotic competition similar to AWT’s RoboBots that takes place every April at Lakeland Community College.

John Geiger relates that the manufacturing industry in the area is healthy, but that his biggest challenge, which is the same for all manufacturers, is finding skilled labor or even unskilled labor who are interested in technical training. Recently, he met with representatives from Lorain County Community College about bringing students in for an apprenticeship training program.

From Founder John Geiger to his son, John Geiger, a machinist, to his son, John Geiger, a history major and sales specialist, to his son, John, aka Jake, Geiger, a business management major, the company has stayed in the hands of this capable family for four generations. John says about his business, “There is enough domestic need, and our niche gives us enough work. China can’t serve these industries because customers have a part dependency and need it today.” He shares, “I get satisfaction in seeing what we create every day. It’s a tangible result.” His son, Jake, adds, “It’s rewarding to have a part come in and see the finished part leave the shop.” As Josh Smith sums up, “What sets John apart is that he can see the greater good and a need. He sees what we can do for the next generation. It’s not about making money. It’s about family.

Beverage Machine & Fabricators shop with gantry crane
One of two shops and the gantry crane used to lift heavy parts

 

HGR is hosting an auction on Dec. 19

December 19, 2017 auction

HGR Industrial Surplus is partnering with Cincinnati Industrial Auctioneers to host an in-person and online auction of assets from the former Allison Conveyor Engineering at 120 Mine St., Allison, Penn. This auction includes bridge mills, plasma tables, fabricating and welding equipment, CNC machining, and toolroom and support equipment.

Click here for further details and to register.

HGR helps manufacturers navigate buying and selling used equipment

aisle of machines at HGR Industrial Surplus
Photo courtesy of Bivens Photography

Manufacturing overhead, including factory supplies, depreciation on equipment, and replacement parts, can take a toll on a company’s wallet. Then, when they need to add equipment or replace aging systems, they’re faced with the complication of choosing among options to buy used, buy new or lease. When replacing equipment, a manufacturer needs to sell the old equipment in order to free up floor space and capital.

That’s where HGR Industrial Surplus comes into the manufacturing pipeline to assist a business’ growth and investment recovery by providing used equipment for sale or lease and by buying used equipment to help companies turn surplus assets into cash that will help pay for the upgrade or replacement.

Since scrap prices are at an all-time low, most companies can probably can do better by putting the equipment back into service through resale, which also is environmentally responsible. And, someone else will be able to save capital by buying it used or may even use the equipment for parts in the repair of another piece of equipment. Reselling to HGR also saves the seller the time and frustration incurred in finding potential buyers or in spending money to place ads in industry publications or resale websites then monitoring and responding to inquiries.

If a company is looking for a piece of equipment to replace one being taken out of service or to expand its line, it either can buy the used piece of equipment or lease it through HGR. If they choose to buy it, we have a 30-day, money-back guarantee that mitigates risk, and we are a Machinery Dealers National Association member, which means that we abide by their stringent code of ethics.

Should a company choose to lease a piece of equipment, we have a relationship with a finance source that, essentially, will buy it from us and lease it to the company. Once purchased or leased, our Shipping Department can set up transportation. Then, from the date that the item is purchased, a customer has 30 days to pay and 45 days to remove it from our showroom.

SHOPPING HINT: As soon as the item is received, our Buy Department prices and photographs it then posts it online. Some items never make it to the showroom floor because they are purchased as soon as they are listed. So, it’s important to have a relationship with one of our salespeople who can keep a customer in the loop if something comes in, or a customer can check our website or our eBay auction for the most recent arrivals.

And, though we sell used equipment, we sell tons of other stuff, including shop supplies, fans, fixtures, laptop bags and printer ink cartridges. You never know what you will find. We get 300-400 new items each day in many equipment categories, including welding, machining and fabrication, supply chain/distribution, plastics, chemical processing, electrical, furniture and finishes, hardware, motors, robotics, shop equipment and woodworking. There’s something here for everyone. Many makers and hobbyists shop at HGR and upcycle equipment pieces and parts into other useable objects.

HGR Lifecycle infographicFacts about HGR infographic

Enter HGR’s October 2017 “guess what it is” Facebook contest

October HGR guess what it is Facebook contest

Head to our Facebook page to guess what piece of equipment or machinery is pictured. To participate you MUST meet the following three criteria: like our Facebook page, share the post, and add your guess in the comments section. Those who guess correctly and meet these criteria will be entered into a random drawing to receive a free HGR T-shirt or other cool items.

Click here to enter your guess on our Facebook page by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. A winner will be drawn and announced the following week.

Enter HGR’s September 2017 “guess what it is” Facebook contest

September 2017 Guess What it is Facebook contest for HGR Industrial Surplus

Head to our Facebook page to guess what piece of equipment or machinery is pictured. To participate you MUST meet the following three criteria: like our Facebook page, share the post, and add your guess in the comments section. Those who guess correctly and meet these criteria will be entered into a random drawing to receive a free HGR T-shirt or other cool items.

Click here to enter your guess on our Facebook page by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. A winner will be drawn and announced the following week.

Fabricator makes metal sculptures from gears, machined parts and scrap

steampunk gun
Steampunk gun

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger and HGR Customer Merritt Geddes, Creative Designs & Customs)

My love of art started at a very young age. Before I was able to read, I also enjoyed looking at movie posters and comic books that my brother had. I loved the use of many bright colors and the way the characters were drawn. I would often draw my favorite Star Wars characters Darth Vader and Boba Fett. My mother was a great help in this in that she taught me how to draw by using simple shapes to make a complex picture.

art deco lamps
Art Deco lamps

I love doing what I do because I find it fun to make something from nothing and the challenge that it brings. I’ve worked with markers, watercolors, oil paint clay, wood, and steel. I like working with steel the most because of the unlimited possibility with it and the fact that I’ve been a welder and fabricator for more than 15 years. I started out just making stuff for myself and found that a lot of people really like my stuff and were willing to pay the prices asked for them.

So, after a while, I started my own side business of making my metal sculptures and selling them in my friend’s art studio. This took off, and I began selling in other studios in other cities and states about 10 years ago. I still work as a fabricator because it’s a steady pay check.

My current project that I’m working on is an 8-foot shark and a 12-foot robot. The shark should only take a couple of months but the robot might take a year or more because I am still in the process of getting parts. I get about a third of my parts from HGR because it’s less of a hassle than digging through the scrap yard. I get mostly gears and machined parts that I use to make my pieces of art look more interesting. I get my inspiration from watching Sci-Fi movies and Anime.

When I’m not working on one of my sculptures, I am usually riding my bike through the bike trails in Oberlin or in the parks. I guess what I could say to other makers is that you should do what you enjoy doing and learn from others as much as possible. It will make you better at what you are already doing.

metal skeleton
Skeleton warrior

Ever have a filling? A local manufacturing company shapes the drills’ cutting edges.

Dentist with drill

William Sopko and Sons Co., located at 26500 Lakeland Blvd., Euclid, Ohio, was started in 1952 in the basement of current owner Bill Sopko Sr.’s parents’ home on East 267th Street. His dad, also Bill, worked in the Maintenance Department at Tapco (now TRW) after returning home from serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Prior to the war, he worked at Ohio Ball Bearing Company (now Applied Technologies) in the Spindle Repair Department.

Bill Sr., says, “Many people do not know what a spindle is. It is NOT the wood spindle on a staircase. In industry, the spindle assembly has a shaft that is mounted on bearings and turns at high speeds. The special bearings must support both radial and axial pressures. On the end of the shaft an adaptor holds either a grinding wheel or a cutting tool. The higher the speed, the more precise the spindle must be.”

Since his father had two young children at the time, one of them being Bill, Sr., Bill Sopko decided to go out on his own and start a business, William Sopko and Sons Co. His wife, Mary, did the paperwork. They picked Euclid as home because it was the perfect place to have a family and establish a business. In the early 1950s, Euclid was booming with industry.  Then they had two more kids to make a family of six.

Mary died in 1967 and Bill in 1974. The business still was located in the basement on East 267th Street. In 1971, Bill Sr. graduated from college, got married and rented a small block building on St. Clair Avenue. He purchased a milling machine, saw and surface grinder. Prior to this he had outsourced all of his manufacturing to local shops, many still in business today. In 1976, the company moved out of the basement into a building on Lakeland Boulevard in Wickliffe. In the early 1990s it needed more space and moved back to Euclid into the company’s current location on Lakeland Boulevard.

The current business has three segments, all related to precision grinding and machining. First, it is a precision spindle repair service company that rebuilds all types of ball and roller-bearing spindles. Most popular are surface grinders, cutter grinders, internal grinders, Moore Jig grinders, both foreign and domestic. The company has rebuilt more than 10,000 precision spindles during the past 64 years. Second, it manufactures grinding accessories that include wheel adapters, internal grinding quills, collet chuck quills, extensions, flanges, spacers and precision wheel screws. Finally, the company is a stocking distributor for spindle-related products. Its major lines include Dumore hand grinders, tool post grinders, parts, spindles and drill units, and Gates power transmission products including flat spindle belts, poly vee, variable speed and vee belts.

Sopko and Sons employs experienced machine technicians who can run manual lathes, CNC turning and milling machines and a complete precision grinding department to grind its products and spindle repair components, as required. Sopko does not do contact grinding for other companies. Grinding shops are its customers, and it does not compete against them. According to Bill Sr., “Some common applications of our precision spindles include forming and sharpening the cutting edges on the tiny drills the dentist uses to drill your teeth for a filling. Some spindles are used to grind hardened ball bearings, automotive engine blocks and jet aircraft components.”

Currently, the third generation is involved with the company. Bill Jr., Brian and Jillian Sopko all are on board to continue to serve valued customers all over the country.  With regard to the future, Bill Sr. says, “The future will have many technical advancements affecting the whole world. People in manufacturing will make products of tomorrow using precision machine tools. Our business will adjust to this new technology as it is discovered, and we will continue to service and supply the needs of the new century.”

William Sopko and Sons logo