Duriron Company Inc. History

Address:
P.O. Box 8820
Dayton, Ohio 45401-8820
U.S.A.

Telephone: (513) 476-6150
Fax: (513) 476-6231

Public Company
Incorporated: 1912 as Duriron Casting Company
Sales: $532 million
Employees: 3,900
Stock Exchanges: New York
SICs: 3492 Fluid Power Valves & Hose Fittings; 2822 Synthetic Rubber; 3569 General Industrial Machinery, Not Elsewhere Classified

Company Perspectives:

The Duriron Vision: Duriron will be a global growth company recognized by our stakeholders for providing superior total value and as the preferred total quality supplier of specialized products for the process industries.

Company History:

Duriron Company Inc. is one of the world's leading manufacturing firms in specialized process fluid handling systems. The company offers a variety of products, including automatic control valves, valves and actuators, pumps, sealing systems, filtration equipment, pipes and fittings. Duriron's product line is used in the intricate process systems of the chemical, petrochemical, refining, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, pulp and paper, and aerospace industries. Since the beginning of the 1980s, Duriron has significantly expanded its presence around the world. The company has service centers, manufacturing operations, and licensees in 170 cities and 29 countries, including England, Ireland, Holland, Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, Japan, China, Korea, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Early History

During a trip through Europe before the outbreak of World War I, a young DuPont Chemical Company engineer and acid plant supervisor, John R. Pitman, was impressed by the development of an iron-like material called "tantiron." Tantiron had been developed for use in the production of materials and equipment that normally employed highly corrosive acids. Chemicals were infrequently used in the manufacture of heavy equipment during the early years of the 20th century, and therefore there was no need for materials that could withstand intense corrosive attack. However, the exception to this was the production of explosives. The corrosive acid mixtures that were employed to make gunpowder actually destroyed the processing equipment which was used in its production. Ordinarily, each manufacturer regarded it as an inevitable burden that the pipes, valves, and fittings used in the production of gunpowder required replacement on a regular basis due to the effects of corrosion. The development of "tantiron," therefore, constituted a revolutionary event in the world of manufacturing.

When Pitman returned to the United States, he contacted William E. Hall, a lawyer and financier in New York City. Hall recognized the potential of "tantiron" for the American manufacturing industry and suggested that the two men work with Peirce D. Schenck, an eccentric but brilliant engineer living in Dayton, Ohio, to develop their own unique alloy. Intrigued by the challenge of creating a new corrosion-resistant material, Schenck set up a makeshift foundry on the porch of his home and began conducting experiments that lasted from one week to the next. After months of research and experimentation, the Yale engineer finally succeeded in producing a high silicon content iron alloy. The most durable iron material ever made, Schenck, Hall, and Pitman named it "duriron."

Schenck, Hall, and Pitman met in New York to incorporate the Duriron Casting Company on May 16, 1912. Capitalized at $50,000, the company opened its first sales office at 90 West Street in New York, with Schenck as president, Pitman as vice-president and general sales manager, and Hall serving as legal adviser. Schenck returned to Dayton and arranged an exclusive licensing agreement with Dayton Malleable Iron to pour metal and furnish castings made from duriron. By the end of 1914, the Duriron Casting Company was selling its products at a brisk rate, and management decided to open both an office building and a foundry. At this time, the company primarily acted as a castings supplier for the equipment of various other companies' designs but had also developed a small product line of its own, including kettles, tanks, troughs, towers, and concentrator tubes.

America's entry into World War I changed the fortunes of the company forever. Demand for Duriron's products skyrocketed since it was the sole domestic source of the corrosion-resistant, high-silicon iron alloy which was essential to the control of chemical acids for the production of munitions. A new foundry was built during 1918 to meet the increasing demand of the U.S. government and the Allied war effort for the company's products. When Schenck enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to overseas duty in Europe, production began to decline so dramatically that the federal government considered nationalizing Duriron Casting Company to assure the uninterrupted flow of products for the manufacture of munitions. Alarmed by the prospect of a government takeover, Hall and Pitman arranged for Schenck to return and manage the company's production facilities. Government officials agreed to refrain from nationalizing the company and deferred all Duriron employees from military service during the war since the company was considered an "essential industry" to the U.S. military effort. By the end of the war, the company employed over 1000 men and women and produced more than 40,000 tons of Duriron.

Unfortunately, the immediate postwar period was not as lucrative for the company. Business plummeted largely because munitions were no longer in demand, and the nation's economy had stagnated. Yet by the mid-1920s, Duriron was on the rebound and began to invest large amounts of capital in research and development. During this time, the company developed Alcumite, an aluminum and bronze alloy with magnesium and iron added for strength and corrosive resistance. By the end of the decade, the company was producing high-quality stainless steel, one of the most important materials used during the 20th Century.

The Great Depression and War Years

The Great Depression swept over millions of Americans like an economic plague after the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929, but Duriron Company was not as severely affected as other U.S. businesses. Although stunned by the death of Peirce Schenck, the man most responsible for the company's initial success and subsequent development, Duriron's research laboratory continued its experimentation with various materials and products. One of the most important developments during this time was an austenitic stainless steel named Durimet 20. A high-quality, special-purpose material with substantial resistance to corrosion, the product became the basis for an entire range of alloys that quickly set Duriron apart from the rest of the industry as a leader in process equipment. By 1939, over 20 additional corrosion-resistant metals had been formulated for the manufacture of steel, magnesium, copper, aluminum, synthetic rubber, plastics, petroleum, alcohol, vitamins, paper, textiles, and pharmaceuticals.

The hectic pace of research and development conducted by Duriron during the 1930s was interrupted by the advent of World War II. As in the First World War, Duriron was classified as an essential industry for the production of munitions, and its employees were exempted from conscription. Although the company reported $5.3 million in sales during 1942, most from the production of processing equipment for making munitions, the most important work going on in the research lab involved the atomic bomb. Duriron was instrumental in making products that could successfully process and concentrate uranium and plutonium, the two essential ingredients for the atomic bomb.

Technical Developments during the 1950s

By the end of the war in 1945, Duriron had strategically placed itself to take advantage of the explosive demands that occurred within the petrochemicals industry. Manmade fibers like nylon and plastic were replacing wool and metals. A foundry modernization program, designed to incorporate these new developments in materials and products, was implemented and concluded with efficiency. By the mid-1950s, the company had sales outlets in 34 cities, and representatives in 10 countries overseas. In 1953, Duriron sales surpassed $10 million for the first time in the company's history.

The research and development laboratory was working at what seemed like a frenetic pace during this decade. Duriron introduced a plastic sleeve plug valve, noteworthy because it was the first successful application of Teflon in processing equipment for the severe chemical services. The company also developed a back pull-out process pump, the first of its kind in the world. In 1954, research led to the introduction of the first cathodic protection anodes, which were designed to protect buried metal structures from corrosion through the process of electrical transfer. In 1957, the first line of epoxy pumps was designed and produced by Duriron and, in the same year, a revolutionary one-piece epoxy resin sink designed for chemical waste disposal was also introduced. By the end of the 1950s, Duriron was one of the leaders in the field of applying plastics to processing equipment.

Growth and Expansion during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s

Although a new facility was built in 1961 to house the burgeoning Corrosion-Resistant Plastics Division, three years later another expansion of the plant was necessary. New valve production facilities, testing labs, engineering offices, and foundry shops at the company's main headquarters in Dayton were also built during this time. By the end of 1962, at the company's 50th anniversary celebration, management could report that sales had climbed to $15.7 million. The decade of the 1960s also marked the first time that management turned its attention to the international marketplace. Duriron of Canada, Inc., was organized as a sales subsidiary in 1964, and a European sales office was opened in Brussels, Belgium, in 1968. By 1970, Duriron had opened its first overseas production facility in Liege, Belgium.

The 1960s were also marked by significant technical developments in the company's research laboratory. The MARK II Stand Chemical Service Process Pump become the model of choice in the petrochemical processing equipment industry, while another first for the company involved the development of a fully Teflon lined valve which resisted chemical corrosion. Two additional developments late in the decade included DC-8 and Durcomet 100, both rapidly becoming widely used within the industry due to their unparalleled resistance to corrosion and wear.

Duriron continued its development of new products during the 1970s. Specially designed sealed pumps, in-line pumps, and a revolutionary fiber reinforced plastic pump were introduced during the early years of the decade. DurcoShell, a proprietary ceramic shell molding technique designed in the company's research laboratory, was introduced to the market with great fanfare. The process, which significantly reduces carbon content, one of the major causes of casting failure because of corrosion, removed doubt from anyone within the industry that Duriron was the technological leader in foundry processing equipment. In 1973, Duriron reported total sales of $52 million; by 1976, company sales had passed the $100 million mark. In 1978, Duriron was selected by Fortune magazine as one of the largest and most successful manufacturing companies in the United States.

By 1980, sales had surpassed $140 million, but the energy crisis, the development of offshore chemical capacity, and the generally harsh conditions of the process industries necessitated a change both in the company's market strategy and its operational management. As a result, management decided to implement a thorough plant and equipment modernization, along with an aggressive acquisitions policy. In 1980 alone, over $7 million was spent in updating machine tools and process techniques. In 1981, a new materials and hydraulic lab was built, and a new valve facility. Plant expansion occurred once again at Duriron headquarters in Dayton, Ohio, as well as other manufacturing facilities across the United States. In 1982, the company constructed a new manufacturing plant in Tarragona, Spain, and in 1985, one of the major foreign acquisitions of the decade was made in Belgium. A manufacturer of engineered plastics, N.V. Janssen M&L, the company was one of the leading firms in western Europe. The most important domestic acquisition during this time involved Valtek Incorporated, a recognized leader in designing and manufacturing high-quality automatic control valves, actuators, and various related component parts. At the end of the 1980s, Duriron Company Inc. stood as the world's leading supplier of chemical process equipment.

The 1990s and Beyond

During the early and mid-1990s, the company initiated a comprehensive reorganization of its operations that resulted in the following four business groups: the Industrial Products Group, including manual valves and valve actuation equipment, filtration systems, metering pumps and foundry products; the Flow Control Group, including automatic control valve products of its Valtek subsidiary; the Rotating Equipment Group, consisting of chemical process pumps; and the Fluid Sealing Group, including whole new lines of mechanical sealing products. This last group was created with the acquisition of Durametallic Corporation, the company's largest acquisition in its history. In addition to the Durametallic acquisition, Duriron has purchased Sereg Valves, Kammer, and Mecair, three European firms which increased international sales to almost 40 percent of its total sales volume. Forays into China and Saudi Arabia also promised to increase revenues over the long term.

Duriron has been fortunate throughout its long history to have been extremely well managed. This is especially true during the 1990s when the marketplace demands sophisticated expansion policies and cost-cutting operational strategies. Duriron has created a pre-eminent leadership position for itself in the chemical process equipment industry that it is not likely to relinquish in the near future.

Principal Subsidiaries:Durco Pumps; Valtek International, Inc.; Durco Valve; Kammer Valves, A.G.; Automax; Sereg Valves, S.A.; Durco Filtration Systems; Atomac; Mecair, S.p.A.; Engineered Plastic Productions.

Principal Divisions:Durco Foundry Division.

Further Reading:

  • "Duriron Agrees to Buy Durametallic for $150 Million," New York Times, September 12, 1995, p. D4(L).
  • "Duriron Company," Wall Street Journal, January 5, 1996, p. B5(E).
  • "Duriron Selected as Supplier," Wall Street Journal, June 7, 1995, p. A6(W).
  • "Duriron Will Acquire Durametallic for Stock Valued at $150 Million," Wall Street Journal, September 12, 1995, p. C16(E).
  • "Empowerment Pumps Duriron Productivity Up," Tooling & Production, October 1994, p. 13.
    A Legacy of Quality, 1912-1987: The Duriron Company, Dayton, Ohio: Duriron Company, 1987.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 17. St. James Press, 1997.