BEDFORD - Anytime you see a highway crew doing millwork on a local roadway, there's a good chance they are using cutting tools made at Kennametal in Bedford.
"Anytime you see a road milled off, this is the tool removing the asphalt," said plant manager David Settimio of Altoona, referring to the conicals made at the plant.
Conicals, cone-shaped pieces of steel with a tungsten-titanium carbide tip on the end, are the most highly produced product at the Bedford Kennametal plant and are used in both construction and mining industries.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
Russ Mayes unloads parts from a robotic pressing cell at the Kennametal plant at 442 Chalybeate Road in Bedford.
The plant is marking its 60th anniversary in Bedford County.
The local plant on Chalybeate Road opened with 12 employees in April 1952. Today, after numerous expansions over the years, the 175,000-square-foot manufacturing facility is home to about 360 workers.
The company, first called McKenna Metals Co., was founded in Latrobe in 1938 by metallurgist Philip M. McKenna.
Today, Kennametal, with 74 manufacturing plants around the world, is a market leader in North America in metal-cutting tools and a global market leader in tools for the mining and highway construction industries.
The Bedford plant, the largest of Kennametal's six Pennsylvania plants, is part of the company's Earthworks structure, which makes tools for the mining and construction industries.
Within the Earthworks structure, there are five U.S. plants along with others in Poland, South Africa and China.
"We make two different kinds of tools - anything that cuts metal and anything that cuts into the earth and ground," Settimio said.
Thousands of different parts are made at the Bedford plant.
"We are a high volume facility," Settimio said.
Kennametal is known for producing high-quality products for the toughest of environments.
"Within our customer base, we are known for high quality and as a solutions provider; that is what we are. We make them [customers] more competitive. Our job is to make them more competitive by providing them with solutions," Settimio said. "Everything we make wears out. The longer we can make our tools last, the better they are."
Kennametal has played a major role in the Bedford County economy. The company is the county's fourth-largest employer and one of the largest manufacturing employers.
"Kennametal's job creation, payroll, wage and property taxes, municipal support and charitable contributions have significantly grown our economy," said Bette Slayton, executive director of the Bedford County Development Association.
"Kennametal gives us credibility. To have a world-class company calling Bedford County home for 60 years speaks volumes about our work force."
Kennametal has a "fabulous" reputation, said Jeff Crist, BCDA board president.
"Kennametal has had a vital impact on the Bedford County economy. They have been rock solid from an employment standpoint. They offer high-quality pay and benefits. They have had an extremely stable work force. They are well respected by the community and by the people who work for them. They are highly sought-after jobs at Kennametal. The people who get jobs there have a good quality of life," Crist said.
The company would not release figures specific to the Bedford plant, but in fiscal year 2011 for the company overall, customers bought approximately $2.4 billion of Kennametal products and services, with more than 50 percent of the revenues coming from outside North America, said Christine Sutter, company spokeswoman.
Kennametal has changed with the times to remain competitive.
"The biggest change has been the transformation of this facility to be competitive through investments in automation and equipment and investments in our people through lean manufacturing," Settimio said. "The investments we have made to make us more efficient and the investments in our people has transformed us into a very competitive facility."
Settimio, who has been with Kennametal for 20 years, is optimistic about the future of the local pant.
"We have always come out of slow periods stronger. We come out fighting, and when that happens we develop more solutions for our company. When the upturn comes, we will be ready and in front of it," Settimio said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.