Some companies complain about losing work overseas, but Kerotest Manufacturing Corp. in Pittsburgh is doing something about it, bringing work back to the United States.
Kerotest, an employee-owned firm, invested $4.5 million this year to upgrade a plant in Mansura, La., to produce a Polyball line of half-inch to 12-inch polyethylene ball valves primarily for the natural gas distribution market.
``We decided that if we wanted to be a player, we had to manufacture the valves ourselves,'' said Richard W. Conley, PE chief engineer at Kerotest.
He said that the company had been importing the valves from South Korea since about 1997, but decided last year to manufacture them in-house. The development process has taken much of the year and the full production line now is running, Conley said. The 125,000-square-foot facility has three new Battenfeld presses with clamping forces of 350, 800 and 1,300 tons, as well as two machining centers and fusion equipment. The plant employs 50, including 20 new hires.
Conley said the ball valves are used on PE pipe, and usually are buried in front of a home. They are heavy-duty, thick-walled parts that weigh as much as 45 pounds.
The company worked with Sipco Molding Technologies of Meadville, Pa., to develop 44 new molds to manufacture the valves.
Conley said natural gas is the firm's main market, but the valves can be modified for use in water and general industrial service.
Kerotest is a 95-year-old company in Pittsburgh. It makes gate valves, globe valves, polycarbonate piping systems, needle and gauge valves, insulators, strainers, district heat water systems and electrofusion systems.