Toledo Metal Spinning recognized with national award for recovering after destructive fire

Toledo Business Journal

A local metal-forming company, back in full production after being devastated by a fire in early 1998, is one of six companies nationally being recognized with a Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative Award.

Toledo Metal Spinning Company, 1819 Clinton Street, has been selected for the honor which “recognizes small businesses that have demonstrated the ability to withstand the cyclical nature of business, overcome adversity, seize opportunities and succeed.”

“Our company has been through total chaos over the last year, and we have made a miraculous recovery,” Eric Fankhauser, vice president, said.

Toledo Metal Spinning, formed in 1928, is a leader in experimental, prototype and production metalforming, using stainless steel, aluminum, carbon steel, copper, brass and exotic alloys. Toledo Metal Spinning is a privately held company, owned by Ken, Craig, and Eric Fankhauser. The company has 54 employees.

The award publicized in the June issue of Nation’s Business will be formally presented in June at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce annual meeting in Washington D.C. President Clinton has been invited to make the presentation.

On February 4, 1998, a raging fire lit up the midnight sky. Fanned by 40mph winds, it destroyed 95 percent of the firm’s manufacturing equipment and 80 percent of its manufacturing space. After an intensive investigation, the cause was deemed unknown by both the insurance company and the city fire investigators.

The loss exceeded $10 million. Included in the destroyed property was more than 70 years of tooling and job development, quality inspection gauges, several new pieces of equipment, and many records, files and history that can never be duplicated.

“Within the first 24 hours of the fire, our management established two priorities in order to survive this catastrophe,” Fankhauser said. “The number one priority was to keep our customers informed and in business at whatever cost. The second, to retain our employee base.”

“I cannot overemphasize how important employee retention was,” he explained. “Our business is very skill oriented. It took many, many years to train our existing employee base. A good percentage of employees are second- and third-generation workers. It was imperative in order to continue the business that each and every employee was involved in the rebuilding process.”

“No employee lost even one hour due to this unfortunate event. We pledged to our employees in the beginning that no one would be laid off or experience any interruption of wages due to the fire. Our promise was kept.”

At the time of the fire, more than 500 job orders were in process for approximately 100 customers. These customers needed a continuous flow of parts to keep their businesses going. Within 48 hours of the fire, production was resumed on primitive-type machinery. The owners personally called the key customers to make sure relationships were solid.

Workers began sifting through the rubble to unbury salvageable tooling. With more than 20,000 pieces of tooling, the company’s challenges included retrieval, cleaning, magnetic particle inspecting and dimensional checking. A temporary office and communications were required.

By the last weekend in April, a 6,500 square-foot section of new building was completed and in use, and an additional 12,000 square-foot portion was constructed by the end of July. By September 7, the last piece of machinery was installed and running. Many pieces of equipment were specialized, custom-built machines, delivered from across the globe. Several pieces of large equipment were air freighted in order to accommodate customers’ schedules.

“Through our crisis came the opportunity to rebuild Toledo Metal Spinning as one of the country’s most advanced, state-of-the-art facilities of its kind,” Fankhauser said.

“Today, we have some of the most sophisticated equipment on the market, ready to propel us into the 21st Century with a great deal of efficiency.”

Despite the devastating fire, company sales by the end of 1998 had reached 83 percent of 1997 levels, with full recovery anticipated for 1999.