SPRINGFIELD — While most manufacturing businesses have experienced a decline over the past months, one area shop is doing well, mostly because they’re hungry. Well, OK, and it certainly helps that the rest of us are hungry.
Arctech Fabricating Inc., a certified welding facility offering TIG and MIG welding at 1317 Lagonda Ave., makes a wide range of products, with a major portion of its business being baking pans for various sectors of the food industry.
“We’re pretty fortunate. The whole shop is working 56 hours a week,” said Director of Operations Steve Boland.
One of the company’s biggest customers is the American Pan Co., located in Urbana.
“That was how we really got going and it’s grown from there,” Boland said of Arctech, which was started by Tecumseh high school graduate Len McConnaughey in 1992.
Co-owner Jim Roberts, also a Tecumseh grad, worked with McConnaughey at a Dayton-area company, then joined him at Arctech in 1993.
One of Arctech’s earliest customers, American Pan, has grown to be the world’s largest supplier of commercial baking pans, shipping to more than 50 countries. Arctech’s baking pan repertoire includes pans for Twinkies, Zingers, cupcakes, pizzas and breads. Arctech’s specialty pans go to companies including Pizza Hut and Subway.
Specialty items, including extra-deep baking pans or those shaped like seashells, are not out of the ordinary at Arctech.
And, while baking conjures images of scooping cookies by hand onto a tray or pouring cake batter into a pan, the welders at Arctech create some highly specialized pieces like the molds for Smucker’s Uncrustables peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“They fit into fully roboticized equipment, so the tolerances are tight. It has to be done exactly right or the entire production process will be thrown off,” Boland said.
The biggest pan yet
In 2005, the team at Arctech created a pie pan that ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records.
That pan, 12 feet in diameter, held a record-setting pumpkin pie created at the New Bremen PumpkinFest.
That pie, and the pan it was made in, will soon be eclipsed by Arctech’s most recent oversized creation.
“This year they wanted a 20-foot diameter pie pan,” said McConnaughey. “Immediately, I said, ‘I’m in.’ I love this kind of stuff.”
Fabricated by 15-year Arctech veteran Chad Garrett, the pan was created from 20-foot sheets of aluminum and is attached to a hollow metal frame.
All materials and labor were donated.
The frame is necessary for two reasons: It will provide support for the estimated 5,000 pounds of pumpkin pie and act like a giant radiator to cool the creation once it comes out of the oven.
A local fire department will hook a truck up to the frame and circulate water to cool the pie filling so it will set properly.
The pan was broken down into three parts and transported to New Bremen, where it will be unveiled today, Aug. 22, during a parade.
The 20-foot pie will be baked for an estimated 12 to 15 hours over Sept. 24 and 25 as part of this year’s PumpkinFest in a special closed convection oven built using foundation blocks.
“We’re going to make sure no one else comes close to breaking our record. ... It’s a fun project and it’s exciting to know you’ve been a part of something like this,” Boland said.
Providing implements to the baking industry isn’t the only thing going on at Arctech.
The company has a number of contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense that include parts for water storage tanks, 50 calibre gun turret rings for Hummers and special nuclear projects for NASA.
The communications carts used by the United States Air Force Thunderbirds during their shows are manufactured in Springfield.
Local companies, including pump manufacturers Seepex and Moyno, also depend on Arctech for parts and services.
There are new things on the horizon, but Boland can’t share details.
“We’re versatile and will soon be working on a whole slew of new products for the military that I can’t discuss. ... As government contracts keep coming in, more jobs will be added. We’ll likely be able to add 10 to 15 more this year,” Boland said.
The company currently has 35 employees.
No matter how much work comes into Arctech, Boland said the key is the company’s employees.
“I was here when the company was really small, and over the years it’s always been about treating the employees well,” said Boland, who has worked with McConnaughey and Roberts for the past 15 years.
“Len and Jim have always taken good care of the people who work for them, and I think it’s better now that it’s ever been.”
Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0371 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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