The steel industry has proven to be an influential force in the ever-evolving world of manufacturing. ASC Machine Tools has led the way with an exceptional period of successive growth and profitability, earning them the prestigious Operational Excellence Award this year.
Since 1949, ASC Machine Tools has been based in Spokane Valley. They specialize in providing machinery engineering and manufacturing services for the metal-forming industry. They also offer equipment for making two-piece food and beverage cans with clients you may have heard of, such as Anheuser Busch, Coors, and Ball Metal.
ASC has experienced record growth and profits for the past three years, primarily due to the leadership of President Steve Countryman. Since becoming ASC’s President in September 2022, ASC has expanded into new markets and introduced the innovative TKR-X™ Purlin Rollformer machine.
“We build the fastest, biggest, and best purlin line in the world,” said Steve Countryman, ASC Machine Tools President. “The market has really exploded over the past four or five years because manufacturers are now using steel purlins for all the frameworks in the solar farm industry. The structure that holds the solar panels are purlins, and the vast majority of them come from our purlin machine.” That machine is the TKR-X ™ Rollformer.
The TKR-X is a revolution in a few ways. The first is automation. The TKR-X can be operated manually or set to semi or fully automatic. Second, the TKR-X is able to make “the highest level of flexibility in the purlin market worldwide!” allowing for efficient, customized, and adaptable production for any manufacturer’s needs. The recent success of the TKR-X made ASC the number one provider of purlin lines globally. And those machines are made right here in Spokane Valley.
“Spokane is a heavy industrial area,” Steve said. “Recently, it’s been a challenge to find skilled workers, but historically, Spokane has been a very good skilled labor market because of the other industrial markets in the area.” An obstacle many businesses have had to navigate. Yet, due to Steve and his team’s operational excellence, ASC has had record shipments for the past three years in a row.
“We’re really a continuous improvement culture company. We’re investing a lot into training our people,” Steve said. “I’m a big believer in the old saying ‘train your people well enough so they can leave, and treat them well enough that they won’t,’ and that’s the adage we have around here driving our continuous improvement culture.”
Is Steve the reincarnation of Jack Welch? Despite the impossibility, there is reason to believe so. While Welch was CEO of GE, they increased their market value through innovations, acquisitions, and shifting into new markets. Steve said ASC is also looking to expand and acquire other businesses so they can continue their growth trajectory. Steve spent time with their customers to understand their painpoints and use that feedback to invest in the R&D that put ASC number one in the world.
“We’re making significant seven-digit investments into upgraded five-axis CNC machinery on our floor so that we can do more, faster,” Steve said. “We were considered the number two player globally for the past 15 years up until 2019-2020, and now we’re the number one provider of purlin lines globally by a significant amount. That’s largely due to the fact that we listened to our customers, and we implemented the changes they were looking for in the equipment to make a capital investment like that.”