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Manufacturing Case Studies

Beckwood Embraces Can-do Attitude


It’s easy for Beckwood Corp. to know if a customer is the right fit for it or not. When people call with a challenge or a need for their operations and say “we don’t know if this is possible, but this is what we want to do,” that is a Beckwood customer, according to President Jeff Debus. That challenge of the unknown is the biggest force that drives the company. Beckwood is confident in its ability to deliver on customers’ needs or surpass them, because its American-made products are manufactured to strict quality standards to ensure reliability.

“We’re the can-do supplier,” Debus stresses. “Our niche lies in customers that are looking for unique solutions that will provide a competitive advantage in their business. We don’t compete in a commodity market, and we bring value to our customers by becoming a partner that’s invested in their success. First and foremost, we are an engineering company, and if a customer is interested in pushing the envelope in their equipment design, we can take a measured risk to deliver on that.”

Based in the St. Louis area, Beckwood is a premier press manufacturer that engineers, builds and delivers highly robust and reliable hydraulic and electromechanical presses and specialty forming equipment to customers around the world. The company designs every press structure to the Infinite Life classification using finite element analysis software, meaning Beckwood engineers can evaluate press performance, improve product quality, and test new ideas before anything is manufactured. A dedication to excellence drives Beckwood’s continuous improvement, and it uses Six Sigma and 5S Lean manufacturing techniques to optimize its quality control and enhance consistency.

While delivering this level of precision may be challenging in its own right — as the company says, “quality isn’t easy” — Beckwood’s processes are structured to exceed clients’ expectations for quality and performance. Further, it enjoys delivering unique manufacturing solutions to customers’ complex issues. Debus explains the company loves to be challenged. 

“It can be anything from technological issues to something that hasn’t been done before,” he says. “We look at all the variables to find out what the problem is, and then work together to solve it. Our strength is our diversified experience in multiple industries. About 40 percent of our business is in aerospace, but in that industry, we are dealing with a lot of different technology. The rest of our business is in traditional stamping or forming for the automotive, medical and other markets. We have a lot of proven solutions, so we can make a unique machine for any customer in any industry.”

Engaged and Supportive

Last fall, Beckwood delivered a custom 3,500-ton hydraulic bulge forming press, which is being used by Wabash National Corp. to form stainless steel tank heads with diameters up to 156 inches for the Wabash tank and silo business. The 285-inch-by-216-inch press, which weighed approximately 650,000 pounds when fully assembled, was installed in a six-foot-deep pit. Additionally, 160-inch-by-160-inch bolsters contained machined t-slots for use with Beckwood’s Quick Die Change system, and a fully adjustable eight-point-square gib-guidance system helps to ensure bed-to-ram parallelism throughout the stroke.

To accommodate Wabash National’s existing tooling, the press can bulge form using either air or water. Beckwood designed a specialized closed-loop pneumatic control system for the bulge-forming operation, allowing Wabash National to form parts to specific dome heights while utilizing up to 750 psi of air pressure. To facilitate fast die changeover, Beckwood included an automated quick-die change system with chain-driven die clamps and a bed trolley. The company notes the trolley is capable of transporting dies up to 30,000 pounds across a 30-foot track via a push-button controls station. For added safety, Beckwood provided polycarbonate guarding around the working area, hydraulically-actuated die safety blocks to secure the ram during die changeover, and a collision-detection system on each end of the trolley.

“Beckwood has been so engaged and supportive during this project,” says Wabash National Lead Manufacturing Engineer Barb Yocum. “Every step, from quoting to design, has been detailed and careful as they work hard to provide the press we need for our operation. I am confident in our selection of Beckwood and in how this press will support our process.”

Debus notes the Wabash National Press was one of the largest and heaviest presses Beckwood ever built. The company moved into a new 55,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in July 2018 and since then, has seen an increase in requests for presses of this magnitude. The new facility allowed Beckwood to consolidate from three sites, while also providing it with additional manufacturing and storage space. Additionally, the company’s extended ceiling heights and heavy crane capabilities allow it to assemble, program and test the machines in-house, which expedites delivery to customers.

For Wabash National, Beckwood focused on delivering a press that would enhance the customer’s production capabilities in terms of both quality and safety. Debus explains quality and safety are always a goal of Beckwood’s, while it also works to solve a variety of other issues for clients.

One customer, he explains, had a 40-year-old deep draw press which was manufactured by another OEM and failing due to age, but replacement was not an option due to budget constraints. Beckwood evaluated the structural, electrical, and hydraulic systems of the previous manufacturer’s model, and offered complete retrofit services to meet the customer’s current needs. Once complete, the re-built press will reach speeds up to 410 inches per minute (IPM)—a vast improvement from the original 198 IPM and include an intuitive operator controls station. “Building collaborative solutions that are guided by our customer’s goals is what we do,” Debus adds.

‘A Winning Culture’

Going forward, Beckwood has a number of initiatives to retrofit its own machines for customers, as well as other manufacturers’ machines. Customers often need their systems modernized or require new technology to be added to older systems. Additionally, although its core market remains in North America, more customers have been shipping Beckwood’s presses to international facilities, so its dedication to service is extending around the world. Debus stresses Beckwood wouldn’t be able to take advantage of its many opportunities without the skills and commitment of its staff.

“We have a winning culture, and I’m extremely proud of the way our teams share the common goal of meeting customers’ needs,” he says. “We are very dedicated to succeeding on our customers’ behalf, and everyone shares that same driving force.”

“Our product diversity is unmatched, especially in the aerospace equipment market,” he continues. “We are the only OEM in the world that can provide traditional presses, hot-forming presses, sheet hydroforming presses, stretch forming machines and sheet-metal stamping presses all under one roof. We are a one-stop shop for aerospace suppliers looking to consolidate suppliers and maximize productivity.”

Beckwood’s goal, he says, is to be the preferred supplier in the industries it serves. “In the end, it’s not just the machines, it’s the people we have to support,” he notes. “Our success comes from our attitude to help customers push the envelope in their own manufacturing efforts.”