100 Years of Next-Level Innovation

Electric Materials Company
Written by Pauline Müller

It is not often that one lands on a website so stylish and so innovative that you immediately want to hop on over for a shopping spree – especially not in the realm of the hardcore metal industry. Yet, it is exactly what crossed my mind the first time I saw Electric Materials Company, Inc.’s landing page. Modern and artistically rendered, this beautiful virtual shop window hints at the team’s phenomenal attention to detail and the vast and unique offering that awaits – all under one roof.
And this isn’t just any roof. In 2015, the company celebrated its 100th year in its original premises, giving renewed meaning to success and stability.

“We may be a new management team, but we have over 135 years of experience and a phenomenal team. It is difficult not to notice this self-respect as you walk our 420,000 square foot facility,” says Becky Ramsdell, President of the Electric Materials Company.

This company may be long-lived, but it sure keeps up with the times. From DC to AC power conversion to electric transport, eco-friendly energy, and its storage and use, there is hardly a new market out there that this team has not engaged with. As such, there is virtually nothing these veritable wizards cannot do with metal. The company extrudes, casts, forges, plates, brazes, machines, punches, bends and cold works copper, blends copper alloys in house and engages in other highly specialized metal processes that are best left to experts. The company also sources its own materials, giving it a head start on better prices, and supplies industries as diverse as power generation and distribution, mining, transportation, oil and gas and heavy industrial operators.

Electric Materials Company’s strong portfolio of capabilities is what sets this company apart from the competition – that, and the fact that its customers see it as six facilities under one roof. Based in North East, Pennsylvania, the company’s full engineering department reviews, analyzes and finds solutions that align with clients’ challenges and needs. Its exceptionally diverse computer numerical control (CNC) department offers technological and full milling capabilities rarely found elsewhere. These capabilities are complemented by its highly skilled, next-level toolmakers who are responsible for its in-house tooling prowess, while the team’s customer service is also nothing short of superb. “We travel a great deal for our customers and we also do a lot on the phone for them – all free of charge to existing clients,” says Becky.

With a long history of copper expertise, Electric Materials Company, Inc. is well known for its commutator expertise. These rotary switches direct the flow of electrical current in certain types of motors and come in an assortment of sizes. The company offers a wide variety of commutators. The team can manufacture commutators ranging from 5 inches to 12 feet in diameter. They also spin season their commutators. This process occurs after the unit has been compression seasoned – a process of heating, pressing, torqueing, cooling and tightening. By continuing the process and taking the unit beyond its expected operating speed and temperature, the company can ensure stability in the field.

Electric Materials manufactures and redesigns glass-bound, v-ring and shrink ring commutators. It also produces slip ring rings assemblies and complete rebuilds as well as brand new OEM units, all manufactured according to clients’ specifications.

Full milling capabilities allow for cutting copper and over 15 cold rolling draw benches stretch copper for coils, cut-to-length and other pieces of drawn metal. “We have an unprecedented library of original equipment manufacturing (OEM) drawings which further sets us apart by a large margin,” says Becky, who joined the company in 2000 as a financial team member until she took up her current position two years ago. Beyond this incredible number of services, Electric Materials also offers a variety of stress relief and heat treatment furnaces – and no, these are not meant to be tried out at home. These precision ovens are used to heat metal to just under melting point, removing pressure caused within the metal body by joins and other applications.

Electric Materials Company can even provide clients with all types of material certifications and tests, including testing the full analysis of chemical, mechanical and physical properties. Not only can this expert team reverse engineer just about anything, but it can also tailor its processes from manual to computer-aided manufacturing, making it a leading service provider in the value-added arena. Additionally, material research and process development initiatives are being actively explored and pursued as the company looks forward to its future.

Rounding out the company’s offering, doing business here is pain-free. The team draws up original sketches based on customer drawings for approval. The engineers and production and tool making teams then set to work to ensure that all aspects of design and manufacture are understood and that production can go ahead. The process is concluded quickly and efficiently to ensure optimum turnaround times.

With output as sleek as this, Electric Materials Company is known worldwide as a reliable source of quality copper products for many diverse applications. That is why its distribution networks run throughout North America, Brazil, Australia, Israel, Turkey, France and beyond.

Starting out in 1915, relationships have always played an important role in the company as clients have never been seen as a form of revenue. The company was founded when OC Hirtzel and a group of local men decided to make the best of the new electric market, which was primarily based on electric trolleys at the time. Prior to this, Hirtzel had worked for a copper facility and decided to take up premises in North East, PA due to its easy access to the railway routes of Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. In those days, the company and its clients corresponded via handwritten notes, a slow and tedious process. “Starting off with the first project only six months after they opened must have been a feat in itself,” says Becky.

In 1997 the company became part of the United Stars family of companies, one of eight operating companies offering a variety of products: stainless steel tubing, gears, cast anti-galling alloys and much more. More specifically, Electric Materials is one of two companies that make up the Advanced Materials Group of United Stars. Together with Waukesha Foundry, it hopes to find new ventures and inspiring new product lines.

Ever since the early days, Electric Materials Company, Inc.’s legacy has been one of community and caring, and the Hirtzel foundation still to this day supports local families with college scholarships. It also funds research and development in emerging fields at local universities.

Although operations are much faster today thanks to technology, this is still a high-powered team. “The energy here is incredible. We have an incredible staff retention rate, so we’re developing a succession plan to ensure that we retain and maintain all these rare skills that other manufacturers have lost long ago,” says Becky.

The loss of skills, of course, is a real issue that has caused a lot of clients to leave other vendors to join the Electric Materials Company family. Now, as part of its continued efforts to grow and maintain its skill set, the company is in the process of creating an apprenticeship program which is set to involve local high schools as well as vocational and technical schools. Its training will be job-oriented rather than theory-focused and its early phases have already proven successful. Once a year, the team welcomes 24 to 30 Penn State University students from all fields for a full, three-hour tour of the facility. “Manufacturing of any type is an exciting choice of career. So many believe it to be a fading way of life in the United States, but that could not be more incorrect. We support personal growth and offer means of obtaining journeyman levels of expertise,” says Becky. As such, this dynamic leader’s passion for the industry is set to create a lot more awareness and understanding of how rewarding a career in manufacturing can be.

As part of this initiative, the company is also taking part in a project sponsored by Northwest Industrial Resource Center (NWIRC) called “What’s Cool about Manufacturing,” a video contest for school students in north-west and west-central Pennsylvania. The company is paired up with the North East Middle School’s team of bright young minds who are researching and compiling a video of interviews and footage of its manufacturing operations. It is a very exciting project and Electric Materials Company is giving its school team its full support.

Here, winning happens daily. While the company has received numerous awards for great work over the years, there is nothing more gratifying than a satisfied customer. “Our walls are adorned with plaques given to us by various customers over the years. However, our most prized award these days is the personal email or phone call thanking us for supporting our customer, be it through difficult financial times or design challenges,” Becky shares.

Looking at its powerful legacy, there is absolutely no question that this dynamic outfit has absolutely everything it needs to enter its second century with even more of its distinctive je ne sais quoi. “Some will say the first 100 years are the most difficult; I believe maintaining distinction and holding a competitive position will prove to be a welcome challenge as we roll into our second successful century,” says Becky.

Thanks to its strong sense of pride and history of excellence, Electric Materials Company, Inc. has a great future ahead, bursting with possibility.



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