Hobart closing in on 100 years
Troy company holding its own, even as welding industry faces challenges
The global welding industry is melting just as one of its major players approaches its 100th year in business.
Last year was tough for Troy-based Hobart Brothers Co. and other welding industry companies as demand for welding-related products and services fell.
Hobart Brothers parent Illinois Tool Works Inc. said fourth-quarter welding segment sales fell 13 percent to $395 million from fourth quarter 2014. Welding segment sales for 2015 totaled $1.6 billion, down 15 percent from full-year 2014. Analysts expect sales to remain sluggish through at least the first half of 2016.
The executive who leads Hobart Brothers said falling oil prices and production contributed to the downturn.
“We are imbedded, we are committed to this community,” David Knoll says. “We are constantly working toward investing in our processes and our people, and I expect that to continue.”
“It’s been a challenging global welding market over the last 12 to 18 months,” says David Knoll, vice president and general manager of Hobart Brothers, which was founded in 1917 in Troy. “You can tie a large percentage of that to the price of a barrel of oil and the decline in on shore and offshore (oil) production, storage and pipeline construction, and everything oil field-related.”
Other welding-intensive businesses, such as auto and rail car manufacturing, have remained relatively strong, Knoll says, but heavy equipment manufacturing has been “very slow.”
Hobart Brothers has felt the impact of those market changes, but not as much as some its competitors have, Knolls says.
“We are holding our own in Troy,” Knoll says.
Troy has roughly 25,000 residents and is 20 miles north of Dayton along Interstate 75.
Hobart Brothers makes welding wire and stick electrodes in Troy, Piqua and Traverse City, Mich. Troy-based Hobart Welding Products is part of Hobart Brothers and makes welding machines and accessories in Troy.
ITW, a global maker of industrial products and equipment based in Glenview, Ill., owns Hobart Brothers and Troy-based Hobart Corp., which makes commercial kitchen equipment. ITW acquired the Hobart companies in the 1990s.
Other welding-related companies owned by ITW include Miller Electric Manufacturing Co. of Appleton, Wis., and Bernard, Tregaskiss and Jetline.
Hobart Brothers employs 586 workers in Troy and Piqua. Knoll foresees no major changes in head count despite the recent slump in sales.
“We are embedded, we are committed to this community,” Knoll says. “We are constantly working toward investing in our processes and our people, and I expect that to continue.”
The Hobart name has been prominent part of Troy’s business history since the late 1800s.
Clarence Charles (C.C.) Hobart founded what became Hobart Corp. kitchen equipment company in Troy in 1897. Twenty years later, Hobart, his wife and sons incorporated Hobart Brothers Co., which initially made electrical generators, metal office equipment and air compressors.
Hobart became a major player in the welding industry
through its sales of welding equipment and supplies, and the training of welders.
In 1925, Hobart Brothers produced its first welder. It soon became a major player in the industry through the sale of welding equipment and supplies and the training of welders through the Hobart Institute of Welding Technology. The school became a separate non-profit business in 1940.
At least one research firm, Transparency Market Research, foresees a turnaround in the global welding market. Transparency predicts the market will grow from $17.5 billion in 2013 to $23.8 billion in 2020.
“The burgeoning automotive industry, combined with the developing building and construction industry … is driving demand for welding products,” Transparency said in a July market research report. The firm added that wind energy and construction of wind turbines hold “a large potential for welding products,” mainly in emerging economies in the Asia Pacific region.
The firm noted, however, that high labor costs and a lack of skilled welders could hamper the anticipated growth.
That’s where the Hobart welding school could make a difference. The school plans to add 14,000-square-feet of space in Troy this year to boost welding education and training.
The school has graduated more than 100,000 welders since 1930. It also has trained thousands of welding inspectors and teachers.
Nationwide, the demand for welders is expected to grow 4 percent to 412,300 through 2024, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average annual wages as of May 2014 ranged from $25,510 to $71,910, depending on training, experience and location, the bureau reports.
Ohio was among five states with the highest concentration of welders. The average annual wage for welders in Ohio is $37,750. Welders in Alaska have the highest average annual wage at $71,910, the bureau says.
The other states with the highest number of welders are Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. All had more welders and higher average annual welder wages than Ohio.
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