Danville Metal Stamping started as a three-person shop building tools and dies in 1946 and has grown to employ around 450 people who build both simple and complex parts for the gas turbine and aerospace industries.
“Almost any commercial airline you get on in the free world, it’s very likely it will have a Danville Metal Stamping part on it,” Judd Peck, DMS president and CEO, said.
It began with a few servicemen returning home from war.
“It’s a fairly typical story of post-World War II,” Peck said. “Soldiers were coming home and scratching their heads, wondering what they want to do.”
Jacob Beck and D. Reed were looking to open a business together when someone gave them a broken-down press. With some help, they got it up and running again and started taking purchase orders for anything they could manage.
In 1947, Jacob Beck bought out D. Reed and brought his brother, Dale Beck, on board. Along with another investor, the company was incorporated by 1948.
Originally located just up the street from its current location on Oakwood Avenue near Ellsworth Park in Danville, the firm found success and moved to its present location in 1950.
By the mid-1950s the company had developed the ability to make hollow sheet metal, called inserts or baffles. These were early times in the gas turbine industry and Danville Metal Stamping became one of the most exclusive providers to it.
Dale was the salesman and dealmaker. Jacob was more of an engineer, always on the manufacturing side making things happen.
In 1962, tragedy struck while Dale was personally flying parts to a customer in California. He, along with members of his family who were along for the trip, were killed in a plane crash.
Jacob Beck was suddenly alone running the business. He re-grouped and brought in new people for areas such as sales and finance.
“That became the formula for moving the company forward,” Peck said, who is the son-in-law of Jacob Beck.
Peck grew up in Danville and attended law school at the University of Illinois. He practiced law in Chicago for a while, but moved back in 1988 to help run Danville Metal Stamping and start a family in his hometown.
Jacob Beck died in 1992. The company continues to be owned by four of his five daughters and grandchildren.
The company has grown to include two Oakwood Avenue facilities, a plant on Martin Street and also Thermo Techniques, a brazing and heat treating plant on Oakwood Avenue that was purchased in 1984. Their sprawl is 240,000 square-feet, with around 200,000 square-feet of that being manufacturing space. They operate three full shifts.
In addition to parts for gas turbine engines in jets and planes, Danville Metal Stamping parts are also found in hovercraft, helicopters and the Abrams tank. The parts also are used to help in electrical power situations and in peaking power plants which are activated in high electricity demand times to supplement the grid.
Some of the customers include GE, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney and Honeywell. Danville Metal Stamping parts help airplanes, smaller business jets, Boeing and Airbus planes fly.
Many different types of people are employed at Danville Metal Stamping. A variety of welders, forming operators, inspectors, air-flow technicians, metallurgical lab technicians and talented sheet metal technicians who excel at hand operation work there.
Amy Micklus is a lab technician at Danville Metal Stamping and has worked for the company for eight years. She does special processing that is required not only by customers, but also the Federal Aviation Administration. She’s in charge of testing parts to make sure they meet specific parameters and then documents it.
“I’ve become knowledgeable about a lot of things I never had before,” Micklus said, who has a biology degree in animal health. “It challenges my brain.”
Micklus said she has been impressed with the opportunities available to her at Danville Metal Stamping.
“It wasn’t hard to move up,” Micklus said. “They were willing to train me and develop my skills.”
Peck said the owners of the company are very dedicated to that and see the value in providing fulfilling jobs to people.
“It’s not just the money and benefits, though those are important, but also having satisfying work,” Peck said.
The make-up of Danville Metal Stamping’s business has transitioned significantly during the last few decades. In the 1970s and early 1980s Peck said a “flip-flop” began to be seen in terms of where their business was coming from.
“Military budgets got cut drastically,” Peck said.
Growth began in the commercial airline industry and military business decreased. Today, 70 percent of the business is commercial, whereas 30 percent is military. Before 1970, it was the exact opposite.
Another big change in the business is the type of parts they produce.
Peck said they try not to specialize in just one area, but be able to fulfill customer needs on the entire spectrum of parts needed.
They do it all, from the fairly simple baffles they began with to much larger, more complex parts.
Small parts produced are half the size of your little finger, with others being as big as a dining room table. Some have a single detail, while others have a hundred very specific details. Prices range from $9 for a simple part to $165,000 for a combustor that goes in a GE engine.
Some parts are made with just a four-week lead time, with other projects taking years to complete from idea to part production.
Peck said there have been three significant downturns in the industry in the past 25 years, yet they have laid off less than 20 people and many were called back.
Danville Metal Stamping is looking forward to being a part of new innovations in the aerospace and gas turbine industry and plans for the business to grow.
While customer expectations are increasingly high, the company is working hard to meet and exceed those needs.
“We have to try to keep on top of everything in the aerospace industry,” Peck said.
Now, a new initiative for the business is to introduce the next generation of family into the business as owners or employees if they are interested.
“We are very early on in our work with third generation members who want to work here,” Peck said.
He said they are structuring it so those who want to stay owners, but be less directly involved, can. Also, those who want to be included more, or will in the future, are being given that opportunity.
“We are trying very hard to keep them up to speed,” Peck said. “We want them to be a part of that.”
He said that everyone involved seems to have a grasp on the values that are important to the company, what the company means to the community and what the employees mean to the company.
“It’s not just the dollars and cents of it,” Peck said.