The metals industry is experiencing a number of challenges, but Chicago Extruded Metals (CXM) Co. remains a competitive player in the marketplace by taking an aggressive approach to cultivating new business and developing superior solutions. “We are expanding on a foundation of strength of our technical capabilities,” says Dave Jones, director of sales and marketing.
CXM has defined the quality standard for extruded brass rod, bar and wire and has evolved to become a leading manufacturer of extruded brass, bronzes and specialty alloy shapes. The Cicero, Ill.-based company certainly is not new to the market. CXM was founded in 1923 and was family owned until 2003 when it was purchased by private investors.
CXM counts among its more than 250 North American clients numerous Tier 1 suppliers in the precision machine industry. Those suppliers have relationships with OEMs in a variety of industries including aerospace, oil and gas, automotive, plumbing and fittings. The company’s products are utilized in a number of applications including the security products industry, electrical components, fittings, valves, medical instruments, precision machined components, building and architectural products, HVAC components and many others.
Drive to Diversify
Jones says CXM must seek new market opportunities. “We are taking action to diversify and find new niches that can benefit from our superior quality and specialty solutions,” he says. That goal is not always easy to achieve, but CXM’s decision to add experienced resources to its team is one way the company is striving to stay ahead of the competition, Jones explains. “We’re well diversified with our product capabilities and market niche offerings.”
Additionally, CXM understands its position in the market. “We have a unique advantage as a United States domestic brass and bronze mill,” Jones says. “We focus on niche markets, niche products and niche needs where specialty offerings provide value to our customers.”
Keeping a close eye on the market and forecasting the future needs of the segments it serves is the other part of CXM’s equation for success, Jones says. “We evaluate where we think the market opportunities will lie,” he says. “We’re building off of existing experience. It’s really about listening to the voice of the customer.”
CXM’s position as a domestic producer of various alloys also is a significant advantage, Jones says. In fact, the company is the only producer of extruded aluminum-bronze alloys in the United States, Jones says. Clients prefer a domestic provider of the product because supply chain risks are reduced, lead times are shortened and material traceability is enhanced, he says. “There’s a lot of obstacles associated with overseas sources,” Jones says. Conversely, a client knows it can communicate with CXM to address any need with a product shipment, he says.
CXM uses materials garnered from a variety of sources to manufacture its products. “We have a number of vehicles for raw materials, which include the companies we supply,” Jones says. Specifically, clients often return to CXM the remnants from machining of the brass rods, shapes, bar and wire production projects. As a result, no materials are wasted.
CXM does not limit itself to manufacturing alloys. Instead, its R&D team continually seeks solutions for a changing market. In 2014, for example, the company developed a family of non-leaded brass alloys, known as BioBrass®, that possess superior performance and properties compared to existing market offerings, Jones says. “Registering a new alloy and bringing the unique attributes of BioBrass® to our customers is exciting,” he says.
The company developed the alloy in response to the Reductions of Lead in Drinking Water Act, which prohibits the use of lead in potable water systems, Jones says. Consequently, there was a demand for a replacement alloy that was lead-free and met the same high standards for high-speed machining.
The non-leaded alloys maintain the features long associated with leaded brasses and can be produced in various sizes and shapes to meet the needs of various customers. BioBrass® is intended to replace free-cutting brass in potable water applications. The alloy is fabricated into cold-finished rod, bar and shape extrusions and manufactured to machine consistently, Jones says.