Cleveland is a city that was built upon the backs of industries and although it has come to be identified with burning rivers and unavailing sports franchises, the industrial culture of the region is what drove, and continues to drive, a significant amount of the economic prosperity of the city. A strong player in Cleveland’s industrial market in existence for over a century is SIFCO Industries, Inc. located off of St. Clair Avenue on Cleveland’s east side.
SIFCO was originally founded in 1913 by a small group of men in Cleveland who set out with one goal, to improve the strength of metals. Accordingly, their operation was initially known as the Steel Improvement Company and they began to build their business by testing and enhancing the properties of steel through the use of thermal cycles. Directly next door to the Steel Improvement Company at the time was the Forest City Machine Company who manufactured hardware using many of the types of metals the Steel Improvement Company was attempting to enhance. Deeming a merger as an opportunity for growth for both businesses, the neighbors merged in 1916 to form the Steel Improvement and Forge Company.
One reason that SIFCO has been able to remain a viable entity in an industry that has seen drastic changes since the company’s conception in 1913 can be attributed to the fact that, much like the city of Cleveland itself, SIFCO possesses an affinity for adaptability. During the early years of the business when the world was entrenched in World War II, it was SIFCO who played a pivotal role in contributing to the Allies' success. The Allied Powers had tested launching torpedoes from aircrafts only to find that the propellers needed to direct the torpedoes once in the water could not withstand the force of being launched from a plane. SIFCO engineers were able to develop a forged steel alloy propeller strong enough to make the airstrikes possible. The company shifted gears and produced every propeller for aircraft-launched torpedoes used by the United States throughout the duration of the war. For this and many other wartime contributions, SIFCO was awarded the ‘E’ Pennant for Defense Manufacturing Excellence, the highest such honor bestowed on manufacturing entities, by President Roosevelt in 1942.
Following its collections of notable wartime successes, SIFCO shifted its focus once again and reconnected with the roots of the company, improving steel. The art of forging metals has been in existence for millennia, and while the methods employed in forging metals are universally standard, the materials used are where the possibility for advancements exist. Only a few short years after the conclusion of World War II, SIFCO became the first company to forge titanium in 1949, harkening back to its pioneering of the forging of the alloy monel before the onset of the war.
One way in which SIFCO’s war involvement did change the trajectory of the company, though, is the industry in which SIFCO began to specialize in. Recognizing the growing importance of the airspace industry, both for commercial and military purposes, SIFCO established itself as a premier supplier of forged components for airspace and engine construction and retains that same identity today.
Aside from the many milestones the company had achieved in its work with metals, SIFCO also added another feather in its cap when it joined the New York Stock Exchange in 1969. The acronym SIFCO was never actually used by the company until its debut on Wall Street when the company, then referred to solely as the Steel Improvement and Forge Company as it had been since 1916, was given the symbol SIFCO to be identified by investors. In an effort to connect itself with this new moniker, the Steel Improvement and Forge Company rebranded around the name SIFCO and has used the abbreviated name in all its operations since.
In addition to its home for over century in Cleveland, SIFCO’s innovations and dedication to the craft and quality of forged metals has allowed the company to expand its operations beyond its plant on East 64th Street. With nearly one hundred and fifty employees working in its corporate offices and production shop in Cleveland, SIFCO conjointly has plants in Alliance, Ohio, and Orange County, California. In 2015, SIFCO also expanded its operations overseas with the purchase of C*Blade S.P.A. Forging & Manufacturing in Italy.
Today, SIFCO remains a robust company in the city of Cleveland, the United States, and abroad. Nearly every plane in flight today has at least one component produced by SIFCO. The business has remained in Cleveland at a time when many other companies relocated to the suburbs because of the talented workforce in the area, connections to transit, and its ties to its heritage. As a centennial celebration of SIFCO’s history, the company produced an online blog and Ebook highlighting some of SIFCO’s many accomplishments and distinguished employees. Though not immune to economic downturns, it is SIFCO’s dedication to craftsmanship and ability to work with exotic metals to produce highly specialized, durable products that has kept it a viable, growing company for over a century.