Spang & Company Marks 130 Years as Diversified Manufacturer in Western PA


Manufacturing has a proud history in Pennsylvania. Today, the Keystone State boasts a robust and varied industrial economy as home to key players in defense, pharmaceuticals, electronics, steel industries and much more. Here, Lynne Ellis, executive vice president of diversified manufacturer Spang & Company, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, shares the importance of manufacturing as it marks 130 years of operation in 2024.

Spang & Company was founded as an oil repair shop by George Spang in Butler, Pennsylvania in 1894. Tell us how the business came about.

From 1894 through the 1980s, Spang became the world’s leading manufacturer of cable system drilling tools, when the country was drilling for oil all through the Eastern and Midwest states. Spang manufactured a large variety of drilling tools, drill pipe, and other equipment to serve the oil, gas, blast hole and water well drilling industries.

Through the years, the company expanded into providing high-temperature refractory specialties and slag processing to the steel industry. There was an additional division that fabricated steel structures for highway and railroad bridges. At one point, the company also owned a toy factory that it had acquired from a Pittsburgh family, which was later moved to Arkansas in 1970, and also had a retail division, comprised of 56 drug stores and pharmacies throughout Western PA. Longtime Pittsburghers may also remember the Eiben & Irr department stores in Pittsburgh and Butler, another arm of the company. Most of these companies were either divested or closed in the 1980s as the world’s economy changed.

Spang & Company has owned a variety of corporations and has continued to evolve in electrical and electronic manufacturing. Please describe the company’s operations and workforce today.

Spang & Company is made up of three operating lines. Magnetics began in Butler in 1949 and was acquired in 1970 by Spang. Although we did have manufacturing in the United States, in 2004 we moved the electronic components manufacturing plant to Xiamen China, where we employ about 220 people. Many of our customers and competitors are and have been in Asia Pacific for many years.

The electronic components we manufacture are made from various magnetic property materials and are used on circuit boards or in the power systems of products in the alternative energy, uninterruptible power supplies, telecommunications, aerospace and medical systems. There are another 30 employees of the Magnetics Division in Pennsylvania and Arizona, supporting the sales, research and design, and distribution warehouse operations for this global company. There are also 11 employees of Magnetics in a Hong Kong sales office.

Spang Engineered Solutions builds on the Magnetics core business, by utilizing this base component to design high frequency inductors, transformers and power supplies that support medical, defense, aerospace, rail systems and other users with special power needs. The division began in 2012, staffed initially by Magnetics employee’s intent on growing this new arm of design business. Services include design, re-design, prototyping, and final production assembly of over a hundred designs for power. Through three acquisitions in the last five years, this division has grown to include operations in Phoenix, Arizona; Dallas, Texas; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with about 80 employees.

Spang Power Electronics, formerly Kemco Corporation, was acquired in 1966, and has since grown to employ about 70 people in Sandy Lake, Pennsylvania, and Mentor, Ohio, and another 23 employees at a plant in Xiamen, China. Spang Power Electronics produces a full line of AC and DC power control products, at mid- to high- voltage ranges, supporting industries in the glass, hydrogen, fiberglass, polysilicon and industrial heating industries.

All of our product lines are capable of design, engineering, rapid prototyping, manufacturing, and extensive testing for quality and performance. Many of our products and operations have extensive compliance requirements for both quality and manufacturing facility controls, including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and country of manufacture standards.

Describe your customer base and worldwide reach.

All three operating lines have worldwide customers. Most automakers throughout the world have industrial lines in their plants that include a Spang Power Electronics system.

New interest in green energy has spurred sales across all our product lines, as well as investment in new manufacturing plants worldwide. Other customers may not be well-known names in the world, but in the niche industries that serve automotive, glass, fiberglass and other manufacturing, they are well known.

Our products may be in anything from the pagers used in hospitals to medical equipment such as AEDs to locomotive engines and helicopters.

Although Spang & Company is a global operation, it is still headquartered in Pittsburgh. What does it mean to you to still retain Spang’s PA roots?

This local family had deep connections throughout the Western PA area, along with impressive growth plans in the 1960s and on through the 2000s. The operating locations we have in Pennsylvania and Ohio have a long history of employing many people who stayed with the company throughout their careers. Our relationship with local businesses, customers and employees has been a strong point for keeping our base of operations local.

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