Key Bellevilles Inc. of Allegheny Township celebrates 50 successful years KIM LEONARD | Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 12:27 a.m.
Key Bellevilles Inc. of Allegheny Township celebrates 50 successful years! Written by KIM LEONARD in TRIB LIVE | Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 12:27 a.m. LOUIS B. RUEDIGER | TRIBUNE-REVIEW
About Key Bellevilles Inc. Founder: Robert J. Key, in 1967, company is family operated Where: Allegheny Township Employees: 77 Product: Belleville disc springs, cone-shaped washers that can be stacked to handle heavy loads. Named for Julien Belle¬ville, who patented a spring design in 1867 in France. Uses: Multiple, including NASA’s space station and shuttles, amusement park rides, ski lifts, airplanes, robots, guitars, oil rigs, fishing reels, race cars and kitchen appliances. Customers: 24,000 over company’s history in the United States and 56 other countries, including China. Suppliers: All steel used in belle¬villes is made in the USA; Allegheny Technologies and AK Steel are major suppliers. Sources: Key Bellevilles Inc., Tribune-Review research
Key Bellevilles Inc. has built its 50-year history on one product used in many things — from the mechanical shark in “Jaws” to space shuttles. “I saw that there was a potential for it,” founder and President Robert J. Key, 83, said of the belleville disc spring, which the Allegheny Township company makes and stocks in more than 10,000 sizes. In the early days of the business, Key — then also a New Kensington attorney — honed his salesmanship skills as he flew his single-engine Cessna 182 airplane in search of customers. “I traveled with that plane from Alaska to Mexico, and from Nova Scotia to Puerto Rico,” he recalled. “I would see three to five companies a day.”
Family-operated Key Bellevilles designs and makes bellevilles, cone-shaped steel discs that can be stacked together to absorb force. “Picture a dinner plate upside down, and cut a hole in the center. Press it flat. That’s the description I got when I went to buy the company,” Key said.
NO LAYOFFS IN 45 YEARS
There currently are 77 employees, and, while that number is down slightly from a few years ago because of automation, the company hasn’t had a layoff in 45 years, he said. Key Bellevilles is considered the largest manufacturer of bellevilles worldwide, Key said, with customers throughout the United States and in 56 other countries. The company doesn’t disclose revenue. Engineering, stamping, machining and heat treating are done at the plant off Route 356, said Key’s brother, Philip, 58, vice president of operations. With warehouse space added in 2013, the company can stock more than 35 million bellevilles, ready to be shipped out, and it keeps a large supply of steel used to make discs. “It’s amazing how much raw material inventory he keeps,” said Russ Buckbinder, a retired founding partner in Fastener Tool & Supply of Solon, Ohio. “Bob Key told me many times that was his thing — rather than having cash, he had the inventory, and it worked well for him.”
Fastener Tool & Supply buys million-piece quantities of bellevilles from Key’s company then sells them, 100,000 at a time, to a large valves and fittings manufacturer, Buckbinder said. Eloy Sedillo of Houston-based National Oilwell Varco, which sells oil and gas industry equipment, said he’s visited Key’s plant and doesn’t worry about products arriving on time. “When I place an order, it comes,” said Sedillo, who works in procurement at National Oilwell.
LAWYER TO MANUFACTURER
Key was a partner in a New Kensington law firm in 1967 when a cousin, George Key, who worked for Union Spring Corp. in that city, brought two of that company’s executives to see him. The men asked Key to find a company they could buy, then add bellevilles as a production line, because leaders at their company weren’t interested, he said. He arranged for them to buy the Ohio Springs Specialty division of Handy and Harman in Cleveland, and intended to buy a third of the business for $100,000. But his two prospective partners backed out, Key said, and he dipped into savings and stock earnings to come up with $300,000. Key and his cousin worked in Ohio for two years, setting up a belleville production line there. Key Bellevilles then moved to its current site, part of a 750-acre tract that industrialist Andrew Carnegie, and later Allegheny Ludlum Corp., once owned. Key had worked with a later purchaser of that property in 1965, and invested his fee and $15,000 to buy 100 wooded acres. He borrowed $100,000, and he and his father, Robert C. Key, a local home builder, built a plant in six weeks and opened it in 1969. Key said his company made regular springs for a while, and became a distributor for another brand before making and selling its own belleville products exclusively.
MAJOR CORPORATIONS BECOME CUSTOMERS
One important customer was found close to home. Key approached Alcoa Corp., then with thousands of workers in New Kensington, and was invited to talk with engineers at the company’s downtown Pittsburgh headquarters. Someone asked, “ ‘Can you make this for 91 cents?’ and I said ‘Yeah.’ That’s how we got our first order, and we’re still doing business with them,” Key said, “We got into Caterpillar. We got into Alcoa. We got into GE.
“I met a lot of people who wanted to give a young person a chance.” Bellevilles were supplied to a New Jersey company for work on NASA’s shuttle and have been used in other space technology, Key said. The discs are made “from the size of a dime to 3 feet in diameter and 3 inches thick” so that a million pounds of force would be needed to deflect it, he said. In addition to Philip Key, Key Bellevilles’ staff includes Robert Key’s brother Richard, a retired banker in Phoenix who is the chief financial officer; wife Patty, corporate secretary; daughter Kathy Brown and her son, Steve; granddaughter Jennifer Downard and her cousin Billy Key, who is George Key’s grandson. Key’s office sports harness racing murals. He raises standardbred horses, and said he has about 100 horses racing now, plus 50 broodmares.
Kim Leonard is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 725-226-4674, firstname.lastname@example.org or @KimLeonardTrib.
Full article is located at http://triblive.com/local/valleynewsdispatch/12206550-74/key-bellevilles-inc-of-allegheny-township-celebrates-50-successful-years
EXCLUSIVE QUALITY for CUSTOMERS
We are the experts the ultimate authority on Belleville disc springs aka Belleville washers! Since 1967, Key Bellevilles Inc. offers almost 50 years of experience. We are the best at designing and manufacturing Belleville springs. Our springs are manufactured in the United States but we have customers in over 100 countries. Here is why!
Key Bellevilles Inc. designs and manufactures only Belleville Disc springs also known as Belleville Washers, Conical Disc Springs, and Conical Washers. Our extensive experience lead us to design our complete line of Bellevilles disc springs for high temperatures application up to 1200 degrees (F), many of which are stock items. Key Bellevilles has over six million pounds of raw materials and has over 35 million Belleville disc springs with over ten thousand sizes in stock! In fact, the majority of our orders are shipped the same day or next day. We have the experience and equipment necessary to manufacture large Belleville springs up to 36″ in diameter and 3″ thick. If you have unanswered questions about Bellevilles see our Frequently asked Questions.
Specials are our specialty! Key Bellevilles, Inc., works with manufacturers, distributers, and individuals who need assistance with a research and development project. We have assisted many companies in the designing of belleville disc springs on new and unique applications resulting in better, safer and more effective product. We can also furnish low cost prototypes in two weeks or less. Discover savings with Custom designed belleville washers! Our engineers may be able to save you money by using Key Bellevilles’ custom bellevilles. For more information on custom belleville springs and prototypes see Custom Bellevilles
We design and develop quality products which is why many OEMs or original equipment manufacturers order from us! Unlike some spring manufacturers we choose not to provide a list of our well known global customers because value our customer’s privacy and security. Key Bellevilles are approved for Defense Contractors, Utilities, Construction Equipment, Aerospace, etc…We are ISO 9001 compliant and adhere to DIN 2092, DIN 2093, and DIN 6796. Key Bellevilles will provide certifications by request for an additional fee.
Key Bellevilles priority is our customer’s needs and providing excellent service. Our competitors rely on a production schedule and try to fit your orders in depending on material and the required machines. This mean your orders may take weeks if the schedule is followed and there are not any delays. Our customer’s needs are first which is why our schedule is based on sales not a production schedule!
Key Bellevilles values all of our customers whether they are fortune 500 corporations, distributors , OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), Engineers, or individuals. Key Bellevilles’ focuses on customer’s needs rather than an operations or production schedule. Key Bellevilles has an enormous amount of inventory that includes over 35 million Bellevilles in over 10,000 sizes. Approximately 80-85 percent of orders ship the same day or next so that our clients receive the parts they need as soon as possible. We only require a $30.00 minimum order.
Do you need a Belleville calculator? Are you having difficulty with all of the calculations needed to develop your prototype? If so, we have designed a program that contains an excellent Belleville Spring calculator in Excel format! Did I mention that the design program is FREE and can be emailed to your email address? If you do not have Excel or require the program in a foreign language than we have a secondary program as an element of our design package that provides you with a Belleville spring calculator to help you complete a design in one minute or less.
Do you have questions? We have a section filled with frequently asked questions or F.A.Q.S.
Do you have a question only an engineer can answer? Key Bellevilles has engineers on staff that are keyed up and look forward to the opportunity to answer your questions and discuss Bellevilles! Click here to contact us!
Customer service is Key Bellevilles top priority! Some of our competitors may advertise quality customer service that means a phone answering system and endless voicemails. Key Bellevilles offers our customer’s emergency service. I know what you are thinking emergency services = an answering service. That is not the case at Key Bellevilles. We have a live knowledgeable employee who is able to answer your call in an emergency 24 hours a day seven days a week. In fact, Key Bellevilles supplies them an emergency number to reach key employees so that if our client’s have an emergency they can call anytime and speak to a person who can answer questions and provide quality service rather than other companies that have you leave a message or rely on answers from their web pages. Contact us.