By Mike Vieira | Nov 13, 2022
Custom wire forms and sheet metal fabrication
Originally founded by Frank Renfro and John Franklin as the Renfro Franklin Company in 1946, RFC Wire Form's early focus was on wire bird cages and chicken coops. After two ownership changes through the years, things have evolved a bit. The main products manufactured today include fan guards and motor mounts built to order for customers in the heating, ventilation, refrigeration, and air conditioning industry.
That said, Orr notes that RFC Wire Forms also does a substantial amount of business manufacturing point-of-sale display racks for publications and other types of products, as well as components for earthquake retrofitting. Additionally, the company makes just about any type of product that can be made from formed wire, such as shower caddies, file trays, and even pegboard hooks.
The main competition for business comes from overseas. According to Orr, "We're in a little bit of a niche market. The people that are bringing in thousands and thousands of guards and looking only for low price go to China." RFC focuses more on higher quality, shorter runs of products.
Most of the manufacturing operations are done in-house, with outside services being used for plating and coatings, and other specialized processes. "Things are getting a lot more automated than they used to be," says Orr, as the company now uses CNC machines for bending wire and other operations, making manufacturing more efficient and more consistent. Their mix of skilled workers, while sometimes difficult to find over the last few years, are generally stable in their employment, with some having more than 35 years on the job.
The main raw materials RFC uses in production are various wire spools, and all are locally sourced. Like so many other goods lately, the wire has been in short supply at times, and it has more than doubled in price. However, Orr says, "Earlier in the year, we had a tough time, but most of the people that supply wire, we’re their number one customer, so they tend to keep us pretty happy. They know exactly who we are and how much business we do, so they take pretty good care of us."
In addition to RFC Wire Form's domestic manufacturing, the company also imports products from overseas to meet customers' requirements. As Orr says, "We have that option, if it's a price-sensitive situation, but we'd like to make it here." Earlier in the year, when problems at the ports were slowing supplies from overseas, the company's in-house capabilities were running overtime to make up for the shortfall in imported goods.
The company's three-person salesforce primarily targets the HVAC industry for additional new work, and deals directly with the end users, rather than through distributors. Although optimistic about future prospects, Orr says, "We are starting to see a bit of slowdown in business."
Challenges: "We're running three shifts in the shop," Orr says, "but it's still hard to keep up sometimes."
Opportunities: "Maybe the main thing is technology being our biggest improvement in the future, with new machines coming out that can add to efficiency," Orr says. "Things are pretty stable, but there are a couple of different industries that we're targeting. Healthcare is always big, and in California there's a lot of earthquake retrofitting going on, and we're trying to expand into that a little more, but with just three of us on the sales team, there's not a lot of chance to go after new stuff."
Needs: To keep a consistent supply of material and continue towards more automation to improve efficiency and maintain quality.