Carve out a niche

Four decades after its founding in 1959 as SciCast International Inc., Performance Metals found itself in a no-win situation. The Bechtelsville, Pa.-based die-cast company produced good quality, high-volume, low-cost die cast parts, but the company was losing market share to lower-cost countries such as China and India.

Rather than become a “me-too” supplier, the company took a hard look at where it could use its expertise to carve out new niches. Company officials were searching for higher-quality parts to cast to compete with off-shore suppliers when they hit upon the idea to produce sacrificial anodes for the marine industry. Martin Wigg, president of Performance Metals, explains that he and his business partner both are sailors and were “sick of buying anodes.”

So the company switched gears to concentrate on producing zinc anodes and marketing them directly to consumers.

Then, company research suggested that an aluminum alloy, which it calls “Navalloy,” made for an even better product, so Performance Metals says it became the first manufacturer of aluminum sacrificial anodes.

But the company didn’t stop there. Performance Metals has also developed and patented wear indicators for anodes and introduced electronics wear indicator probes for marine applications like engines and heat exchangers. As a result, sales have increased each of the past seven years, including a 10-percent increase in 2008, according to the company.

“As we all know, many boat parts have anodes, so this has developed into a great business for us,” says Wigg. “We make them and sell them, then they rot and owners have to replace them.”

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