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Press Brake Tooling

Force of forming

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Godwin’s Baykal press brakes make hundreds of shears and thousands of bends daily, producing parts like these rails designed to support the weight of fully loaded dump beds.

Manufacturer cranks out truck bodies with hard-wearing press brake technology

July/August 2015 - A small-time, working-class boxer becomes the reigning world heavyweight champion in the 1976 movie “Rocky.” As if reading from the same script, The Godwin Group has also gone the distance, rising from obscurity to become the largest privately held, family owned and operated truck equipment manufacturer in the U.S.

The Dunn, North Carolina, company’s motto “No bull, just the best” describes the quality of Godwin’s products ranging from dump and platform bodies to hydraulic hoists, snow equipment and replacement parts. It also sums up its business practices and its methods for researching and selecting capital equipment. The most recent investment was in Fab-Line Machinery LLC’s Baykal APHS press brakes.

But the storyline of its growth does read like a scene from a screenplay. It was April 1966 when Pat Godwin Sr. quit his job as a soft drink salesman and opened Godwin Welding Service in his garage. Upon telling his wife, Judy, she responded with, “April Fools!” He countered with, “It may be April Fools’ Day but I won’t be going back.” In the weeks that followed, he started his day by unplugging the household electric stove and plugging in his borrowed welder.

By 1979 Godwin Welding Service had become Godwin Manufacturing Co. Inc. Today, with 1.5 million sq. ft. under roof, The Godwin Group, formed by Pat Godwin Sr. in 2004, comprises Godwin Manufacturing and sister companies Champion Hoist and Equipment Co. LLC; Galion-Godwin Truck Body Co. LLC; R/S-Godwin Truck Body Co. LLC; Good Roads—and its most recent acquisition, Williamsen-Godwin Truck Body Co. In 2013 he named his son Pat Godwin Jr. president of the conglomerate.

FFJ 0715 press image1

Common sense

“We maintain my grandfather’s economic philosophy,” grandson Patrick Godwin III says of the company’s rock-steady growth. “Don’t spend money you don’t have. Live within your means and build on that.” Now advertising and marketing director, Godwin III says his own career began at age 10 pushing a broom. “We don’t subscribe to the practice of allowing companies to run their businesses on our money or vice versa. We’re essentially debt-free and we’ve kept it that way.”

Such restraint actually gives the nimble-footed manufacturer flexibility to implement initiatives and take advantage of unforeseen opportunities. In 1999 Godwin became the first manufacturer to powder coat its dump beds and other snow removal products.

“People told my grandfather it wasn’t possible to build an automated line to powder coat dump bodies,” recalls Patrick Godwin III. Yet the company built a 60 ft. wide by 200 ft. wide building to house the automated line. It added another 35,000 sq. ft. to the facility in 2008 when it made zinc epoxy primer with a top coat standard on its dump bodies. 

Of the acquisition strategy, “We didn’t look for companies to buy. We bought them because in each case, it was a good deal and it made sense in terms of customer support,” Godwin III says. 

Customers include state municipalities to OEMs, dealers and distributors and end users in the rental, landscaping and highway and subdivision construction industries. “We don’t put our eggs all in one basket,” he notes.

Growth has also been the driving goal behind recent decisions to invest in equipment. 

With Godwin Manufacturing and Champion co-located in Dunn, the companies typically shuttled in-process parts back and forth. Champion’s growth—a 95 percent annual increase over the last five years—soon made that arrangement impractical. “We knew we needed to invest in new equipment for Champion,” says Godwin CEO Ryan Taylor, who attended Fabtech in 2013 to review a major press brake manufacturer’s product line. Fab-Line was also exhibiting at the tradeshow. 

St. Charles, Illinois-based Fab-Line makes press brakes, shears and plasma cutting systems. “I received an interesting voicemail from Pat Godwin Sr. while at the show,” recalls Fab-Line Vice President Tom Millen. “When I returned his call, he told me he was going to buy a press brake within the week. Although we hear this frequently, I had an inkling he was serious. That afternoon I booked a flight for Dunn. Following a two-hour meeting with him I left with an order for two press brakes.”

Bending challenge

“We felt hands down that Fab-Line offered a better machine,” says Taylor of the initial purchase. “We also bought a shear.” 

Godwin installed a Baykal APHS 420-ton, 16 ft., 8 in. press brake, a Baykal APHS 175-ton, 10 ft. press brake and a Baykal HGL 1⁄4-in. by 13 ft. shear at Champion in 2014. The facility produces long frame rails [16 ft.] and inner and outer arms for its range of hoist products along with a variety of other parts, some as small as 2-in. brackets.

The manufacturer’s mill-certified material includes grade 50 high-strength low-alloy carbon steel, grade AR450 steel, an abrasion-resistant wear plate, 50,000 and 100,000 tensile strength steel and aluminum alloys.

“Bending 50,000 [50K] tensile strength and formable 100,000 [100K] tensile strength is very challenging,” says Taylor. “It requires high [press] tonnage. In fact, 100K dictates a little more than double the tonnage. We form both materials on the Baykal press brakes because it allows us to build stronger hoists that are lighter weight.”

In the hauling industry, less weight translates to reduced freight costs and higher payload capacities. “The Baykal press brakes support that critical initiative and have helped us increase our productivity in this area,” says Taylor.

FFJ 0715 press image2

Keeping pace

The machines’ reliability also ensures Godwin doesn’t experience downtime. “Business really picks up for us during March through April when the weather begins to warm up,” says Taylor. “This year however, business began to escalate in January like it normally would at the start of spring. I think people see the economy starting to turn around and are stocking their inventories in preparation. Meeting those production rates is dependent on our equipment. The durability and accuracy of the Baykal press brakes supports short lead times. Repeatability is another big advantage.”

Champion runs product in master batches to minimize the number of die changes. “The Baykal servo hydraulic press brakes that Godwin has are fairly basic,” says Patrick Canning, president of Fab-Line. “It’s the way Godwin is using these machines that takes the company to a different performance level. 

“They need power to form high-strength materials but they also need accuracy. It’s not just about having a bigger hammer, it’s about making good parts,” Canning continues. “An accuracy rating of ±0.0004-in. gives them a repeatability factor that is at least five to 10 times higher than their older machines. It means they don’t have to check their parts as often and their downstream processes are easier and faster to complete.”

Godwin Group also announced plans last year to build a standalone manufacturing facility for its Galion-Godwin Truck Body division in Winesburg, Ohio. The new 26,000 sq. ft. building is dedicated to producing stainless dump bodies. “With the rapid growth of stainless steel product in the northeastern part of the U.S., we couldn’t keep up,” says Taylor. “We built the plant to meet that demand.”

The new plant required an assembly line and fabrication department. A review of quotes for different press brake models led Godwin back to Fab-Line. “Their equipment offered higher quality and quite frankly was more machine for the money,” says Taylor. “Fab-Line was also the only company that would work with us on a package deal.” The division installed a Baykal 550-ton, 20 ft. press brake and a Baykal 100-ton, 10 ft. press brake; and a Baykal BPS 8 ft. by 26 ft. plasma cutting system.

The lines started up in June.

“It isn’t often you get a customer who knows how to conduct a true investigation before placing an order,” remarks Canning. “That’s due to company management under Pat Godwin Sr. They don’t take the easy route. They do a really good job of determining which machine will be the best solution for them. That’s rare.” FFJ

Sources

  • Fab-Line Machinery LLC
    St. Charles, Ill.
    phone: 630/587-0505
    fax: 630/587-5584
    www.fab-line.com
  • The Godwin Group
    Dunn, N.C.
    phone: 910/892-0141
    fax: 910/892-7402
    www.godwinmfg.com
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