Hardware Products Company was founded in 1866 in the historic North End of Boston, a stone’s throw away from Paul Revere’s house, as a manufacturer of machined hardware items. The company manufactured items such as machining collars, couplings, gears, knurls, pillow blocks, pulleys, and of course springs. Since many of the non-spring items were produced for the textile industry, the demand for those products moved south and abroad along with the textile industry. The future of Hardware Products was in springs, and the company has evolved into one of the most complete and creative spring and spring products producers in the industry, making use of the latest in high tech operations and computerized support functions.
150 Years of Hardware Products Company
Established in 1866, Hardware Products Company (HPC), is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, making it one of the oldest continuous manufacturers of springs in the country, though it started out as a supplier to the textile industry. HPC’s founding location was in the historic North End of Boston, just a stone’s throw away from Paul Revere’s house.
Three Original Facilities
Prior to electricity, industry ran on water power. The big belts required pulleys torun, along with pillow blocks, and HPC manufactured both. HPC also manufactured items such as machining collars, couplings, gears, knurls, and springs. The original company was divided into three operations: Hardware Products, Massachusetts and Maine; Machine Parts, Rhode Island.
John Goodnow owned the primary family-owned company in Massachusetts, with his son-in-law handling operations in Maine for a time. A cousin managed the Rhode Island facility, which remained in the family until the last decade.
Spring Manufacturing Flourished
John Goodnow was an MIT graduate who worked in the factory during summer breaks. Springs became his specialty, and as the textile industry shifted to the South (and eventually Asia), the production of textile hardware slowly dwindled. With his strong background in springs, that piece of the business flourished.
Premier Stock Spring Line
Goodnow developed the stock spring line— still a leader in the industry today—offering an extensive catalog of compression and extension springs. All stock springs are highly precise, with an easy and quick ordering process, and fast delivery.
1941—War Powers Act
Under the War Powers Act (December 18, 1941) of World War II, the U.S. Army ordered all HPC production efforts to manufacture a medical device for use on bases and the front line. The spring was a key part of the device that the army medics required. Massive amounts were needed, and fast—at the time, HPC was making this spring by hand.
Birth of Automation
To keep from bottlenecking overall production, HPC needed to automate the process. Goodnow combined three machines and created the first automated spring manufacturing process. This machine still operates in the Chelsea facility, making the springs with the same accurate tolerances it was originally designed to produce—the medical device is still considered the definitive standard today.
With no family queued up to take over the reins, Goodnow sold the company to George Underwood in 1971. Underwood was in the heat-treat business, which is closely related to spring manufacturing.
Textile Industry Shifts— Springs Are Sprung!
Freight became an issue when the textile industry moved to Asia, which dwindled production needs for textile products, making springs the focus of HPC’s operations.
1974—Ted White Joins HPC
In 1974, Ted White, HPC’s current president, came onboard right out of college. After overseeing the installation of computers in the office, his first project was to create a programmable calculator, which brought tolerance for spring designs from slide rule approximations to calculator accuracy. His next mission: to automate the entire operation by creating a spring design computer program.
In the early 1990s, when Boston’s historic North End became more residential, HPC moved to a facility in Chelsea, MA. Underwood was ready to sell, and in 1991, he sold the business to the Catalyst Group, which had a unique owner profile: 50% spring engineers and 50% investment bankers.
Smaller, Leaner, More Profitable
New ownership optimized the business for profitability. This involved analyzing the automation to assess profitable parts of the operations—culling those that weren’t. HPC became a smaller, leaner, and more profitable company.
1993—Kevin Grace and SEI
Kevin Grace, belonging to a family of engineers, bought out the investment bankers in 1993. Spring Engineers Incorporated (SEI) owns six divisions: 3 are spring manufacturers, 1 is a stamping company, 1 is a plating company, and 1 is a needle company. Needle company note: once manufactured for old record players, now made for blow darts tips for poison-tip blowguns.
1998—Ted White for President!
Henry Porter became president of Hardware Products in 1991 and held that position until White became president in 1998. He has been at the helm for 18 of his 42 years with HPC. Hardware Products has evolved into one of the most complete and creative spring and spring products manufacturers in the industry, making use of the latest in high-tech operations and computerized support functions.