Alfred W. French founded
The French Oil Mill Machinery Company
in 1900 to serve the linseed oil industry. The company's location in Piqua made sense: West central Ohio was a leading flax seed growing region, from which linseed oil is made. And those who processed the oil needed presses from which to extract the commodity.
While linseed oil is rarely found anymore, French is still going strong, thanks to innovative technologies that have branched out over the years to serve industries as diverse as the rubber and aerospace sectors.
Today, French makes screw presses to extract vegetable oil from seeds and nuts, screw presses for synthetic rubber and to separate solids and liquids, and screw presses and fiber presses for removing liquid from wood pulp fiber. The company also manufactures hydraulic presses for molding parts for a number of industries, including the medical and aerospace industries.
Tayte French Lutz, the company's marketing coordinator and a fourth-generation French, says the company is still growing, despite an off year in 2008. French hired 25 people last year, bringing employment in Piqua to 63.
"2008 was tough," she says, "but 2010 was an amazing year. 2011 is already looking to be an incredible year. Our sales for this year forecasted to be about 50 percent more than last year."
A more robust domestic business is also in the forecast.
"In 2010 about 70 percent of our business was exports and 30 percent domestic. For 2011 it's going to be about 50/50."
French has customers in more than 80 countries, and equipment on every continent but Antarctica. The company recently announced it would begin manufacturing operations in China to serve the oil seed and polymer industries there.
While the company tends to fly under most people's radar, French Lutz notes that some of our most common items may have been made with the help of a French machine.
"If you eat a potato chip, it's possible that the oil could have been pressed on a French press. If you're out playing golf, the inside of the golf ball could have been pressed on a French hydraulic press. There's just things in our everyday lives that our equipment could have touched."Source: Tayte French Lutz, French Oil Mill Machinery Company
Writer: Gene Monteith