Quality Since 1835
Editorís Note: The origin of McLanahan Corporation of Hollidaysburg, PA, dating back to 1835, makes it very probably the oldest manufacturing business in continued existence serving the coal industry. It certainly operates the oldest family owned foundry in the nation and is one of the countryís oldest companies that remains in full operation. Six generations of the McLanahan family have guided the corporation since its beginning.
Today, its products include crushers, rotary breakers, stageloader crushers, feeder-breakers, Mini-Mac Hammermill crushers, and bulk material sampling systems. Coal Leaderís Managing Editor, Bill Reid, toured the plant before speaking to President and CEO Michael W. McLanahan.
Coal Leader: Mike, we appreciate you talking to the readers of Coal Leader newspaper. I know that McLanahan has a long history dating back to 1835. Tell us a little bit about the history of the company.
Mike McLanahan: The company started as an iron foundry, one of some eleven that were in Hollidaysburg and the local area, because this was a source of iron ore and charcoal for smelting was produced from hardwood trees in the area and limestone for fluxing came from nearby quarries, so natural resources abounded. We evolved over time into a manufacturer of machinery because my ancestors had quarries for the limestone and also had the iron ore pits, which were surface deposits. Later on, charcoal was replaced by coke, and this area is abundant in coking coal, and so we have continued with the production of iron. We added steel castings in 1989. The machinery manufacturing was natural because we needed it to operate the pits and quarries and so my great-grandfather invented the single roll crusher that was used for that and naturally it was a very usable piece of equipment for the coal industry when the coal started to come on the scene. We more or less turned to being manufacturers of machinery for the mining industry starting in about the 1880s and thatís been our focus ever since with iron and steel castings representing about 8% of what we do now.
Coal Leader: What about the company today?
Mike McLanahan: With the three divisions that we have, here in Hollidaysburg, HSS Div. which does bulk sampling systems located in the Pittsburgh area and LPT Group which is located in Gallatin, Tennessee, we have 180 employees total. Weíre very much involved with the coal industry even though the coal industry has been down in the last few years. We still feel that is one of the areas that we need to focus on.
Coal Leader: When did your involvement in the company begin?
Mike McLanahan: Well, I started back in 1956 as a paid employee working in the shop, but I can
remember coming here many times before that to visit with my grandparents and wandering through the shop as a younger child, sitting on the planer/miller and marveling at all of the old overhead line belts going every which way, driving the machinery, before electric motors were used to power the equipment individually. So I started in 1956 as a laborer and was involved summers through college until I started in the sales department in 1962 and I have been here ever since in different occupations or responsibilities.
Coal Leader: You are also involved in organizations associated with the coal industry. Can you tell us about some of these, please?
Mike McLanahan: I am involved with the National Mining Association, which I think is a very strong voice advocating the benefits of coal mining, coal power, and certainly is a voice that is very much needed in the Washington, D.C. political environment. Without it Iím not sure that mining wouldnít have been forced offshore even more so than it has already been. National Coal Council is another advocate for coal power, coal generation and I think through those two voices in Washington, weíre getting the message across that coal can be mined in environmentally sound ways, can be transported economically, and can be burned without pollution and I feel that this message is needed. Coal is really the only source of power that we have in this country that we control and with a reserve of some 300 or 350 years. Thatís only taking the best of the coal.
Coal Leader: What percentage of your business is in the coal industry and tell us about some of the products?
Mike McLanahan: In good years, the coal industry represents about 30 to 40 percent of what we do. Itís down right now because the industry has not been as productive, prices are depressed and the forces of the environmental whackos on it have diminished the ability to mine, transport, and burn the coal the way it should and can in the future. We have right now a number of products for the industry that we have developed and are continuing to develop because we think that the coal industry is going to come back and it wonít be too long before the benefit of coal is seen by many in the political arena.
Coal Leader: What directions are you taking in research and development in some of these products?
Mike McLanahan: The focus has been to develop machines that will handle larger lump sizes, coal with more rock, stronger harder rock in it, for higher capacities as well. The machines of the future will be doing quite a bit more than they currently are. We regularly process 4,000 tons per hour for example at 2Ē product size and customers are getting life on the teeth of 50 million tons without having to replace roll segments. We have been able to achieve this added life through research and development on new tooth design and metallurgy. We work closely with coal industry leaders on development of new technology, making use of computers, and other advances that result in more user friendly equipment. Our engineering department has grown substantially to keep up with the demands placed upon us by our customers, enabling us to respond very quickly.
Coal Leader: What is your philosophy in running the company?
Mike McLanahan: I like to hire people who really think outside the limits of this organization.
Diversification has been our strength through the years, because of the people who we have hired in the past who have really gone beyond just doing a job. They have developed themselves and they have in the process developed us as well. We hire people who are tops in their school and the people who have innate mechanical abilities from an engineering standpoint, and from a sales standpoint, people who really get to know the customer, developing relationships beyond just trying to sell a product.
Weíre in this business to provide service long after the original sale has been made because our philosophy is to really serve the customer over the long term.
Coal Leader: How do you see the future of McLanahan and the future of coal?
Mike McLanahan: Well, McLanahan Corporation I feel is a very strong organization because of the people. Itís not just the family that is involved but everybody who has contributed through the years, through generations of employment here. We have long-term people who have their sons and daughters who have worked for us. We continue to believe that they are going to be our best asset in the future. I believe the coal industry will be strong. Itís going through difficult times right now, but its always been cyclical in that nature. I feel that it will recover and be looked on in the future as a source of power that can be counted on and reliable.
Coal Leader: Well, thank you very much for having me here at McLanahan, and for talking to readers of Coal Leader.
Mike McLanahan: Thank you, Bill. Itís always a pleasure seeing you. cl
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