Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.

William Henry Fox was born in 1893 in Patton, Pennsylvania and grew up in Detroit from the early 1900s. Around 1915, he took a job at Ford Motor Company’s Highland Park Plant working in their tool and die department, one of 90 areas under the same roof. It was the largest manufacturing facility in the world at the time of its opening in 1913 and the first automotive assembly plant to utilize a moving assembly line. The $5.00 per day wage paid by the Highland Park Plant was plenty to support William, his wife and his young child, and he quickly became knowledgeable about heat treating of tool steels, since Ford performed all of its heat treating in-house.

Ford Motor Company wide shot

In 1923, William Fox gave in to his entrepreneurial drive and left his job at Ford to establish Detroit Steel Treating at 6816 E. Warren Ave. Along with colleagues Ray Shelton, Thomas Wyatt, and Pete Velthius, the four men handled everything. All the furnaces were open fired and loads were manually quenched. They quickly earned the trust of Detroit’s tool & die shops and managed to survive The Great Depression untarnished.

The four boys starting their heat treat dream

In 1937, the company opened a second location at 4716 Bellevue Ave, a mere 5-minute walk from the original Warren Ave plant. The Bellevue plant was 6,000 ft2 and custom built for the growing company. By the 1940s, William’s two sons, William R. Fox and Raymond D. Fox, both became successful in their own right. William founded Fox Steel Treating in 1945, while Raymond joined The Cold Heading Company and worked his way up to become the plant manager at their Bellevue Ave plant. Meanwhile, their father William continued to grow Detroit Steel Treating by adding equipment to the Bellevue Ave plant and eventually selling off the E. Warren Ave plant in the 1950s.

The business front on Warren

When William passed away in 1966, he left behind a formidable business that was more capable than the one he started 43 years earlier. With the drive and determination of his youngest son Raymond, the Bellevue Ave plant continued to grow its heat treat service offerings and attract customers from the expanding automotive industry. Raymond brought in his son Bob in 1972 and his daughter Janet in 1975 to help grow the business even more. They expanded their service offering to include controlled atmosphere processing and made their first of several investments in atmosphere furnaces, purchasing a Surface Allcase Batch Integral Quench furnace in 1978. They purchased nearby buildings to create a larger plant and purchased two more batch IQ furnaces in 1980 and 1981. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Raymond Fox and the entire plant workforce worked tirelessly through several brutal recessions, but ultimately came out stronger and more capable.

In 1992, the company was at a crossroads and needed a plant that could continue serving their existing customer base while attracting new customers, since the 57-year old Bellevue Ave plant could no longer be expanded. The company conducted an intensive search to find a suitable location to build a new building, and ultimately settled on the outskirts of Pontiac, adjacent to the booming area of Auburn Hills. They sold the Bellevue Ave plant and in the summer of 1994, began moving all the equipment to the new Pontiac plant, finishing up by Thanksgiving of that year.

The business building in Pontiac

The equipment in the new plant was laid out for streamlined handling and made use of lean manufacturing principles. The results paid off immediately, with the company’s KPIs and metrics outpacing their competition and earning record revenues. The company also expanded beyond traditional heat treating and began offering black oxide coating in 1996. Raymond’s wife, Helene, also contributed to the success of the business by helping manage the company’s fleet of 7 trucks being operated during the 1990s.

Raymond passed away in 2011, but like his father before him, left behind a remarkably dynamic and resilient business. Bob and Janet leveraged their nearly 40 years of experience working with their father to continuously improve the processes offered and successfully earned ISO 9001 certification. They invested in state-of-the-art computerized control systems and continuous process monitoring to ensure the highest level of quality and traceability for their customers. The result has been a loyal and deeply satisfied customer base stretching well beyond Michigan.

In 2020, Bob and Janet opened a new chapter in the Detroit Steel Treating story by partnering with another long-standing Michigan heat treating business, American Metal Processing (“AMP”). AMP’s complementary offering of high-volume production heat treating allows the two companies to efficiently handle just about any sized part at any sized volume. Each business benefits from one another’s technology and collectively represent a well established and deeply qualified heat treating source for customers throughout North America.

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