Global Fastener News

1985 FIN – Japan’s O&K Acquires Wire Sales of Chicago

September 09
00:00 2010

By Dick Callahan

October 8, 1985 FIN – Wire Sales Co. of Chicago, Illinois, has been acquired by O&K Co. Ltd., Japans’ largest cold heading wiremaker for about $4.7 million.

O&K presently produces all of its cold heading wire in Japan but about a year ago FIN began  hearing stories that a subsidiary company, O&K Steel USA Inc., Lake Bluff, Illinois was looking to get into wire drawing at that location. Apparently, O&K decided to get into cold heading wire stateside by acquiring an existing wire company rather than start from scratch.

First we’ll tell you something about Wire Sales Company and then we’ll tell you about O&K’s plans, as we understand them, for the company.

Wire Sales Co., was founded in Chicago in 1928 by the late Charles J. Muntwyler who left Signode Steel to begin his own company. At first the company was mainly a warehouse for finished wire and gradually the company, under C.F. Muntwyler and later under his son, Fred Muntwyler, evolved into a manufacturer of wire.

The physical plant at Wire Sales comprises about 200,000 sq. ft on a 10-acre site at 4630 W. 54th Street, close to Chicago’s Midway Airport. The plant starts with steel rod and products include bright basic, black annealed galvanized, and straightened and cut material.

Annual capacity of the plant is about 90,000 tons, but in recent years the plant has been operating at about half of that capacity. There are about 100 workers and sales last year were about $22 million.

The company used to have an affiliated company in Hortonville where merchant products (nails, button heads, bag ties, bale ties etc.) were manufactured but we believe that was either closed or sold some time ago.

The president of the privately owned company is William N. Knotts.


O&K and Wire Sales in announcing the sale said that plans are first to improve the Wire Sales’ current product line and then begin production of cold heading wire with the target being about 2,000 tons per month of that product within a year. This will probably call for the installation of a lot of new equipment because to our knowledge Wire Sales isn’t equipped to produce cold heading wire that O&K now produces back home.

If you’re going to make a Japanese type product you might as well copy the Japanese way of doing things. And apparently that’s what’s ahead for Wire Sales. In fact, some Wire Sales executives and the president of the union local and other union officials have already toured some of O&K’s facilities in Japan to see how things are doing there.

Wire Sales’ facility is an old one and it will be something of a challenge to see if such systems as statistical process control, computerized processing and material handling, and just-in-type of work scheduling can be successfully introduced there. But if anyone is suited to manage this transition, O&K is probably the one to do it. Why? Because that company itself moved up from the production of run of the mill wire products into making cold heading wire. If it worked for them it probably will work for Wire Sales. ©1985/2010 Fastener Industry News

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