American Cast Iron Pipe Company

Progressive and Prestigious

Inducted in 2003

In 1905, ACIPCO (American Cast Iron Pipe Company) went to work making premium metal products. Nearly a century later, its work continues under the principled plan laid down by founder John J. Eagan. The Eagan plan teaches industrial cooperation, incorporating Christian ideals such as leading by serving. This company philosophy saw it designated by Fortune magazine as one of the hundred best employers in America for six years running.

The main plant and headquarters of ACIPCO belong to Birmingham, though it markets products worldwide through five divisions. Mr. Van Richey serves today as ACIPCO’s president and CEO. The company serves the waterworks, energy, and capital goods industries; its line comprising ductile iron piping, fire hydrants and fire truck pumps, centrifugally cast steel products, and specialized steel pipe. The Birmingham plant covers 2,000 acres, including many research-and-development facilities.

ACIPCO has long demonstrated commitment to innovation through engineering. Two melting furnaces pioneered there are already Hall of Fame inductees. The newest, the Contiarc furnace is unique in iron manufacturing. ACIPCO’s cupola furnace received the first Alabama Governor’s Award for Air Pollution Control in the 1970s. (Much of these furnaces’ raw material comes from ACIPCO Recycling, a $6 million facility converting waste metal into vital resource.) Advancing the art isn’t new at ACIPCO. Ductile iron pipe was pioneered there, challenging gray cast iron; the new metal became the preferred one. ACIPCO’s early work commercially producing ductile iron generated design theory that today grounds national standards for pipe. It holds patents for innovative water and sewer pipe designs and for advances in mechanical and restrained joints. It introduced domestically both 60- and 64-inch ductile iron pipe and resilient wedge gate valves. Furthermore, a legacy of leadership in technical organizations has grown at ACIPCO. The industry relies on it to guide groups seeking to promote metallurgy, effect standardization, improve testing and production, and perfect design.

ACIPCO’s history of shipping fine products on time and at fair prices was recognized when it became the first North American ductile iron manufacturer to win the ISO 9000 certification of quality. Still unsatisfied, the company in 1998 formed “continuous improvement” teams, employees empowered by management to drive for efficiency. The move saw unprecedented flowering of cooperation at ACIPCO plants.

Employees also figure in deciding management matters: fourteen elected workers advise ACIPCO’s management on issues influencing employee relations. In all, 3,000 Alabamians and others comprise ACIPCO’s workforce, and the firm demonstrates concern for each. Fortune perceived ACIPCO’s desirability as an employer in the role of the fourteen advisers, and in company standards such as profit-sharing and outstanding pension plans; work-based, accredited health care on site for employees and their families, retirees, and surviving spouses; and a wellness program with fitness center, health educational opportunities, and counseling on issues such as work/life balance.

There is company reimbursement of employees’ college tuition, as well as free apprenticing in trades used at ACIPCO. There is “Eagan College,” nurturing employees’ ambitions through apprenticing and supervisory-skill development. There are employee committees maintaining fair application of rules, of rates and seniority, of job training, of medical services, and of matching funds for employees’ espoused causes.

There are few corporations approaching ACIPCO’s level of progressiveness. In the South, where stereotypes paint employment conditions dark, ACIPCO shines as an example for employers everywhere. It has assuredly earned its brilliant reputation for polished products, inspired engineering, a community hallmarked by justice, and dependable technical leadership. These hard-won achievements firmly secure a place for ACIPCO in the annals of world engineering.

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