Steel. It reflects one of the strongest substances on the planet and it’s also used in our language to describe anything and anyone strong. In honor of his strength, the famously strong superhero Superman is nicknamed the “Man of Steel.” Even an NFL team recognizes the strength of their name of “Steelers” which is in reverence to their hometown of Pittsburgh, PA and the many steelworkers who gave the town its nickname.
The history of the United States is very much connected to the steel industry. Although the “Rust Belt” covers quite a few Eastern and Midwestern states, Indiana is still recognized as the state with the largest steel operations. It’s a title the state has held for decades. That’s why, in 1930, the two founders of RACO picked up their operations from Chicago, Illinois and moved 90 miles away to South Bend, Indiana to be closer to the steel mills that populated the area. The move turned out to be an excellent decision and RACO grew and thrived in the area. Nearly a century later, RACO still produces electrical boxes known as junction boxes and covers and steel is the core component of many of the company’s products.
RACO was founded in 1921 by Walter Roach and Earnest Appleton. After the move to South Bend, the Roach Appleton Manufacturing Company or RACO, began manufacturing steel electrical switch and outlet boxes at its present Sample Street location. The RACO brand has continued to grow and is now the recognized leader in manufacturing electrical boxes and fittings for the construction industry.
Steel Provides Strength for Dozens of Applications
To this day, steel remains one of the most common materials used in construction. Steel is used in the building of infrastructure, stadiums, buildings, ships, large appliances, and other large modern structures. We wouldn’t have skyscrapers or bridges without it. And, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the unique sound of steel drums which originated in Trinidad and are made from old steel barrels.
For thousands of years, humans have recognized the strength of steel and its use dates back to 1800 B.C. in Asia Minor (present day Turkey) where pieces of ironware have been excavated by archaeologists. The use of steel weapons has also been referred to by the ancient Roman military. Today, more than 1.3 billion tons of steel is produced annually and it is also one of the world’s most recycled items with a recycling rate of more than 60% globally.
Solid Success for Decades
As one of the oldest brands in the electrical industry, RACO is the world leader in steel box manufacturing with over a 50% market share. RACO metal boxes are used in residential, commercial, and industrial environments. Its product portfolio includes steel electrical boxes, covers, and fittings as well as a complete line of nonmetallic boxes and covers, floor boxes, and switches.
RACO draws on its successful history to develop and manufacture its products. The company is at the forefront of quality and innovation but remains true to its roots of expertise in the electrical industry. RACO is still located in South Bend, Indiana and is dedicated to providing its customers with state-of-the-art, cost effective product solutions in the commercial, industrial and residential markets.
Part of RACO’s success and growth has been through acquisitions. Starting back in 1960, RACO Fittings (a subsidiary of RACO) was launched after the acquisition of Conduit Fittings Corporation. In 1981, RACO itself was acquired by Hubbell, Inc. This was a natural fit since Hubbell wiring devices were already being installed into RACO electrical boxes across the country. Aaron Flory, RACO’s National Accounts Manager, explains: “There was an instant synergy between RACO and Hubbell and that led these two brands to come together and then to also seek out other similar entities to join as one force – bringing more of the industry’s leading brands to the customer under one roof.” In 1986, Hubbell-RACO acquired Bell Electric Company. And, in 2012, they acquired the TayMac Corporation. “These additions were also a perfect match for RACO since these new products are electrical boxes and covers for outdoor environments,” said Flory. These individual brands have stayed so strong over the years, that the entire Hubbell organization is structured by its brands – RACO, Bell, TayMac, ACME, and Wiegmann.
Stronger for Quality and Safety
Although the electrical junction box and cover market is as old as RACO, the industry hasn’t changed that much except to add better layers of safety. Flory said: “In the 1920s, many houses and businesses were switching over from gas to electric lighting and the overall demand for steel electrical boxes, devices, and covers grew significantly. Many of the same components of the basic steel electrical boxes have remained the same. However, improvements have taken place over the years that have added to the overall safety and ease of installation. For RACO, all our steel boxes, covers, and accessories are registered with UL (Underwriters Laboratories, a safety testing and certification organization).”
To stay ahead of its competitors, RACO works hard to develop new ways of improving its products and dedicates staff and budget dollars to its research and development efforts. Currently, RACO has 80 active U.S. patents. The company has also been honored with awards throughout the years. Two awards, in particular, RACO is most proud of — winning “Supplier of the Year” awards from both The Home Depot and True Value Hardware.
RACO’s plans for the next 5-10 years are to continue to develop new products that provide solutions within the electrical industry. Flory explains: “RACO will remain dedicated to its customers and will look to grow through acquisitions by adding additional businesses that fit and complement our existing brands … and of course improve how we serve the customer.” A strong statement for the solidly performing organization known as RACO – which might just deserve the nickname “superman” for the electrical industry.