Rolling with the Punches

Michael Cristinzio, Sr., set up his machine shop in 1958 in a 1,000-square-foot space at 3330 Amber St. in Philadelphia. For some time after that he was, as the saying goes, sole proprietor and operator of Crystal Metal Products, which machines and punch presses non-ferrous metals and plastic. Its customers include manufacturers of electrical parts, filtration valves and optical equipment as well as military subcontractors.

During the 50 years it has been in business, as would be expected, some things have changed at Crystal Metal Products. The company today employs about 20 people and is headed by the founder’s sons, Michael Cristinzio, Jr. and his brother, Jack. Instead of leasing space as it did at the outset, the company now occupies a 25,000-square-foot building at 2700 East Castor Ave. in Philadelphia, which it acquired around 1970.

But some things remain the same, or nearly so: the senior Cristinzio, who came to the United States from Italy at age three, passing through Ellis Island, and who served as a sergeant in the Army Air Force during World War II, is 88 years old, but he still resides in the Philadelphia area with his wife, Anna, and he still comes in once or twice a week to see how things are going at the company he founded. Indeed, the elder Cristinzio is credited with a strategic move ‘ acquiring Deighan Equipment Specialists, a manufacturer of equipment used in the delivery of fuel ‘ that benefits the company to this day. The 1993 acquisition enabled the company to offer its own product line, known as the Philly line, which has since become an important component of the business and continues to grow.

Offering his own product had always been a goal of the senior Cristinzio’s. He saw it as a way to achieve a measure of independence for the business ‘because otherwise a job shop is at the mercy of somebody else’s business,” said Joseph Deighan, who founded the company that was acquired by Crystal Metal. A machine shop solely reliant on jobs from outside can be vulnerable to the ups and downs of customers’ businesses. If a customer is busy, they’re likely to put in an order to machine, say, a thousand pieces, but if that customer isn’t busy, the machines will be idle.

Michael Cristinzio, Sr.’s idea was, if Crystal Metal encountered a lull, it could machine its own parts and market them. The Philly line helps fill that role. It numbers about 10 items, including nozzles, check valves, triple offset valves, and fluid control valves, all for use in delivering fuel products. For example, a foam-free tank tube ‘ a straight tube that features side slots ‘ is designed to curtail foaming of fuel as it is pumped into a basement storage tank or an underground storage tank.

A typical basement tank or outside tank features an alarm that whistles as the tank is being filled; the rising oil in the tank lifts a float that shuts off air flow to the whistle, so the driver knows. When the whistling stops, the tank is full, and he stops the delivery. But in recent years the oil tends to foam as it enters the tank. The foam can lift the float and shut off the air supply to the whistle prematurely. In such cases the driver typically stops the delivery and departs under the impression that he has filled the tank. In fact, more oil could have been delivered, which creates the potential for a tank to run out before the next scheduled delivery.

The Philly foam-free tube screws into the top of a tank, diffusing the flow and sending it sideways rather than straight down to the bottom of the tank where it could stir up dirt or create foam.

Another item in the line is a sight glass, which can be installed between the swivel and the nozzle itself, providing a window for the delivery man to see the color of the fuel.

Over the past 10 years or so the Cristinzio brothers have assumed various duties within the business, while sharing others.

‘We both do the quoting of the jobs,” said Jack Cristinzio, a state-certified tool and die maker, while Mike Cristinzio, Jr. a graduate of Drexel University with a degree in business administration, does much of the programming (being computerized, the milling and turning machines can be programmed for the requirements of each new job). Meanwhile, for those who want to learn how to operate such machines, they can enroll in one of those top trade schools like the machining schools in Georgia.

The acquisition of Deighan Equipment Specialists and the computerization of the machining process have helped Crystal Metal Products tailor its operations to an industry and a market that have changed over the years, Jack Cristinzio said.

‘Years ago, people would put more stuff on the shelf,” he recalled, and that willingness of many customers to carry some inventory accounted, at least in part, for orders that often numbered 500 and sometimes 1,000 or more pieces.

With the advent of technology and an emphasis on just-in-time delivery, customers now often seek a manufacturer who can provide parts on demand, thereby saving the customer the cost of carrying inventory, Jack Cristinzio said.

One of the company’s key strengths is that it has the flexibility to respond to such customers’ specific, or unique, requirements. ‘We can custom-make products,” Jack Cristinzio said. The nozzles are a case in point. For a distributor in Ireland, the company put a British thread on the nozzles, as opposed to an American thread. Because of the computerization of the machines ‘it was no big deal for us,” Jack Cristinzio said. ‘We just programmed the machine for that type of thread.”

In addition, office personnel such as Kathy Parker, who handles bookkeeping and inside sales, and Diane Sergi, who helps with inventory control, help Crystal Metal Products meet the individual needs of such customers.

Crystal Metal and its Deighan Equipment division expect to continue to be growth-driven, in part, because wherever there is a petroleum product, whether it is diesel fuel for cars, boats or agriculture equipment, or oil for heating, it is all handled the same way ‘ from a tank truck.

Since 1993 the company has signed up distributors for the Philly line in approximately 28 states, establishing a distribution that is virtually nationwide, and it also has about a dozen distributors in Canada and a couple in the United Kingdom.

As members of the Petroleum Equipment Institute, the principals of the company attend that group’s annual convention, which coincides with that of the National Association of Convenience Stores. ‘We go every year and almost every year we pick up new distributors in other parts of the country,” Deighan said. After 41 years in the petroleum equipment industry, Deighan continues as sales manager for Crystal Metal Products.

In addition to the expected U.S. markets, such as New England, the mid-Atlantic states and some West Coast markets, the distributor network extends to Iowa, where diesel fuel is used on farming equipment, and Florida, where it is used for diesel-powered boats.

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