AGMA’s 100 Years of Dedication to Industry Standards, Education, and Partnerships 

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Imagine the world a century ago — a world without gear standards. Gear manufacturers and end users had no way to communicate on gear material, type, size, manufacturing methods, tolerance, or durability. Manufacturers had developed their own gear specifications, and there was no interchangeability. If a gear failed, the only hope for an easy replacement was the original manufacturer. This was the world before the formation of the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA).

In 1916, the U.S. government, engaged in a Mexican border war and foreseeing its entry into WWI, could no longer tolerate the lack of gear standards. Buying military vehicles from a variety of manufacturers, with a hodgepodge of gears, made maintenance and repair a nightmare. Recognizing that gears were crucial to national defense, including the mining, steel, airplane, truck, automobile, and naval industries, the government called on gear manufacturers to create the industry’s standards. On the civilian front, U.S. consumers were tired of noisy streetcar gears and broken gear teeth in their auto transmissions. Everyone, military and civilian, demanded stronger, quieter, and more reliable gears that were manufactured in a consistent, measurable manner. In response, the industry formed AGMA.

AGMA’s birth was not easy. The industry was highly competitive, and manufacturers were suspicious of each other. Westinghouse and its subsidiary, the R.D. Nutall Company of Pittsburgh, took the lead. By late 1916, nine gear companies agreed to form a trade association “to advance and improve the gear industry by standardization of gear design, manufacture and application.” News spread fast, and by the first AGMA Annual Meeting, 10 more companies had joined, giving AGMA its 19 founding members. In its first year, AGMA held spring and fall membership meetings — a pattern that continues to this day.

AGMA members began working immediately, and by 1919, it had over a dozen committees dedicated to standards. AGMA membership grew rapidly, with 94 member companies by 1921. Membership dropped off in the Great Depression, as some member companies failed and others could not afford dues. In spite of the Depression, AGMA continued its work on standards, hired its first staff member in 1932, established an office in Wilkinsburg, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and began publication of its first newsletter, Doings (later renamed News Digest).

As in other industries, AGMA members saw business revive during WWII. The war brought new challenges, including rationing, travel restrictions, and, most notably, the departure of men from the factory to military service. AGMA continued its work and meeting schedule, with one exception, missing the 1945 fall meeting. AGMA members were critical to the war effort, and many earned the prestigious Army-Navy “E” Award for excellence.

After WWII, AGMA members enjoyed peace and prosperity, and they continued to work on standards. AGMA settled in a pattern of annual meetings held at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, the site of every Annual Meeting from 1945 to 1985, and fall meetings at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago from 1946 to 1964. Technology advanced rapidly, and AGMA established new committees to keep up — the Aircraft Gearing Committee and the Plastic Gearing Committee are two examples. As the economy boomed, so did AGMA with 127 member companies and a staff of seven by 1951. AGMA was well-known for its enlightened professional work, prompting AGMA Executive Secretary John Sears to comment in 1954: “I have never been exposed to a group that is so determined to bury the short-term selfish advantage in favor of the public good, via the creation of standards.”

Until a staff engineer was hired in 1950, volunteers handled all of AGMA’s work on standards. AGMA also developed tools for the business side of a gear company, including committees on marketing, statistical, and other management issues.  In order to be closer to the seat of government and other related professional associations, AGMA moved its office from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. in 1954 and then across the Potomac River to Virginia in 1978.

The 1960s and 70s brought new challenges including the war in Vietnam, the Cold War, a major recession, and increasing globalization. AGMA reached out to attract more domestic and international members. To promote its standards internationally, AGMA established close relationships with other gear associations in Europe and Asia. These strategies worked. By 1980, AGMA membership had grown to 289 members.

In 1986, AGMA sponsored a small gear exhibition with 22 tabletop exhibitors — the first Gear Expo. Held again in 1987, Gear Expo became a wildly successful biennial and international event. The 2015 Gear Expo featured 236 exhibitors and 4,000 visitors from 29 countries. AGMA continued its international outreach into the 1990s and the new millennium. In 2000, AGMA had 404 members, and today, it has grown to nearly 500 members, with 22 percent of its membership from outside the United States.

Staying true to its original purpose, AGMA’s work on standards has continued through the years. Leading into the new millennium, AGMA worked to create international standards that would help its members successfully compete in the world marketplace. In 1986, AGMA was accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to write U.S. standards for gearing. Later that year, AGMA assumed the leadership role of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group to the International Standards Organization’s (ISO) Technical Committee 60 on gear standards. These efforts culminated in the 1993 election of AGMA as Secretary of ISO Technical Committee 60 on Gearing. The ISO work required funding, therefore, AGMA established the AGMA Foundation in 1994 to receive corporate foundation grants. The AGMA Foundation’s work has expanded over the years to include university grants for gear research, funding of AGMA education programs, and scholarships to aspiring gear technicians and engineers.

As gear technology advanced, the industry needed workforce education programs.  Dependably, AGMA members came together in a spirit of cooperation to fill the need with high-quality, industry-wide education programs. In 1992, AGMA instituted the week-long Basic Training for Gear Manufacturing at Daley College in Chicago.  Nearly a quarter of a century later, the basic course still sells out several times per year. The AGMA members also asked for online education programs and, again, AGMA delivered. The AGMA Online Workforce Education Program, funded by the AGMA Foundation, debuted in 2004 and consists of three courses (Fundamentals of Gearing, Parallel Gear Inspection, and Hobbing). More advanced courses have followed, such as Gearbox CSI, Gear Failure Analysis, and Bevel Gear System Design, with delivery in a classroom setting and via webinar.

Gears make the world move, and the world has moved a long way from 1916 due to the noble and unselfish cooperation of AGMA members. Thank you to everyone, past and present, who has given their time and talent to advance the gear industry and society as a whole.  A special thank you goes to Joe Franklin, AGMA president from 1991 to 2016.  Joe has overseen AGMA’s acceptance of the ISO Secretary role, the formation of the AGMA Foundation, and AGMA’s education programs. Thank you for a job well done!

AGMA Presents Awards at the 2016 Annual Meeting

AGMA Hall of Fame Inaugural Inductees

In 1916, nine companies came together and informally agreed to create the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA). By the time of its first Annual Meeting a few months later, there were 19 founding members, and 12 of which still remain in the industry today. At the recent 2016 AGMA/ABMA Annual Meeting, AGMA honored those 12 remaining founding members with the creation of a new tradition — AGMA’s Hall of Fame. This award is designed for the rare company or individual that has truly changed or revolutionized the gear industry.

“Our inaugural class definitely changed this industry by creating the association that has survived and prospered for the past century,” said Arlin Perry, president of Comer Industries and AGMA Centennial Committee chair. “These companies represent a momentous achievement — not only are they still around after more than 100 years in business, but they have been with us as AGMA members from the beginning.”

Hall of Fame Awards were presented to:

  • Boston Gear Works, now owned by Altra Industrial Motion
  • Cincinnati Gear Co., now Cincinnati Gearing Systems
  • Crofoot Gear Works, Inc., now owned by Tracey Gear & Shaft
  • D.O. James Manufacturing Co., now owned by Overton Chicago Gear
  • Earle Gear & Machine Co., now owned by Steward Machine Company
  • Foote Bros. Gear & Machine Co., now owned by Regal
  • Gleason Works
  • Hamilton Gear & Machine Co., now owned by Timken
  • Horsburgh & Scott
  • Philadelphia Gear Works, now owned by Timken
  • Pittsburgh Gear & Machine Co., now owned by Broadwind Energy
  • R.D. Nuttall Co., now owned by Altra Industrial Motion
  • W. A. Jones Foundry & Machine Co., now owned by Regal

AGMA’s Lifetime Achievement Award

At the 2016 AGMA Annual Meeting, the association presented its Lifetime Achievement Award to Joe T. Franklin Jr., who has been the president of the association for the past 25 years. Leslie Hennessy, VP of new business development at Lovejoy Inc. and AGMA board chairman from 2005 to 2006, spoke at the Annual Meeting about Franklin’s accomplishments, and the following is from her speech.

Joe Franklin was key in the development of many current programs that exist within the association today. His work changed how AGMA creates standards. He oversaw the development of a robust education program, established the AGMA Foundation, and much more.

Early in his tenure at AGMA, Franklin saw the necessity of international standards, and he worked to promote association leadership in international standards. This work was instrumental with AGMA’s acceptance of the ISO secretariat role and in the leadership of TC-60.

Franklin established the Gear School at Daly College in Chicago, and he oversaw the development of advanced training courses. These courses have been beneficial in educating gear engineers from the U.S. and around the world, allowing them to take advantage of various seminars on gear manufacturing, inspection, and failure analysis offered by the AGMA.

Franklin also oversaw the creation of the AGMA Foundation that has supported students with scholarships and provided research assistance to engineers performing important investigations in the gear manufacturing field.

On the business side, Franklin started other member-oriented services. The marketing council and statistics council were created to update members on market conditions and provide input on gear industry metrics. Thanks to Franklin, today, AGMA can provide the Gear Market Report, Operating Ratio Report, Monthly Market Trend Report, and two Wage & Benefit surveys to its members.

Under Franklin’s watchful eye, the membership of AGMA expanded, welcoming international members into the organization. Given that Franklin’s tenure began during a time of U.S. import protectionism, this accomplishment is even more important. He recognized that globalization was inevitable and that international corporations would be consequential in the future of the gear industry. He patiently waited for attitudes to change and for others to reach his level of understanding.

Franklin also worked to keep the big companies from overpowering the small companies within the organization, and he embraced suppliers rather than alienating them. All of his efforts supported a more diverse membership that could speak authoritatively about the gear industry.

Franklin fostered the creation of the Strategic Resources Network (SRN), which supports emerging gear leaders in their understanding of the gear industry and the business world. The SRN represents the next generation of AGMA leaders, and they are well-positioned to continue the leadership of the organization.

“Joe will leave the AGMA in excellent financial health,” said Hennessy. “In addition, the organization has a living strategic planning process that will keep it focused on its goals and a group of emerging leaders ready for whatever comes next.”

Joe will be retiring at the end of 2016.

50-Year Membership Award Recipients

FLSmidth and Boeing received awards for 50 years of membership in AGMA.

Chairman’s Award

David Kraninger received a Chairman’s Award from AGMA board president, Dean Burrows. Kraninger has spent the last three years working with the AGMA staff to gather historic research on the association, including many interviews. Through this work, AGMA was able to produce its centennial timeline, a special centennial book, and poster.

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Next Generation Award

Joel Neidig received the AGMA’s Next Generation Award. Neidig has spent the last 11 years at ITAMCO, with a focus on integrating manufacturing technology and software development.

In addition to being a member of the AGMA Computer Programming Committee, Neidig is on the Technical Advisory Group for MTConnect, an open-source standard that is intended to foster greater interoperability between devices and software application. He developed the first iOS and Android-compatible MTConnect apps, connecting gear machinery and other machine tools to networks and preparing them for Industry 4.0.

ITAMCO was voted the 2014 Autodesk Inventor of the Year by the Autodesk Community, and Neidig was named a manufacturing “Thought Leader” by IMTS Insider. In addition, Neidig remains involved in an advisory role at the ITAMCO Manufacturing Education Center located at Plymouth High School in Plymouth, Indiana. The center was started by ITAMCO to prepare students for the challenge of a career in manufacturing.

“Over the years that Joel has worked at ITAMCO, he has shown to be an individual who has tackled challenges head-on,” said a fellow colleague. “He is a thought leader in our industry and has relentlessly pursued technological advances for the betterment of the industrial markets and advanced manufacturing as a whole. In addition to his entrepreneurial spirit, his drive for continuous improvement has always been paramount.”

Incoming AGMA Board Members

AGMA would like to welcome the following incoming board members.

Nitin Chaphalkar

Product Manager, DMG Mori USA

Nitin Chaphalkar is a product manager at DMG Mori USA and leads DMG MORI’s gear business in the U.S. He has played a key role in commercializing the portfolio of gear manufacturing technologies to enable efficient gear manufacturing on multitasking machines. With AGMA, he has been an active member for the Annual Meeting organizing committee and is a proud member of the SRN group. He has authored many articles in gear industry publications and has been interviewed many times.

Prior to his work on gears, Chaphalkar held several leadership positions at DMG Mori including manager of advanced solution development and team leader for the turning team. He has developed three new technologies and has been a co-inventor on six patent-pending applications.

Carl D. Rapp 

President, Philadelphia Gear brand

Vice President, Power Systems Group, The Timken Company

Since 2011, Carl D. Rapp has led the Timken Company’s Philadelphia Gear brand business as well as four other recently acquired companies that, along with Timken Bearing Services, comprise the Power Systems Group. Under Rapp’s leadership, this group supplies and services the electrical-mechanical drivetrain system at the center of most industrial end-user operations.  

Rapp previously served 10 years as president and chief executive officer of Philadelphia Gear Corp. Prior to joining Philadelphia Gear in 2001, he held senior-level positions in general management and sales, including senior vice president of sales and marketing for Strategic Distribution Inc., president of Carborundum Abrasives, and business unit manager for Norton Company’s Precision Abrasives Group (both divisions of the St. Gobain Company). Prior to this, he completed a six-year expatriate assignment in Europe for Norton in various project and product management roles.

Rapp holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and history from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and a master’s degree in international relations from Boston University. He completed the Executive Education Program at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Tania Sabados

CEO/Purchasing, Rapid Gear

Tania Sabados began her career at Rapid Gear at a young age by helping her mother clean the facility, cutting the grass, and working summer jobs with administrative duties. She later moved on to purchasing and is now the CEO. Sabados graduated with a degree in sociology from the University of Waterloo in 1996.

Rapid Gear is a privately owned family business founded by Julian Sabados in 1976. From modest beginnings, Rapid Gear has grown to over 55 employees and is celebrating 40 years of servicing the industry with custom gearing and reducers.

Hastings Wyman

CEO, Klingelnberg America, Inc.

Hastings Wyman began his gearing career at Klingelnberg in 1997 as an applications engineer trainee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and he received his MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

Wyman has held roles in gear manufacturing and management at various-sized corporations. After 10 years at Klingelnberg, he worked at High Performance Gear in Texas while earning his MBA. He was then a manufacturing engineer at Caterpillar in Mossville, Illinois, before returning to Klingelnberg to lead its U.S. team. Originally from Washington, D.C., he now lives in Saline, Michigan.