Q&A with Brian Dengel

November 17, 2017

Each issue, Gear Solutions talks with company leaders in the industry, so they can share their knowledge, successful processes, and participation in industry association events.


What’s a typical day like for you at KHK?

I handle from soup to nuts so there is no ‘typical’ day. As the general manager of a mechanical components distributor, I handle everything from inventory, payroll, accounting, invoicing, collections, inventory control, purchasing, receiving, shipping, customer complaints. You name it — I do it. So there is no typical day. It all depends on what’s on fire at that moment.

What products and services does KHK offer?

We are exclusively a distributor of metric gears, however we are a wholly owned subsidiary of the manufacturer, so we kind of put ourselves under that dual umbrella of being both a manufacturer and a distributor.

What is KHK doing to advance the gear industry?

We kind of have a little twisted personal logic on that, and that is that we are the only exclusive metric gear supplier in the North American region. The gear industry is still about 80 percent inch-versus-metric here in the U.S., and the few players who are in the metric arena are typically more of a broadline supplier — so they’re supplying not only gears, but pulleys and sprockets and chain and conveyors and gearboxes and such. We’re the only true pure-play metric gear provider.

What are some of KHK Gears’ proudest moments?

Wow. I don’t know that I have a timeline for that, but, generally speaking, our proudest moment is probably that we’re still family-owned. The parent company, Kohara Gear Industry, was founded in 1935, and the third generation of the family is in control currently and training the fourth generation to take over. So I would think that our proudest moment/achievement is being able to keep a company running for as long as it has under family control.

What sets KHK Gears apart when it comes to what you can offer a customer?

Again, repeating myself, that we’re metric pure-play. There are plenty of great gear manufacturers out there, but they’re just not tooled up for metric gearing. So the end user is either going to a local machine shop to have a one-off made, or they’re just spinning their wheels trying to find something that will work, or going back to the OEM whether they’re in Europe or in Asia, trying to find their spare parts division, trying to locate what they need. We offer 17,300 configurations of stock metric gearing. So, it’s a very broad offering and a very deep offering. We list it as 180 types; we consider a type to be a general configuration — so, a gear with a hub versus a gear without a hub versus a gear with a hub and a keyway. Each one of those different configurations, regardless of the pitch, the material, the number of teeth, results in us offering 180 different shapes or types, as we call them. From those 180 types, we branch out to 17,300 SKUs. I don’t know that there’s anybody else out there that has that kind of depth or breadth. There are some companies who do supply gears to the industry, but they may just be a rack-and-pinion provider, or they may just be a bevel gear provider. We offer pinions, spur gears, helical gears, internal ring gears, racks, all types of bevels. We’ve got spiral bevels, straight tooth bevels, zerol bevels, and hypoid bevels. We also have worm and worm wheels. We have metric ratchets and pawls. We have metric involute splines and bushings. We have metric gear couplings, so it really is a pure play on metric. If there’s a metric type of gear out there, we probably have something that works.

You recently began writing our Tooth Tips column. What kind of information do you hope to convey through the column? What are your goals?

It looks like you’ve had various contributors over the years, and some have taken more of a basic approach to general business information or how to run a business or how to run a gear business, specifically. And others have taken more of a technical analysis of gearing. My tendency would be to go toward the latter, particularly the subject of gearing and trying to break it down for the general designer/engineer. One of my personal pet peeves, having been in the business now 24 years and being a degreed engineer, is that gearing is taught in one lecture, in one course, over a four-year mechanical engineering degree program. And, clearly, as represented by your magazine and the entire industry, there’s a lot more to it than one hour-and-a-half lecture. Clearly, people coming out of school have some quick, basic over knowledge of ‘OK, it’s round; it has teeth.’ But that’s about it. So, I want to break down the real in-depth technical stuff into layman’s language or even basic engineering concepts so that people who come out of school — or not even out of school, people who are suddenly told, ‘here, design this gear system,’ — can have a point of reference to go back and say, ‘Oh, that’s what this is about.’ 

For more information: www.khkgears.us