Q&A with Jack Conway

President at Atlanta Gear Works

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What’s a typical day like for you at Atlanta Gear Works?

There really is not a typical day.  We are an extension of the maintenance department for large manufacturing facilities with process-critical gearboxes. So, though we always hope a day will go as planned, any day can change with a phone call from a customer telling us something at their facility has broken, and they are down, need us to fix it and get them back up and running. At that point, our goal here is to reduce our customer’s downtime. We’ll direct any resources we need to correct the problem as soon as possible.

What brands do you work on?

We have a very talented, dedicated staff of engineers and assembly technicians who are capable of doing anything gear related. So, we work on all brands – any make, any model. We started out with Beloit gearboxes, but now we do Falk, Hanson, Flender, Sumitomo, to name just a few, as well as custom gearboxes. We can work on any piece of gear-related rotating equipment.

What makes Atlanta Gear Works unique to the gear industry?

Basically, it’s our willingness to do whatever it takes to get a customer back up and running fast. We’ve continued to add services and new machining capabilities to support that mission. For instance, we’re expanding our plant this year. We’re adding another 10,000 square feet, which we hope to be in by July. All of our efforts are dedicated to keeping our customers running and reducing their downtime.

How do you approach a customer when they come to you with a challenge?

The first thing we do is find out what’s wrong and what happened. Typically, a customer just knows the gearbox stopped running. They don’t know why. We’ll try to figure it out — as best we can — and give them a root cause analysis of what the problem really is.

From there, we’re going to design parts to either go back in to repair the unit or upgrade it to make it more reliable for them moving forward. We guarantee our repairs and rebuilds to be equal to original quality or better.

Customers also call us, especially for field service, to look at a gearbox as a preventive measure. They may not actually even know there’s a problem with it until we get there. Part of the reason they deal with us is no matter what problem we uncover, even on a routine inspection, we have a solution for them. We don’t just identify the problem. We give them a solution and a way to get back up and running, and that’s one of our biggest advantages. In the shop, we continue to add capacity because the more we manufacture in house, the more control of quality and timing we have on any of the products that we service.

And that’s what we continue to do every year. We make large investments in our facility to continue to expand our capacity and serve our customers.

And then there’s the people element. Our field-service guys keep their backpacks packed at all times, and it’s not unusual for us to operate 24 hours a day when a customer has a crisis. Often, there’ll be an emergency somewhere out of state, and our guys will just call home and say, “I won’t be home tonight. I’m off.” I haven’t seen any extent they won’t go to in order to solve a problem for a customer.

How has the Atlanta Gear Works coped with an ever-changing gear market? Are you dealing with any of the Industrial Internet of Things, or is that something that’s still on the horizon for you?

It’s still on the horizon for us. What we have seen is better predictive maintenance from our customers. They’re using more advanced vibration analysis. They’ve got load systems on their motors and their gearboxes, and they’re getting better at predicting failures because, obviously, what everybody would like to have is a planned outage instead of an unplanned one.

The advances in machinery just keep taking big leaps, and that’s where we continually invest in our shop so we can produce the best available, most reliable product for our customer.

Where do you see the gear industry in the next decade and Atlanta Gear Works’ place in that future?

I see the gear industry continuing to expand. Gears are still an efficient way to control torque and speed. We will continue to add services. For instance, field service is a growing area for us. Since our customers have a retiring base of knowledge in their companies, they are relying more and more on outside vendors to come in to help them with their process-critical gearboxes. They’re really looking for a reliable resource that can come in, diagnose the problem and fix it in a timely manner. We do everything we can to be sure that we are that resource.  

MORE INFO  www.atlantagear.com