Q&A with Joel Wright

Plant Manager, Ontario Drive and Gear Ltd.

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Your company has a fascinating history. Could you share the story with us?

I’d be glad to. Ontario Drive and Gear (ODG) was founded in 1962 in Kitchener, Ontario, as a subsidiary of a German company. It started out as a machine shop building a transmission for a small all-terrain vehicle. By 1967 ODG had decided to build its own amphibious vehicle, and the ARGO was born. The ARGO is designed for utility work, outdoor recreation, hunting, and search and rescue operations, as well as a whole host of other activities. In the seventies we also manufactured snowmobiles and ski groomers, but it was decided to just focus on the ARGO. Today we are the largest manufacturer of amphibious vehicles. On the gear side we started embracing CNC technologies in the late eighties and early nineties, and it went from there.

What made you decide to begin manufacturing gears for other companies?

There were quite a few reasons, with one being that the gears we were producing for our ATVs were of such a high quality that we saw potential in providing them to the market at large. The ARGO is built like a tank. The transmission needs to be bulletproof, and failure is simply not an option. Keep in mind that we design, manufacture, install, and field test our own gears, and the ARGO is designed to withstand the most extreme conditions imaginable, from the Australian Outback all the way to the Siberian Tundra. Plus we had made significant capital investments in our equipment, purchasing new Liebherr CNC hobbers. To justify the expenditures we started looking for manufacturers requiring the same level of quality, precision, and reliability.

In the year 2000 our Gear Division moved in to its own state of the art, climate-controlled facility. We currently employ 80 people in our 60,000 square-foot operation and manufacture close to 1,000 different gear part numbers. We have gear sales of around $15 million, and what is interesting is that ARGO only makes up 25 percent of our gear business today.

I would think that being an end user yourself would give your gear clients a great deal of confidence in your abilities.

It really does, and all we have to do is bring a potential client here and take them for a test drive in the ARGO to convince them. We always welcome site visits so that customers will have the opportunity to see what a clean, high-tech, cutting-edge operation we run firsthand. We specialize in small-lot, high-precision gearing, and we’re equipped with the latest in hobbing and grinding technologies. We also offer shaping and shaving, broaching, milling, turning, and assembly.

While the majority of our customers are found in North America, we are competitive, and we ship products worldwide. As for the markets we serve, we break it down into three general areas: performance technology for construction, agriculture, automotive, and material handling; green technologies such as wind, solar, and hybrid vehicles; and then advanced technologies such as our low-noise gearing. It’s also important for us to stay at the leading edge of new developments in gear manufacturing. We’re a member of the Ohio State Gearlab’s Research Consortium, and we have embraced all the principles of Lean Manufacturing and continuous improvement because we are a low-volume, high-mix job shop.

Again, we are more than just a manufacturer, we are an end user, and we offer a wealth of knowledge and experience at every level. We have the ability to design, develop, manufacture, and assemble, which results in a cost-effective solution that meets our customers’ most demanding requirements.

MORE INFORMATION: Call (877) 662-2840 or go online to [www.odg.com].