Q&A with Michael White

Director of Sales, Services, and Wind Gearing, Brad Foote Gear Works

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Brad Foote is such a well-known name in the gear manufacturing industry, could you give us a little background?

I’d be glad to. Bradford Foote launched the company in 1924, so it’s been around for 87 years now, and it was one of the founding members of the American Gear Manufacturers Association. He led the company until his death in 1947. From the beginning the company has produced big gears for industries including metals, mining, pulp and paper, oil field, and aggregates, among others, and it was a huge defense supplier to the military during World War II. The company joined Broadwind Energy in 2007, so we’re known in the wind energy market as Broadwind Gearing, although we’re still heavily involved in the general industrial market as Brad Foote Gear Works.

I recall Brad Foote as being one of the gear manufacturers that entered the North American wind energy market fairly early.

That’s right, we did. We’d been monitoring its progress overseas, and as it began to take hold and grow here in the United States and Canada we decided to go ahead and commit to becoming a premier gear manufacturer for wind applications. This was around 2003, and wind is now a major market for us, but we’re still a very active player in the industrial sector as well. Our goal, in fact, is to achieve a healthy balance between the two areas in terms of market diversification, especially since we’ve gained so much through our work in wind energy that we can share with our industrial clients. To put it simply, we’ve learned a lot about gearing while working in the wind industry, and we also invested in technologies that have expanded our capabilities.

We can offer isotropic surface finishing now, for instance, and we know so much more about issues such as profile modifications, stress concentrations, and gear rating and life factors than we did before. So our engineers have had the opportunity to hone their skills and we’ve improved our manufacturing processes, all to the benefit of our industrial customer base. That’s where we come from, after all, and these are the companies that we have longstanding relationships with and have stood by us through thick and thin, so we’re delighted to be able to offer them the same high-quality product they’ve come to expect from us, only better. We’re a smarter company now. We have more capabilities, and our traditional gearing customers are benefiting from that.

It’s interesting that you’re taking expertise gained in the wind industry and applying it elsewhere. What else do you have to offer your industrial clients?

Over the years we’ve amassed a great deal of knowledge in the area of manufacturing bevel gears, which is something of a niche market, and we perform nearly all of our operations in-house so that we can keep an eye on quality control. We also produce internal and external spur and helical gears, worms and worm gears, and even double helical gears. As for enclosed drives we produce quite a number of different gearboxes including parallel shaft, right angle, planetary, catalog, and custom designs.

We also rebuild gearboxes both here in Chicago at Brad Foote and also at Broadwind’s new Abilene Wind Turbine Service Center in Texas. While that state of the art facility is primarily meant to service the wind industry, I’ve had oil field clients visit who were so impressed they asked if they could start sending their gearboxes there to be remanufactured. So that’s yet another synergy we’ve discovered between the wind and industrial gear sectors, and we’re constantly looking for more. It’s clear to us that our early entry into the wind market is really paying dividends for our industrial customers, and we’re committed to continuing to expand our products and services in all of the markets we serve.

MORE INFORMATION: Call (708) 298-1100 or go online to [www.bradfoote.com]. Learn more about Broadwind Energy at [www.bwen.com].