Bourn & Koch was founded in 1975 when Larry Bourn & Loyd Koch, prior employed at Sundstrand Machine Tool, set out to fill a niche of remanufacturing and retrofitting machine tools and to build specialty machines not being addressed by other large machine tool builders. Throughout its 40-year history, Bourn & Koch has continuously strived to expand its business through new technologies and machine acquisitions, and it’s now the OEM for over 25 different well-known machine tool brands.
One of the company’s most significant milestones was in 1985 with the purchase of Barber Colman Company’s machine tool division, which put Bourn & Koch heavily involved in the gear industry and allowed it to start building new standard machines. Prior to acquiring Barber Colman, most of Bourn & Koch’s business was remanufacturing and retrofitting machines, including Barber Colman hobbing machines.
“Because Barber Colman was located in Rockford, Illinois, the same city we are in, and already had good exposure in the industry, the transition to purchase a local company and to start building new machines in addition to remanufacturing and retrofitting seemed like a logical decision,” said Tim Helle, president of Bourn & Koch for the last 30 years.
With the Barber Colman purchase, Bourn & Koch began developing modern machines to replace the obsolete Barber Colman machines. Further acquisitions — the purchase of Fellows in 2002, Roto-Tech in 2002, and DeVlieg Bullard in 2004 — has allowed Bourn & Koch to mimic the success of the Barber Colman acquisition and expand the business into a multitude of different types of CNC machines, including gear shaping, gear grinding, vertical turning, vertical grinding, rotary grinding, rotary tables, and boring mills.
From its 130,000-square-foot facility in Rockford, Bourn & Koch supplies its machines to customers worldwide and has about 60 employees. The company has been ISO certified for the last 14 years, ISO 9001:2008 registered with state-of-the-art CNC inspection equipment, inspecting 100-percent of all parts for functionality and accuracy. It has a satellite office that’s operated as the separate company, Roto-Tech, in the Dayton, Ohio, area, where it manufacturers gear inspection machines and precision rotary tables.
In addition to offering new and customized machines, Bourn & Koch has the capabilities to serve a wide range of industries. Aerospace and defense is roughly 35 percent of its business. Heavy equipment manufacturers, oil field equipment manufacturers, and mining equipment manufacturers take up roughly 35 percent, and the remainder is with hand-tool manufacturers, heavy vehicle manufacturers, automotive, and specialty industries.
“A big goal of ours is to be diverse in both our products between new and remanufactured machines and the industries we serve, so we can have a stable business that is not dependent on one industry,” Helle said.
Bourn & Koch has recently added the wind industry to its growing list as well. In 2013, the company made the decision to diversify its business. Working with economic development groups, it secured a grant to expand into the gearbox rebuilding business. With the manufacture and purchase of six full-service specialized machines, the company now manufactures new and remanufactured components that go into wind turbine gearboxes. And, Bourn & Koch is currently collaborating with a local company that’s involved in rebuilding and retrofitting complete wind turbine towers and turbines to rebuild gearboxes for them and for servicers of wind turbines in the Midwest.
The company’s commitment to new technologies complements its range of capabilities and enhances the foundation of its mission. According to Helle, Bourn & Koch “provides innovative solutions to our customers so they can be more competitive in their industries and improve their ability to prosper.”
Bourn & Koch is also building on a reputation of getting involved with applications that other machine builders may shy away from, and the company enjoys taking on challenging applications that many competitors are not addressing in the marketplace. An example of one of those applications was for a Bourn & Koch customer in the aerospace industry who had a need to wrap jet engines with Kevlar material.
“We were able to come up with a solution to do it via CNC control to meet their needs and dramatically reduce the labor content,” Helle said. “The Kevlar-wrapping machine — no one else really wanted to do that it.”
According to Helle, Bourn & Koch’s ability to address the needs of its customers and develop special applications to fix problems that standard machines are unable to solve is what its customers enjoy most about working with the company — its customer-driven focus and innovative solutions. One way that Bourn & Koch helped solve a problem for a customer in the oil field equipment industry was through the development of a special cutting machine for a herringbone gear.
“We came out with a specialized dual helical herringbone cutting machine that’s able to make a herringbone gear in approximately half the time of the traditional way of doing it, which would be using a single spindle vertical shaping machine and flipping the part,” Helle said. “We look at customers’ needs, and we are able to satisfy them. And because we are a smaller company, we can react quickly and be more dynamic in offering solutions to our customers.”
Bourn & Koch also provides a full service department to handle machine repairs of the brands it owns as well as competitor machines. The company does field retrofits and assists customers in relocating their machines within the same facility, into other facilities, and in some cases, to other countries.
For Bourn & Koch’s future, the company looks forward to further expansion, growth, and acquisitions.
“We will continue growing our markets, especially internationally,” Helle said. “We have been working hard for the last eight to nine years to expand our international markets. We have a good presence in Asia, and we want to continue growing in the Asia market, as well as Europe and other parts of the world. There will be additional acquisitions to continue expanding our business, and we will continue to come out with innovative products that are needed by companies that manufacture components in their industries.”
At this year’s Gear Expo, Bourn & Koch is bringing its 25H gear hobbing machine, which will be exhibited in the Star SU (its distributor for North America) Booth #2109. As the company’s smallest gear hobbing machine, it has a capacity of 250 mm in diameter and is used for any type of shaft or gear that needs to be cut with a fine touch. It’s a complete 4-axis CNC machine and occupies only 4- by 4-feet of floor space. It’s a small, portable machine for companies that have gears that fit in that size range, and it’s especially suited for small motor manufacturers that have motor shafts that need splines cut, companies that make mechanical instruments, gauges, or controls that need small gears, or companies that make small motors that go into aircraft.
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