Whether providing solutions for transmission assemblies or individual components, Ontario Drive and Gear Ltd. (ODG) has the ability to develop, prototype and manufacture to meet its customer needs. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Joel Wright, general manager of ODG, says, “50 years is a major accomplishment and a cornerstone to the company’s historical contributions.”
Founded in 1962 in Kitchener, Ontario, ODG is a subsidiary of a German company. It started out as a machine shop manufacturing gears. It grew into making transmissions for all-terrain vehicles. By 1967 ODG decided to build its own vehicle, and hence the ARGO was born. Today the ARGO is the world leader in amphibious vehicles and can be found in the most extreme conditions in applications such as exploration, search and rescue, industrial, hunting and recreational applications. ARGO is even busy working on a space rover, that one day will hopefully travel to Mars.
ODG as a corporation is divided into two business units, the Vehicle and the Gear division. In the early years both divisions were under one roof and all the ODG gear capacity went into the ARGO. In 1985 a strategic decision was made to look for other external customers that fit in a similar manufacturing niche as the ARGO. Today ODG Gear boasts sales of $25M, with 115 employees in a stand-alone 60,000 sq. ft. state of the art facility. “The ARGO taught us how to make a dependable bullet proof transmission. With the ARGO and where it goes, there is simply no room for failure.”
Today ARGO represents only 20 percent of the ODG Gear capacity. ODG Gear manufactures over 850 different SKUs on a reoccurring basis. “It is a high quality, high mix, low volume machine shop,” says Wright. “We’ve invested significantly in the last five years, spending over $10 million on the latest technology. Customers are always impressed with our gear hobbing, shaping and grinding capabilities.”
ODG’s core competencies go beyond just gear manufacturing. The company offers a one-stop power-train solution by offering gear and systems design, transmission assembly and performance testing. “We are uniquely positioned for a job shop. Very few gear manufacturers can say they design, manufacture, assemble and test. Better yet we can offer this in a low volume, niche market.”
“We saw a market need for the one stop solution. Especially when everyone came out of this last recession only the large OEM’s had the resources and gear expertise to design transmissions. Many other OEM’s do not understand the nuances of gear design and those that did, cut back in these areas of gear engineering. ODG has the capabilities to optimize a given gear set. Often we are asked how to make a gear quiet or how to improve a gear’s loading carrying capabilities.” ODG uses many advanced engineering design methods such as FEA and Ohio State GearLab LDP. ODG design capabilities go as far as being able to offer black box systems capability. “Give us the input, the output and the size and we can design gears and transmission for any application.”
As a result, ODG Gear serves customers in North America and around the world. Recently ODG has begun to brand its products with a “Geared by ODG.” ODG is in many products in the industrial, material handling, off-highway, agriculture, military, construction, and all-terrain vehicle sectors. “Our top 10 customers are in 10 different markets”, added Norbert Benik, VP of Sales. “Many of our customers are household names that people recognize. It is a feather in our cap to be associated with such companies and to know they all are geared by ODG.”
Another major undertaking was the adoption and application of lean manufacturing principles. “Today we are the house of lean” Wright said. “We built a foundation of employee training, maintenance excellence, 5S workplace organization and, employee engagement. We followed up with a standardized problem solving technique using “A3” problem solving. This gave us built in quality and just in time delivery. This ultimately lets us offer our customers the fastest process, at the highest quality and the lowest cost.”
“It’s all kind of a metamorphosis of where we’ve been and where we are headed. We’ve come full circle. We started as a gear machine shop, built an ARGO business and once again we’re known as a world-class gear manufacturer. It has taken 50 years and we are proud to say we are doing well.”
To celebrate their 50th Anniversary, ODG is planning a three-day event, which will include tours of the facility, a golf tournament, media and supplier functions, a formal dinner and a family day for the employees and the community.