It was the early 1940s, and the war was raging overseas. Back on the homefront, hundreds of thousands of scientists, researchers, and engineers were training their knowledge and expertise on supporting that effort. One of them was a physicist by the name of Thomas M. Perry, of Canton Center, Connecticut, who was working with the Navy on various ordinance development projects. Unable to find a reliable source for the precise and unique gearing he needed for the deployment mechanisms he was developing, he did what any self-described “tinkerer” would do.
“He set up a shop in his basement and made them himself,” says Dan Seger, who is now plant manager of the company resulting from that enterprise. “Then, after the war was over and he’d fulfilled all of his obligations to the Navy, he kept right on going, eventually building his first facility right across the street from his house.”
The original entity — the T.M. Perry Company, which was housed in the 7,500 square-foot building that was raised in 1955 — had landed contracts with such manufacturing giants as United Technologies Hamilton Standard, helping develop control systems and producing the related gearing they required, eventually employing some 120 workers at its peak. From the start, however, the company was known for the precision of its product, and for tackling jobs that other gear-manufacturing companies might not have pursued.
“One of the things that was really his forte in the gear industry was the ability to manufacture odd gears with difficult geometries,” says Seger. “Tom Perry would take on high helix internals and face gears, for instance, and he developed new methods of manufacturing and machining that might’ve been considered ‘one of a kind,’ but that absolutely satisfied that one customer’s needs. He really earned a reputation for being able to do that kind of high-precision work, and that’s something we’ve worked hard to maintain as the company has progressed.”
Diversification, however, is central to any company’s continued success, and when Lans Perry, the founder’s son, took over operations in 1986, he decided to capitalize on the company’s reputation for quality by expanding its customer base, taking on commercial accounts with larger production runs that still require high quality and precision.
This restructuring resulted in a client base that’s now split about 50/50 between commercial and aerospace accounts, according to Seger. “We still offer subcontract tooth cutting, splining, shaping, hobbing, spline and gear grinding, and inspection services, which we think of as our service side,” he says. “Right now that side of our operations leans a little more toward aerospace than commercial work.”
The other side of the company’s business involves parts that are made complete, using a customer’s prints and specifications to produce the products they require. The process is first broken down into different operations, and the parts are made completely in-house, with the exception of heat treat and surface finishing.
In order to house this wealth of services and operations, the company has grown far beyond its relatively modest beginnings. “Right now we have a Canton Center facility, which is basically where our commercial work is conducted, we have a warehouse where we do machine rebuilding, and then our main 50,000 square-foot facility is in New Hartford, which also houses our engineering department,” says Seger. “All told, we have about 83,000 square feet of space, and we currently employ around 80 people.” Even as the commercial side of the business continues to grow, Seger says that he expects to see significant growth in the company’s aerospace sales in the coming years. “The joint strike fighter program is showing a great deal of promise, and we’re already involved in producing some of the gears used on the F-22 that will transition over to the new aircraft, so we’re hopeful about continuing to be a player in that arena,” he says. “We’ve also been involved with both Boeing and Airbus, supplying some of the gearing used in actuators and steering systems that they require.”
The company also expects to see growth in the area of smaller jets, as well, due to post-9/11 changes in corporate and private flying habits. “These planes are really in demand these days, because there are so many smaller airports around the country and people are using air travel for shorter distances,” says Seger. “So you’ve really got a worldwide demand for these types of jets, and that’s something we’re involved in, too.” In keeping with industry standards and to remain a progressive and continually improving manufacturer, Perry Technology’s Quality Management System is now ISO9000:2000 and AS9100 registered. “With today’s ever shrinking and highly competitive aerospace marketplace, manufacturers have to adopt the philosophies of continuous improvement to remain viable. ISO9000:2000 and AS9100 compliant systems drive these philosophies throughout a company, from the top down,” says Seger. “Through system compliance and regularly scheduled continuous improvement events in all areas of our business, we continue to be a lean, clean, gear-making machine.”
Seger, himself, has been involved with Perry Technology for the majority of his professional career. “I started with the company right out of high school, running gear shapers and CNC lathes and things like that, and then I joined another company that was heavily involved in aerospace, and they moved me into their engineering department and trained me on CNC programming,” he says.
Some four years later, Seger had the opportunity to rejoin Perry Technology, and he took advantage of it, handling the company’s programming and process engineering. “I came back to the company right before Lans took it over in 1986. Working with him has been a real education for me, because he’s basically been in this business since he was four years old,” he says. “He’s a very good teacher, and by working with him, taking some classes, and poring over books, I’ve been able to transition through programming and engineering into sales and marketing and working directly with our customers on their gearing issues, which I really enjoy.”
As the company continues to grow, Seger says that he sees challenging times ahead for the gear-manufacturing industry as a whole. “It’s kind of scary, in a way, because you rely on the equipment that you’ve got on hand, each of which you’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in, and with the ever-changing advances being made in the technology of gearing, such as net-forged gearing, many of the techniques that are in use today may not be necessary in the future,” says Seger, who is also chairman of the AGMA Fine Pitch Gearing Committee. “That means that it’s more important than ever to stay on the leading edge of these advancements in manufacturing processes.
“Realistically, though, I don’t see gears going away any time soon, especially in terms of aerospace applications,” he says, “simply because of the precision and light weight that’s required, and issues related to balance and tolerances.”
Seger says that Perry Technology will continue its efforts to remain on the cutting edge, however, constantly reviewing its structure and processes in order to meet its customer’s demands. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our facilities and our services so that our customers will continue to receive the quality they’ve come to expect from Perry Technology.”