For customers of NORD Gear Corporation, the company has 20 million reasons why it’s the right fit for their needs.
“NORD’s philosophy to the gear manufacturing industry is really to have a flexible product,” said James Wubbolding, vice president of sales at NORD. “Our gear product range has about 20 million different combinations, and the company has worked hard to provide a modular product line centered on what our customers need. We want to provide them with a wide range of modular gear products and deliver those in a short period of time.”
NORD’s product portfolio is extensive and constantly evolving in order to meet the needs of a fast-changing market, according to Wubbolding. NORD’s range of drive equipment includes helical-inline, helical shaft-mount, helical-bevel, helical-worm, worm gears, and large industrial gearboxes, offering torque from 90 lb-in to 2.2 million lb-in, AC electric motors rated from 1/6 HP to 250 HP and AC Vector Drives rated up to 250 HP.
NORD drive components are calculated according to DIN 3990, NEMA, and AGMA standards. NORD is also ISO 9001 certified.
Core product line
“NORD’s core product lines are gear motors, and in 1985 we added a line of control products and variable frequency drives that control our motors,” Wubbolding said.
That flexibility gives NORD an edge when it comes to servicing its customer base.
“A lot of the original equipment manufacturers that we work with are building a product line, and we are a component supplier for them,” Wubbolding said. “So, what they need from a partner is somebody who can react quickly to whatever business or projects they receive.”
To that end, NORD has a $30 million inventory to provide products to customers quickly and reliably, according to Wubbolding.
“On average, nearly 25 percent of our orders ship same-day or next-day, and about 45 percent ships within five days,” he said. “The value that we bring to customers is: They don’t worry about keeping gears and gearboxes on the shelf, waiting for an order. When they get an order, they know we can deliver in a short period of time.”
That’s not to say NORD only offers off-the-shelf solutions. According to Wubbolding, when customers come to NORD with a challenge, the company’s engineering experts are ready.
“We have a highly technical engineering staff,” he said. “What we would typically do is invite the customer to one of our facilities. If it’s a product design or a delivery challenge, we would engage people at NORD — for example, our application engineering department — and sit down with the customer, understand what the challenge is, and then develop a solution.”
40 years in the U.S.
NORD is currently celebrating 40 years in the United States.
“We came to Wisconsin in 1979 and have had a number of expansions in the U.S., and we’re expanding again this year,” Wubbolding said. “We’re adding about 86,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space. This is a big year for us.”
A lot has changed in those four decades, and Wubbolding said the advance of everyday technology has had a hand in that change.
“I think the biggest change in the industry, in terms of gearboxes, has been how the Internet has allowed customers to have a wide range of information available at their fingertips,” he said. “We need to continue to provide a high level of service that ensures the pertinent information — our drawings, access, how to configure our products —is on the Internet and available to customers.”
That has created more creative freedom with customers, according to Wubbolding.
“Most customers, especially in the engineering world, want to design and do things on their own without having to call and contact people,” he said. “So, we’ve seen our industry change to making sure that the competitive advantages that we offer in terms of gearboxes are available and accessible for customers online.”
NORD has made bold leaps and bounds in the industry, and what makes it more impressive is that when the company started, there were only two employees, according to Wubbolding.
“NORD was founded in 1965 in our current headquarters in Bargteheide, Germany, which is just outside of Hamburg,” he said. “Two gentlemen, Mr. (G.A.) Küchenmeister and Mr. (Günter) Schlicht, started the company. They were designing and delivering gear motors locally. Since then, they’ve expanded both in manufacturing facilities as well as subsidiaries globally, to now where we have over 4,000 employees.”
But it’s NORD’s flexibility with its modular designs that has been the key to serving its customers so well over the company’s lifetime.
In the 1980s, NORD engineers developed an important innovation in gearbox construction: the UNICASE housing. The UNICASE housing is a one-piece housing that supports all transmission components. The benefits of this design include leak-free sealing, greater operational reliability, low noise, higher output torque, high overhung and thrust capacity, longer maintenance intervals, and longer gearbox life, according to Wubbolding.
Internet of Things and predictive maintenance
How will NORD products change as it enters its fifth decade in the U.S.?
“Gears and gearboxes are still going to be the core of the industry, meaning that it takes gears and gearboxes to multiply torque and turn shafts, and that part won’t necessarily change,” he said. “But what we do see changing in the next 10 to 20 years is making sure that those gearboxes and gears, in their form of connecting to a motor, have the ability to work with electronic systems in a wide range of areas.”
NORD expects the electronics in all types of businesses, including areas such as machines and warehouse and distribution, to drive what types of gears are needed, along with their ability to be connected via the Internet of Things and predictive maintenance, and allowing the customer to know, for example, when they need to change the oil in a gearbox in a predictive manner, according to Wubbolding.
To help with that communication, Wubbolding said NORD’s line of control products will help usher in that wave of technology.
“We call it decentralized control products, meaning these are devices that can be right next to the gear motor and the gearbox, and what they basically allow our customers to do is to communicate with the gearbox and control it via some network connection,” he said. “They’re able to take a component that we supply and electronically integrate it into their machine. And so for us to stay relevant, if you will, with a gearbox, we have to make sure that we have a product line that allows the customer of tomorrow to efficiently connect to it. And we’ve put a lot of investment into those products to keep us on the growth path we’ve been on for the last several years.”