Gearing is often complicated and complex, and, more often than not, OEMs cannot meet customers’ specific needs.
When that happens, the experts behind Spencer Pettus are available to ensure those needs are not only met, but met in a timely manner.
“We’re answering the call when the OEM is not meeting the customers’ demands related to lead time or maybe a customization that they’re looking for,” said Brittany Conner, president of Spencer Pettus.
That customization could apply to a great many things, according to Conner, including a product that’s been working in the field for a long time that suddenly needs replacing, but the customer may not know how.
“A lot of times, folks will find gearing off of their equipment and not have any idea how to replace it — just that it’s bad,” she said. “We get a lot of worn samples in here and reverse engineer those.”
Producing a world-class solution
That ability to work with its customers and find the best solutions is a big part of what makes Spencer Pettus a leader in the gearing field, according to Conner.
“We’ve really strengthened our relationships and partnerships with our customers and certain vendors to produce a world-class solution that’ll give the customer a lasting product,” she said. “We really focus on being the very best and always making the best choices and looking at the customers’ issues or at their product, and then giving them the best possible solution. We’re really pursuing excellence — not always perfection, because that’s not always possible, but it’s always best practice.”
That pursuit of excellence has served the company well as it works to keep up with the ever-evolving gear industry, according to Conner.
“I feel like the gear industry’s always been agile and market responsive,” she said.
Conner pointed out that Spencer Pettus often gets an assist from the American Gear Manufacturing Association, with whom Spencer Pettus has been a member for many years.
“They do a great job of helping us identify new technology and where we can apply it and where we can be applicable,” she said.
Working with other experts in the field is par for the course for Conner and her team.
“We’ve always tried to be a part of that motivated, problem-solving group,” she said. “Whenever I’m around gear people, that seems to be what really makes up the best of them — the motivation to be problem solvers.”
Up to a customer’s challenge
Problem solving is quite the essential tool in Spencer Pettus’ toolbox when it comes to getting to the bottom of a customer’s problem, according to Conner.
“I feel like we are always having the customer challenge us,” she said. “We never seem to get the easy one. We know our capabilities. We’ve got a lot of legacy equipment but plenty of state-of-the-art equipment also, so we really try to push ourselves. We really want to say, ‘yes.’ So, if the customer’s open to options and having a conversation about possible solutions, then we usually can find an answer with them.”
Those solutions could run the gamut from a full-blown engineered solution to just a detailed conversation to go over what a customer may ultimately need, according to Conner.
“It’s different with gearing,” she said. “When it’s general machining, everyone knows what’s possible and what isn’t. But with gearing, we really are a knowledge source, too, for the customer, and we can help them figure out what’s realistic and what isn’t.”
And Conner said that can often involve pushing the company’s boundaries.
“Sometimes a gear is make-it or break-it for a customer, and we realize that and take it very seriously,” she said.
A perfect example of where Spencer Pettus can push those boundaries is in the company’s gearbox division, according to Conner, where the company is able to take a nearly totaled piece of equipment and put it back into production, making quite an impression on the range of services Spencer Pettus can offer its customers.
“A lot of times, a customer will send in a unit that’s been just completely trashed, and they’ve ran it to failure; there are a lot of components in there that are nearly unrecognizable,” she said. “We’ve been able to not only put their box back together, but we put brand new product in it and do vibration analysis testing on it and put a virtually new gearbox right back in the field for them. In some cases, we can do that in less than six weeks.”
Adding to Spencer Pettus’ arsenal is being recently awarded as an official SKF Certified Gearbox Rebuilder, according to Conner.
“There are two of us in the country, and we just joined as the second,” she said. “We just got that award last month, and they’re coming up with a press release, now. It’s been close to five years in the making, and we’re really proud of that.”
A strenuous auditing process was involved with this amazing achievement, along with a lot of work and investment from Spencer Pettus, according to Conner.
“It is affirming that we are always observing best practices here, and that they recognize that, too,” she said. “SKF is a world-class bearing manufacturer, and they’ve been in here. They’ve been through all of our documentation, and it feels really good to have their signature on our work.”
Gears came later
Spencer Pettus was originally founded by the Spencer family in 1954 as a lumber company and, soon after, engaged in a joint venture with Pettus where it evolved into what is now Spencer Pettus Gear. In the 1970s, Joe Brown purchased the company and grew its brand in sales by branching out to cover most of the U.S., Canada, and parts of Central America.
Up until the early 2000s, Spencer Pettus primarily served the flexographic printing industry. Current ownership took over in 2004 and has since expanded the business to include a diverse portfolio of industries by focusing on expanding technological and manufacturing capabilities that better served its current customers while adding many new ones.
“Today, we’re doing more custom solutions for different industries, different quantities, different types of gears, different materials,” Conner said. “And also, now we have a large gearbox rebuild division, too, and that’s one of our stronger business centers.”
As the gear industry continues to move into the future, Conner said it will always be Spencer Pettus’ main directive to stay the course with that future by offering whatever its customers may need.
“We are responding to the market,” she said. “As the customers bring in new technology and the end users are pushing for more product and faster lead times, we’re challenging ourselves to be innovative in how we can respond and meet those needs. We really let the market and our customers guide where we’re going to go, and then we just try to apply our founding principles and let that lead the way.”
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