Give us a little background information on the joint venture between Gear Motions and KBE+.
I’d be glad to. About four years ago I sat down with Sam Haines, president of the company, and others to review our strategic plan at Gear Motions, which is made up of Nixon Gear and Oliver Gear. We wanted to find ways of providing more value to our customers. In talking with them we realized that so much streamlining of operations had taken place that there was an opportunity for us to expand our service package. One day we were talking with Mark McVea, president of KBE+, which is an engineering consulting firm that specializes in the design and development of gear trains and power transmission devices, when we realized the synergies between the two companies.
Mark said that he often had clients who asked if he could continue through prototyping and manufacture of a gear once the design had been approved, and we realized that many of our customers had mentioned they wished that Gear Motions could also provide enhanced design services. What they were looking for was a single source that could give them everything from design all the way through actual production of a part, and we saw that by joining forces Gear Motions and KBE+ could do all that and more. So we spent about a year in discussions before the joint venture was finalized, and our first projects and discussions with clients indicate that we have a winning business model.
I would assume that you can now provide whatever level of service your customers require?
Absolutely, we can provide whatever degree of assistance our customers are looking for. We can review existing designs and make suggestions as to how they could be improved, or we could develop the designs ourselves and carry the project forward through testing, prototyping, full-scale production, and service. By getting involved in the process during the design phase—whether we’re generating our own or reviewing the customer’s plans—we’ll be in an excellent position to maximize the cost/performance equation. And not only that, but it’s a huge benefit for a company developing a new product to have a single point of contact rather than having to identify and work with a long list of individual service subcontractors.
Say I need a custom gear for a device I’ve developed, but I don’t know anything about gearing. How might that scenario play out?
First of all, that’s probably the client we can help most, because plenty of entrepreneurs know exactly what they want, they’re just not sure how to get there. With more than 150 years of combined experience, that’s where Gear Motions and KBE+ come in. In this instance we would meet with the client, learn everything we can about their application and goals, and then KBE+ would begin developing a design for the part.
There is a great deal of collaboration throughout this process, utilizing SolidWorks and WebEx to exchange ideas virtually, and we would factor in concerns such as materials, finishing and hardening processes, and ease of manufacture. The latter is really an important concern, because we’ve seen situations where engineers come up with a design that looks great onscreen, but it is simply too difficult or expensive to manufacture.
After design completion, KBE+ provides full simulation and analysis using state of the art software and computational techniques, and full on-premises laboratory facilities are used for verification and testing. Clients are free to use their own test facilities, and independent validation is available. Again, we’re here to provide the exact amount of assistance that a customer requires, whether that’s complete oversight or helping out during a particular phase. Some companies have the attitude that “if we design it, we’ve got to build it,” but we don’t take that approach.
Once the design has been approved we handle prototyping, preproduction, and eventually full-scale production at one of our Gear Motions facilities, along with whatever aftermarket service is required. So we feel that this partnership will result in a streamlined process for our customers, and it will position both companies as an outstanding resource for the gear manufacturing industry.