Q&A with Zach Fehler

Manufacturing Engineer


Tell us about Gearench and its core philosophy.

Gearench™ was founded in Houston, Texas, in 1927 and relocated to Clifton, Texas, in 1978. We currently have a 75,000-square-foot facility, which is growing rapidly, especially over the past decade. We’re a small, privately owned, company with a strong global reputation. We’re located in a small central Texas town, which is usually a surprise to most of our customers. We take a lot of pride in providing exceptional customer service, which is a top priority within our company.

We’re a one-on-one type of business and take customer relationships very seriously. We have virtually no turnover rate, and most of our employees have grown up locally with some sort of knowledge of Gearench. It’s rare to find the level of internal support and a desire for innovation that our upper management provides. That’s exactly what’s allowed us to move forward with our custom gearing division PETOL™ Gearing. PETOL is our globally trademarked brand name.

What are your duties with Gearench?

My core responsibilities are programming, production process design, and overseeing PETOL Gearing. I’ve been exposed to the company my entire life. My father is the manufacturing manager who has been employed with Gearench for 37 years. I started part-time in 2004 working in assembly and various other departments. The time I spent working part-time, while attending college, gave me a better understanding of how the company works and a better knowledge of our extensive product line, in addition to gearing. I graduated from Tarleton State University in 2007, with a degree in manufacturing engineering.

Before I started, there were no manufacturing engineers with the company. All the duties that I have taken over were the responsibilities of both the manufacturing manager and the general manager. I saw a lot of opportunity for improvement in our production processes and in our CNC equipment.

What are some of the services and products Gearench specializes in?

Our core product line is made up of a variety of tools designed for use in the oil and gas, mining and refinery/petrochemical industry. The other main focus of our business, gear production, was to serve those same industries. Our tools range anywhere from hand tools to high-torque tongs that can service up to 72-inch OD workpieces. While continuously researching and developing new tools, we also have sales representatives that are continuously working with customers to understand what will make their jobs safer and more efficient, which is the source of many of our products. We greatly value customer feedback and listen to what they need to make their jobs better.

We’ve manufactured herringbone gears and pinions for 30 years, predominantly servicing the oil fields with replacement pumping unit gears. In 2014, we broke ground on our newest expansion of PETOL Gearing. We set out to improve our capacity, capabilities, and quality. We now specialize in reverse engineering and remanufacturing of unknown gear geometries, as well as design and production of new gearing. PETOL Gearing was designed around the gear-milling process, which gives us the ability to produce a wide range of tooth geometries, as well as profile modifications to standard and custom design in both SAE and metric gears.

With this expansion, our focus is to have the ability to serve other industries outside of oil and gas, as we’re no longer limited to the production of herringbone gears. In addition to gearing, we also offer custom metrology services of simple or complex parts with a wide range of size capacity.

We began this project with an extensive amount of research in the gear milling process. I spent two years traveling and investigating different methods of gear milling and machine tools. Our original intention for this expansion was to create a contingency plan for when we could no longer get the service or parts needed to keep our gear generators in operation. Most of these machines are reaching 60 to 70 years of age. We’ve since discovered that our expansion is more of an addition to our business than a replacement plan. With our new equipment, we are now able to reverse engineer and replace most all wear components of the generators, making us more self-sufficient than ever and allowing us to keep them in operation. This drove us toward looking to the future of our gearing business and wanting to reach out to other gearing industries.

What are some of Gearench’s certifications, and what does that mean for your customers?

We have been ISO certified since 1995, currently holding an ISO9001:2008 certification. We also hold an API Q1 certification and provide API certified products to our customers as needed. With these certifications, our customers understand we’ve put forth the effort to ensure our quality system is functioning and effective.

How do Gearench’s policies support its employees and the environment?

We understand the need to keep our employees safe and that providing a comfortable work environment is key. We’re firm believers that quality of work life is essential and translates directly into the quality of your products. That’s why we’re very strict in our safety measures as well as housekeeping practices and cleanliness of work areas and machines.

We work closely with OSHCON (Occupational Safety and Health Consultation), to ensure that we exceed all OSHA requirements. We are also very committed to meeting all EPA and TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) regulations. We have formal programs in place in efforts to meet and exceed both the national and state environmental regulations.

What’s in Gearench’s future?

Our goal is to continue expanding to other industries, whether it be aerospace, agriculture, or general industrial gearing. Our knowledge of gearing increases with every part we produce.

For more information: www.gearench.com