Living past 100 for a company, or a person, is somewhat of a rarity, and one that garners questions of how.
This year Boston Gear celebrates 135 years in business, longer than such venerable companies as I.B.M., Coca-Cola, General Electric, and Ford. It has been around longer than the light bulb, radio, movies, automobiles, and the airplane.
Boston Gear, part of Altra Industrial Motion, is a leading global supplier of quality power transmission products to most major industrial markets including food processing, packaging machinery and material handling. From its 193,000 square foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Charlotte, NC, Boston Gear offers a wider range of products than any competing company in its field. Many companies worldwide rely upon Boston Gear as their single-source supplier of motion control products.
An Industry Leader and Innovator from the Beginning
Boston Gear began in 1877 as a small machine shop manufacturing gear-cutting machines. However, the company gained quick recognition as a dominant, pioneering leader in its field. Early on, Boston Gear introduced the concepts of gear standardization and stock gears – innovations of enormous benefit to power transmission designers, specifies and users. By 1929, Boston Gear was the world’s largest manufacturer of stock gears. In addition, the company pioneered the concept of enclosed drives, a category it still dominates with its dependable, high-performance worm, helical and bevel gear drives.
The spirit of innovation that vaulted Boston Gear into a position of industry dominance many decades ago is still alive and well. Products like the new 2000 Series gear motors help Boston Gear maintain its position as the go-to company in its field. The 2000 Series, sets new standards in performance and design flexibility. Moreover, Boston’s 700 Series speed reducers, available in cast iron and stainless steel, have long been the industry standard for food processing and material handling applications.
Though Boston Gear has been an innovative leader in its field for more than a century, the company has endured some tough times. The company survived a national depression in the late 1800’s, the Great Depression of the 1930’s, numerous recessions, and several changes of ownership. In addition, during World War II, the company worked round the clock, contributing to the U.S. war effort. In appreciation, the employees of Boston Gear received the Army-Navy Production Award for high achievement in 1943.
More recently, Boston Gear has faced radical changes in the global marketplace. “Just 20 years ago we competed primarily with companies based in North America,” says Vice President & General Manager Ed Novotny. “But now we face competition from companies worldwide. This globalization has opened up many new opportunities for us.”
What is The Secret?
Any person who lives to the ripe old age of 100 is inevitably asked about the secret to longevity. However, since not many companies survive to their 100th birthday, that is a question that is also worth asking of a company like Boston Gear.
Carl Christenson, president and CEO of Boston’s parent company, Altra Industrial Motion, has an answer to that question. “We're an extremely customer focused company,” Christenson states. “Our associates are committed to satisfying the customer. We service the marketplace with above average industry performance standards in quality, delivery, and product innovation.”
Christenson explains that the driving force behind their record of consistently providing world-class customer service is the Altra Business System, a unique company-wide business management system. “Focusing upon the customer and continuously striving to align quality, delivery, and cost with our customers’ wants and needs – that is the Altra Business System. Because of our absolute dedication to customer satisfaction, sales growth takes care of itself.”
Longtime customer Pat Hantz, engineering manager for Omni Metalcraft agrees that Boston Gear consistently hits the mark with superior customer service. Hantz says. “We specify Boston Gear reducers as standard equipment on our machinery. With their diverse line of quality products and excellent service, Boston Gear has proven to be a partner we can count on.”
Of course, world-class customer service is not possible without world-class employees. “It is all about your people,” Ed Novotny states. “A company is no better than all of the people who dedicate years, even decades of their lives to the success of that company. With good people, a company can accomplish anything – even 135 years of success.”
The ability to change with the times must be part of a company’s culture, as it is with Boston Gear. “We reinvest a fixed percentage of sales revenue each year in continuously upgrading our manufacturing equipment and processes,” Novotny explains. “These funds are also used for new product development and new product launches.”
Novotny also notes that the company operates with a sharp focus on their strategic plan, with annual updates, helping to keep the company’s vision and strategy aligned with market realities.
"We Try to be Good Neighbors"
Most people have moved a few times in their lives, and the same is true of many companies. Boston Gear has been in its Charlotte, NC, headquarters for 10 years, but the company has had several homes throughout its history.
However, wherever the company has been located, it always focuses on being a good neighbor. Dana Williams, Human Resources Manager for Boston Gear, says, “Our community involvement is pretty broad, both organizationally and individually by our associates.”
Williams explains that the company makes direct financial contributions to many charities such as the Special Olympics, The Salvation Army, Crisis Ministries, Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital, and others. On the community level, the company is involved with many organizations such as the local Food Bank and Blood Bank.
One thing that people and companies have in common is that it is rare for either to live to the age of 100. But a company with such a storied past surely holds a claim to the future, and Boston Gear looks forward to many years of eclipsing past achievements with future successes.