Janis Hubschman reports on Fairfield Manufacturing Company, Inc., the leading one-source supplier of custom gears, custom mechanical assemblies, and planetary final drives.
Beginning as an automotive gear manufacturer 80 years ago, Fairfield Manufacturing Company Inc. has grown into the largest non-captive producer of custom gears, gear assemblies and planetary final-drive products in North America.
Fairfield got its start in 1919, when founder David Ross opened the doors of his company in Lafayette, Ind. to manufacture gears for the burgeoning automotive industry. As the century unfolded, Fairfield’s commitment to quality, performance and design helped turn the business into a major producer of gear products used worldwide in a vast range of mobile and industrial applications, serving markets which include road construction machinery, mining, rail, aerial platforms, marine and defense industries.
Fairfield employs over 1,100 employees at its 650,000-square-foot manufacturing and engineering facility in Lafayette, which houses some of the most modern gear-cutting and heat-treating equipment and capabilities found in the industry. In addition, the latest engineering and design tools and technologies are used to produce “custom-designed” gear assemblies as well as the broadest range of planetary final drives offered in the industry. In fact, Fairfield’s Torque – Hub® planetary reducers have set the standard for final drives worldwide, and the trade name has developed as a commonly used generic description for gear-reduction assemblies.
Investing in the Future
Another key to Fairfield’s growth and success lies in the company’s commitment to continually invest in capital equipment and technologies to allow the company to keep pace with industry demands. According to Clem Strimel, vice president of sales, “The industries that we participate in have experienced significant growth during the last decade, with several markets growing at a rate unforeseen by many of our customers.” As most of our sales people and OEM customers will readily admit, the forecasting process in our business can be a lot like peering into a crystal ball, when it comes to accurately projecting gear requirements in most of our industrial markets. This makes capital equipment planning a challenging task; nevertheless, we continue to increase our capabilities to better serve our customers and markets. We have a very strong and genuine commitment to expansion and growth…a walk through our plant will show you that.” These investments in new equipment and processes have enabled Fairfield to get its capacity up and lead times down, positioning the company to take on and support new business.
All Fairfield’s manufacturing processes are governed by ISO 9001 and QS 9000 quality controls, to ensure that all products are consistent, meet specifications and provide the needed reliability in the field.
In addition to investing in equipment, Fairfield is also constantly on the lookout for acquisitions and alliances with companies that will enhance its offerings to the industry. “Our industry is rapidly moving toward suppliers that can offer total systems,” in lieu of just a product. The industry is seeking out suppliers that have the ability to offer more than just a gear. They want complete assemblies along with the technical support and assistance required to make it a reliable part of their final product,” states John Strickland, Fairfield’s director of marketing. “Our goal is to increase our offering and product range to include other components used in motion systems, providing our customers with a complete package. We have an active plan in place to move further in that direction,” states Strickland.
Fairfield’s wide range of capabilities, coupled with the company’s in-house heat treating, allow the company to meet the broad requirements of both large and small OEM customers. The company can produce gears ranging in diameter from 1 inch up to 120 inches. The scope of gear types that can be produced include spur, helical, straight and spiral bevel, internal and external gears, as well as a wide range of keyed and splined shafts. Complete custom assemblies include housings, transfer cases, custom axle assemblies and wheel ends, and a host of specialty gear boxes and transmissions, providing little need for an OEM to have several different sources for gears and gear products.
George Taylor, Fairfield’s director of custom gear sales, states, “Fairfield’s offering is truly the broadest in the industry. Our continuous and aggressive capital investment program has been focused on the twin goals of increasing capacity while, at the same time, broadening our capabilities so as to offer our customers a true one-stop shopping experience for their power transmission needs.”
Fairfield understands that state-of-the-art equipment is not much use without skilled personnel to run and maintain it. That’s why they have also made a major investment in a highly trained work force. An extensive design and engineering staff with proven industry knowledge has the latest CAD hardware and software at its disposal. Fairfield is equipped to assume complete responsibility for the concept, design, prototype testing, and production transition. To ensure customer satisfaction through every phase of a project, Fairfield has assembled program teams. These teams are made up of Fairfield’s own design, manufacturing, quality and customer service personnel who work hand-in-hand with a client’s project staff.
For customer convenience, Fairfield has over eighty distribution centers worldwide.
Ongoing research and development keeps Fairfield on top of a highly competitive and technically challenging market. This year, Fairfield will introduce two new Torque – Hub® products: a small planetary Torque-Hub® drive called W06, a small compact, lightweight unit that can be driven by either electric or hydraulic motors and a group of new double planetary drives ranging from 30,000-inch pound capacity, up to and including 45,000-inch pound rated units. These drives are aimed at a multitude of applications that include agricultural and construction machinery.
A New Millennium Beckons
“We are extremely excited about the years ahead of us,” states Linn. “With the new products and manufacturing capabilities that we have developed, we will continue to maintain and grow our position as an industry leader.”