Jakel, Inc. is a manufacturer of custom-designed, sub-fractional horsepower AC motors and blowers. Barbara Kram reports on the company’s global reach for customers including OEMs of HVAC equipment, appliances, office equipment, pumps and consumer products.
Jakel, Inc. was originally founded in 1946 as a tool-and-die operation known as J&H Machine Company for founders Otto Jakel and Leonard Heim. Over time the company expanded into fans, frames, metal stampings, folded metal products and temperature-control parts. Jakel bought out Heim in 1951 and the company remained under family control until 1999 when it was sold to Code-Hennessy & Simmons. Through its history, acquisitions have included Aerovox, Durham Products, and Ametek, to add strategic global production capabilities throughout North America, and in Shanghai, China.
In this century, the company has gone global with lean manufacturing in U.S. facilities and additional production in Mexico and China. Its expertise in motors and blowers remains the company’s focus. In 2001, the company bought the Emerson Electric line of 3.3-inch motors to round out the product line. In addition to small motors used in household appliances, office equipment, and consumer products, the company customizes products used in HVAC equipment, pumps, and water heaters to meet customer requirements and rigorous safety standards.
Most recently, Jakel Inc. has expanded production to serve customers’ needs. “Growth at Jakel has been driven by new product introductions including a next-generation product directed at the water heater market segment,” says John Kunze, vice president of business development. The blower is much quieter and more efficient than the competition. “We have transitioned into an air-moving company away from a motor-only company. We are much more focused on value added, and customer solutions.”
Partnerships with Customers
In a strategic partnership with clients, Jakel, Inc. provides significant input in air moving design, resulting in efficiencies in processes as well as in the final products. “Our OEM customers come to us with a set of challenges. Rather than coming to us with a print to build from, we tell them what they need in their assembly to make it more effective,” Kunze says.
Customer benefits of partnering with Jakel, Inc. include customized solutions not only to produce reliable products but to maximize cost savings, patented designs to improve product performance and often help streamline manufacturing processes, and identifying opportunities to eliminate manufacturing and assembly processes to help customers maximize efficiency. In some cases, the company also provides assembly and packaging as enhanced delivery services.
“We go to our customers with ideas specifically for them on value-added features. Instead of buying four to six separate products from a variety of suppliers, they can buy one product with all of the features they need from us,” notes CEO Mike McCracken.
The company’s manufacturing facilities are located in Murray, Ken.; Piedras Negras, Mexico; and Shanghai, China. Operational facilities in the U.S., Mexico, and China represent not just production economies but market opportunities as Jakel, Inc. develops relationships with OEMs in those regions. Other Asian markets are also being cultivated along with Europe.
“The growth in Asia is obviously high with those surging economies,” Kunze says. “There’s also opportunity in Europe. “Each segment of the global economy offers unique opportunities requiring a special set of engineered solutions from us.”
Jakel, Inc.’s C-frame and 3.3-inch motors can be modified to meet specific customer requirements. Blower designs include crossflow, die-cast aluminum, dilution air draft inducer, plastic, and a variety of sheet metal sizes and designs. Engineers start with a basic product design and work with customers to tailor it to their unique volume and usage specifications. Once a customized design is approved, a prototype is developed, and then put through rigorous testing.
Jakel, Inc. received ISO: 9001 certification for its Quality Assurance System in 2004 and employs a company-trained Quality Assurance Team to secure compliance with industry safety standards and regulations. Rigorous testing capabilities measure performance and ensure reliability before a product leaves its facilities. Testing capabilities include airflow testing, computerized motor testing, gas furnace lab testing, product life testing, pump and temperature testing.
In fact, Jakel, Inc. was the first in the industry to introduce the computerized motor test station. The American Gas Association, allowing it to test furnace blowers in the actual end product before being shipped to the customer, certifies its Gas Furnace Lab facility. This saves busy OEMs time and money by leaving both part and product design and testing to Jakel, Inc.
“Jakel invests a significant amount of capital in product testing, but we feel it is worth it to be able to offer our customers the most reliable products possible,” Kunze says.
Jakel also has a team of field sales engineers devoted exclusively to developing new products for its larger customers. Engineers often go to the customer site and work collaboratively to develop solutions to their unique manufacturing challenges. The goal is optimization and efficient process improvements that meet the individual performance needs of customers and work within their set time and budget parameters.
The company’s extensive supplier network is another plus that enables it to source a wide variety of raw materials from the most cost-effective locations. A partnership with Allied Capital Corporation, an investment company, has strengthened Jakel, Inc.’s financial position. Allied Capital Corporation provided $5 million in subordinated debt for the expansion of Jakel, Inc.’s international manufacturing capabilities including opening the sourcing and production facility in Shanghai, China, and streamlining North American operations.
“Jakel is providing better service and more competitive pricing to our customers,” says McCracken. “The advantages of partnering with Allied Capital for Jakel are access to capital, the support we receive in management expertise, and the strategic resources offered by other Allied Capital portfolio companies.”