Since its Depression-era beginnings, Motor Products Corporation has been manufacturing fractional-horsepower, direct-current electric motors to its end users’ specifications. In 1936, the fledgling company was named Redmond Motors, Inc. At about that time, a young man named John F. Northway, just out of high school, joined the firm as a stockboy. Northway’s drive and determination wouldn’t allow him to stagnate at the bottom of the company’s totem pole. He worked his way up the corporate ladder and, together with two other investors, bought the company in 1973.
Northway is no longer active in the company, but his legacy remains. As indicated in its mission statement, Motor Products’ goal is “complete customer satisfaction, achieved through continuous improvement and the excellence of our products and services.” That goal has been foremost in the heads and hearts of Motor Products’ personnel for more than a half-century. An ISO 9001-certified manufacturer, the company has earned a worldwide reputation for quality electric motors, on-time deliveries and competitive pricing.
On or Off the Road
Motor Products specializes in the design, development, test and manufacture of custom motors for specific uses. Its engineering, sales and administrative functions are all located at its Owosso, Mich., headquarters; its manufacturing facilities are in Owosso and in Barberton, Ohio. Motor Products’ primary customers are original-equipment manufacturers in the HVAC and transportation industry – heavy-vehicle producers, more specifically. Drivers of many 18-wheelers are kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer because of the Motor Products motor driving their trucks’ heater and air-conditioner blowers. The company also serves a wide variety of other industries, from agricultural equipment to medical devices.
The company markets predominantly to U.S. manufacturers, although OEMs in Europe now account for 10 percent of its sales. It garners new business through a direct sales force, with the help of the marketing department in Owosso.
Motor Products partners with its OEM customers to ensure adherence to their specifications. Its recent venture with Caterpillar led to the development of a robust motor designed to withstand the effects of earth-moving equipment on DC electric motors. The severe vibration and dust accumulation resulting from using this equipment take their toll on the blower motors in bulldozers and other earth-moving machinery. However, a cross-functional team of Motor Products and Caterpillar employees created a new design and fabrication that have all but eliminated these problems.
Ingenuity prevails. When a client needs a prototype to ensure that the product will meet the requirements to overcome the problem, Motor Products builds it as a working sample to be installed in the client’s product for application testing. The prototype will have the armature stack, wire, winding pattern and magnets sized specifically for the application. Life testing in Motor Products’ state-of-the-art laboratory ensures field reliability once full production begins.
The Importance of Being Innovative
Motor Products’ innovations in manufacturing are a further example of its ingenuity. The company is changing its methods from batch processing – in which products are built for multiple customers, involving a considerable amount of work-in-process inventory – to single-piece flow production, which is lean manufacturing on an order-by-order basis. The change cuts lead time significantly. Often, a four-week manufacturing cycle was required when products moved through the old batch process. Using a single-line flow process, however, Motor Products can build an order in hours, rather than weeks.
Testing is also critical. Motor Products continuously invests substantial time, effort and, of course, money in the creation of laboratory and life-test facilities. The company enhances its customers’ satisfaction through complete mechanical and electrical testing, performed by individuals who are some of the most knowledgeable and skilled in the industry.
In the larger view, Motor Products is a company whose ethics are planted firmly in the past; but it has respect for the innovation that keeps it on the cutting edge. Its dedicated, knowledgeable staff brings an average of 15 years of experience to work every day. Building durable products, maintaining quality employee relations and keeping customers happy are Motor Products’ prime objectives.
With the beginning of the new millennium, Motor Products stands ready and willing to help its partners compete in the global marketplace, through the innovative design and manufacture of its products. A commitment to lean manufacturing is only part of the story. Motor Products’ strong, global supplier base is absolutely critical to its long-term success. To that end, the company has aggressively pursued quality suppliers throughout the world to obtain the best available quality, cost and service for all purchased materials. Further, by concentrating on value-added products and services for its many customers, the company firmly believes it can help them become more successful in today’s competitive manufacturing environment. This is the commitment on which the company was founded, and that drives Motor Products’ success story to this day.