Employees at W.M. Berg, Inc. literally shift gears countless times each day. In addition to producing small, precision gears for nearly every type of machine and technological device, the East Rockaway, N.Y., manufacturer is a leading maker of miniature precision mechanical components. A list of W.M. Berg parts includes bearings, belts, chains, sprockets, clutches, couplings, shafting, linear slides, lead screws and nuts, linear motion products and rotary products.
The company supplies its miniature components to an incredible range of manufacturers. The components have a place in electron microscopes, optical equipment, photographic equipment and aircraft instruments and controls, to name but a few applications. Basically, any machine that moves might easily include a W.M. Berg part. As such, Berg is the leading manufacturer in its marketplace.
“Typically, someone who is making a machine of any type would call us for all the little pieces that go into it,” said Paul Maher, senior engineering supervisor. “Our parts are used in everything from printers to medical devices to stuff that goes into space. We’re used on any machine.”
The company reached its present-day size as a 100-employee provider of more than 70,000 parts through a logical process of growth. More than 30 years ago, founder Winfred M. Berg began supplying small gears. But Berg soon realized gears depend on other components to operate. He could supply those as well.
“He started adding products to complement the gears,” Maher said. “Gears have to be mounted on shafts, so he started adding shafting. Shafting has to be held by bearings, so he added bearings to his line. Then, sprockets are another complement to gears. Basically, anything related to power transmission Berg made.”
Berg’s business became, in essence, a one-stop shop for all the necessary small moving parts and assemblies a machine-maker might need.
“He basically kept adding new power transmission products,” Maher added. “But they’re all in a miniature, high-precision scale. We make precision versus large products.”
This means that if you need a large gear, like the one that turns a Ferris wheel, look elsewhere. If you need a version of that gear on a much smaller scale, Berg is the place to turn.
The company has also added a molding department to manufacture belts. The majority of W.M. Berg products, however, are machined at the company’s 50,000 square-foot plant.
Formerly a privately held company, W.M. Berg is now part of Rexnord Industries Inc. of Milwaukee, a maker of power transmission and conveying components.
Plethora of Parts
Berg’s standard parts are mainly sold through two company catalogs, each about 700 pages listing W.M. Berg’s 7,000 standard parts. Separate editions are published for the metric and English sizes Berg provides. As an international supplier, Berg machines standard parts to both these measurements. Part drawings are also available for download on the company’s website. Catalog orders are responsible for about 60 percent of overall business. The company’s custom manufacturing side brings in the other 40 percent, said Kevin McBrien, W.M. Berg’s business development director.
“For custom manufacture, our engineers and our manufacturing people get together and figure out how to make a part the customer needs,” he said.
The engineering staff offers part design and analysis as well as after-sale technical support and troubleshooting services. The Berg engineering and manufacturing departments both report to a single person, which means they communicate seamlessly when ushering a customer’s custom part through design to delivery. This also helps ensure parts meet exacting customer specifications, McBrien said. For computer-aided design and part creation, Berg engineers use AutoCAD software from Autodesk of San Rafael, Calif., and Pro/engineer CAD software from PTC of Waltham, Mass. Nearly every major client has these two popular, three-dimensional CAD programs in house, which makes passing part design files back and forth between customer and supplier a snap. In addition, online CAD models are available in 80 native formats.
Berg fulfills customer orders of any size, whether the client needs a single customer-designed prototype, a Berg-designed part or a 500,000-part production run. Berg also provides custom assembly service to save clients the time they would otherwise spend assembling Berg-produced parts. A special fast-track service lets customers accelerate lead time.
To shorten lead times and reduce costs, Berg employs Six Sigma quality and lean enterprise standards for part design and manufacture. A certified Six Sigma black belt Berg employee is dedicated full time to the quality program. The Six Sigma quality program uses statistics and logic to reduce part variability and assure part quality. The program also reduces waste, rework and inspections to make parts for customers at lower prices and of higher quality than a Berg competitor could provide.
As part of its lean enterprise program, Berg uses modern tools to streamline its manufacturing processes. The program includes one-piece flow, kan-ban replenishment and set-up reduction.
Ahead of High Tech
To continue its growth, W.M. Berg is constantly on the lookout for new products to add to its line. Because technology changes rapidly today, the need for Berg components is always in flux, depending on a component’s particular use. The market for a hot-seller might cool as technology moves on, Maher said. Berg executives need to make sure they’re poised to capture the market for the latest technological innovation.
“As different industries grow, the demand for our components might switch to that new industry,” Maher said. “We’re always ready to go after those new markets. As technology changes, some of our parts go away and others are added.”
For example, W.M. Berg just introduced both metric-to-inch and inch-to-metric shaft adapters. In a global market, many Berg clients operate facilities overseas and face a common problem: trying to couple shafts of two different sizes. They’ve asked Berg for shaft adapters to fit their needs. The shaft adapters are a way to inexpensively convert a metric shaft to a standard inch-sized shaft and visa versa. Customers who use the product don’t need to purchase special couplings; they can retrofit their existing couplings. Similar products tailored to global manufacturers will be introduced in the future.
Expect to see W.M. Berg poised in the future, as it is today, on the forefront of miniature precision mechanical component manufacture. The company has the edge in its market, and won’t be losing it anytime soon.