Visiting the Founder of the Machining Capital of the World – Rexnord Gear Group/Falk

INTEGRIS Group attended the SAE Milwaukee Chapter tour of machining giant, Rexnord Gear (Falk) last week.  The evening included an extensive tour of the entire facility, some great history on Milwaukee and Falk Corporation as well as a presentation on their 38000 MRH Marine Gear Drive.

HISTORY – Falk Corporation started as a brewery in 1856 and was the fourth largest in Milwaukee behind the big names we still drink today.  After two major fires, the brewery business was sold to Pabst. The Falk family started the brewery and one of the brothers opened the Falk Corporation as a foundry in 1892.  Falk is a big part of why Milwaukee was once known as the Machining Capital of the World. The company at one time employed 4500 people on the property and had to have a delay between shifts to allow one group to move out of the parking lot before the next group could come in.  Today, almost 500 work at the Milwaukee campus and many are second and third generations to be employed there.

MEMORIAL TO THE EXPLOSION 2006 –  The site of the gas explosion in 2006 has been cleared and a memorial was built to honor the lives lost, those injured, and to thank all the people who came together to respond to the crisis.  The memorial is a small park and represents the strong commitment to the family aspect of the business.   Our tour guide noted that timing was on their side in that the nearby building has not been alerted to evacuate at the time of the explosion.  Because all staff were still inside the production areas, there were far fewer people in the area than would have been if an evacuation would have been started.

DURABILTY IN THIS NEW ERA OF MANUFACTURING – Falk machining parts were known throughout the world as being premiere quality that would last for 50+ years.  On the tour, we saw a gear box that was in for service that they client had originally ordered in the 1940’s.    The marine presentation noted that they have drawings in active use from the early 1900’s into the 1940’s era when Falk was machining 90% of the gears in use in WorldWar II naval vessels.   The challenge today is that companies don’t want to pay the quality price for the machining of parts that last 50+ years so the business is continually challenged to adapt and respond.

CATCHING TUNA – The Rexnord 3800 MRG Marine Gear project supplies gear boxes to a large portion of the Korean tuna fishing industry, a very big and demanding contact.  KRS (Korean Registry of Ships) performs inspections as components are manufactured, in facility tests of finished units, dockside tests before the units are installed alongside GE motors, and then water testing onsite before the ships are cleared for use. These gear boxes are 37.000 pounds and almost 4800 HP.

Thanks to SAE and to Rexnord for hosting an inside look at this machining industry leader, INTEGRIS enjoyed this tour and history lesson! Special Thanks to INTEGRIST Diann K for compiling this post!

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Visiting a Machining Legend, Falk