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Old 08-16-2008, 06:46 PM   #1
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Some History on the Henschen Axle!

I found this today and thought it was fitting to share on this forum. It is a press release from May 2008 by GKN - the current owners and builders of the Henschen axle.

In case .pdf files are a pain to read for some, I decided to cut and paste for ease of reading. Additionally, the website link is listed at the bottom.

While I was aware of a lot of this information - some was new to me. I hope that some of you may find it as informing as I did!


PRESS RELEASE
GKN JACKSON CENTER – MAY 2008

“The hard time was at the end of the ‘80s, when our patent was expiring, our client base shrinking, and the outlook for the future was grim”.

Jim Kitzmiller, product development manager at GKN Jackson Center, has an entire career working in the same plant in Ohio. He can look back at the past with a sense of relief, and with gratitude for the way things have shaped up: in the last three years, after the factory was purchased by the international giant GKN and added to the Axles Division, business has picked up: new sectors of the market have opened for the torsion axle and springs, as well for spindles and hubs coming off the assembly line, and new products brewing in the company’s pipeline fuels today the hope for further expansion. It hasn’t always been like this. As a matter of fact, Jim’s memory of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Henschen Company, is a perfect paradigm of the fate many other companies in the “rust belt” have endured. Jim is a privileged worker: he has lived, and kept the job, to tell the story.

Mr. C.W. Henschen opened the Jackson plant in 1949 to manufacture torsion axles and springs under an exclusive patent, which allowed him to introduce the technology from Europe to the US. His business thrived for decades as the agricultural farms in the region were booming. A big factor for his success was also the proximity to the plant where the Airstream was made. The trailers manufacturer quickly became one of Henschen’s axles biggest clients.

As generations of affluent American workers retired, they took to travel the new roads canvassing the country. The Airstream became a symbol of such mobility, and the assembly line at Henschen kept busy. “We were the only source for torsion axle and springs” Jim recalls “we could name the price for our products, and our customers would pay”.

Over time, the alliance turned lethal: Beatrice Food, owner of Airstream, purchased Henschen Industrial in 1976 and transformed it into a sort of captive supplier, with limited exposure to the market. The company started suffering for lack of investments in new products, while the Airstream business was depressed by the oil crisis of the ‘70s. The result was sequel of new owners, which eventually lead to the acquisition of Henschen by QDS, a division of Agrimax, and later, Lakin Corporation. By the year 2001 QDS/Henschen had become a highly specialized manufacturer of torsion axles and springs, with a disproportionate percent of his production going to a single client: the British giant GKN.

The real change of direction finally took place in 2005, when GKN decided to buy its supplier. This time the move was not conservative retrenching as with Airstream, but rather an exposure to a much more open and competitive market. The plant, now called GKN Jackson Center, was restructured and refinanced, and is now part of GKN Axles Division, together with two other companies recently acquired by the group. One is GKN FAD of Carpenedolo, Italy, producer of agricultural axles, hubs and spindles, and also host to the division’s headquarters. The other is GKN Geplasmetal of Saragoza, Spain,
manufacturer of frames and torsion axles for light trailers.

Together, the three have become a major player in the OffHighway division, taking advantage of GKN’s global presence in the marketplace. Revenues for GKN Axles last year were 69 million dollars, a number that Managing Director Domenico Traverso wants to see growing to $ 132 million by 2012. Their clients today are OEM companies the caliber of John Deere, CNH, and Caterpillar. From the mother company, Jackson Center has imported the principles of lean manufacturing and open market competition, a vision for the future, and a focus on the agro business, in a time when the fast paced development of corn based ethanol is opening up a promising growth for the sector.

See link:
http://www.gknaxles.com/images/press...ER-MAY2008.pdf

Regards,
Henry
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Old 08-16-2008, 07:18 PM   #2
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Uh, okay

Quote:
Originally Posted by axleman View Post
Regards,
Henry

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Thanks for the article.

So, just what are you doing these days, Henry?

Tom
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Old 08-17-2008, 09:20 AM   #3
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Welcome!

Hey Tom!

You're welcome!

"truth is I am retired and loving it!"

I've been staying pretty busy - how about you?

Henry
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Old 08-17-2008, 09:39 AM   #4
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A little bit of everything

Well, I've been playing nursemaid to my wife since last Thursday when she had her wisdom teeth cut out. Poor kid - she does not do pain real well.

Spent this morning weeding the front flower bed and listening to past episodes of theVAP. Yesterday, I harvested mint, lemon baum, oregano, and a little bit of thyme & sage out of my herb garden. Again while listening to theVAP.

A couple of weeks ago, we took the Airstream up to Tims Ford State Park to enjoy the bicycling trails.

A month or two ago we hitched up an went to Mirtle Beach for a family get-together. We left there with our compass pointing the way to the Smoky Mountains.

A month or so before that the Mighty Burb took us to Camp Jellystone in MS where we were visited by Mr. Incredible.

Thanks for asking!

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Old 08-17-2008, 10:59 AM   #5
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Wow!

Tom,

My wife didn't do so pretty good with the wisdom teeth thing either - good luck with that!

You've been doing some cool stuff!

The Mr. Incredible deal is priceless - it must be a thrill to have "Superheros" as friends!

Keep up the fun,
Henry
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Old 08-18-2008, 08:55 AM   #6
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Thanks for posting the information about Henschen. I found it to be interesting. It seems that anything Beatrice touched turned sour. My Dad worked for Samsonite for over three decades and was there when Beatrice took over and ruined the company.
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Old 08-18-2008, 03:57 PM   #7
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Welcome!

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Originally Posted by centennialman View Post
Thanks for posting the information about Henschen. I found it to be interesting. It seems that anything Beatrice touched turned sour. My Dad worked for Samsonite for over three decades and was there when Beatrice took over and ruined the company.
You are welcome!

I too, found it interesting and hoped others would as well.

Best Regards,
Henry
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