Gear Solutions – Q&A with CEO Bruce Neumiller
GS: Tell us a little about your background, and how you came to found Gearbox Express with your partners.
BN: I’ve always been involved in gearing, first with the Falk Corporation, which was acquired by Rexnord, and then with Hansen Transmissions North America before joining Broadwind Energy to work in their gearing and bearing platform. I met my partners along the way, and we’ve worked together closely on developing a business plan for Gearbox Express, which will launch the first of May. Brian Halverson is our COO, and his specialty is in enclosed gearing systems. Brian Hastings is our CFO, and his background is in the field of power transmission, working for companies such as Brad Foote Gear Works and Timken Bearings. So we all have a lot of experience with gears and gearboxes, and networks in place that we can rely on, so we’re ready to get started marketing ourselves in the wind energy and industrial markets.
GS: You’ve already generated a lot of buzz out there. Why are people talking about you even before you open your doors?
BN: To be candid, there are other companies doing many things that have opened shops to service gearboxes as a side business, but we are the only company that is totally dedicated to rebuilding them. We’re not trying to be everything to everyone. Gearbox repair is our central focus because it’s what we know-it’s our core competency. We don’t repair generators or do uptower work, so we’re not competing with any of the third-party ISPs, and that allows us to work on any gearbox, not just those we have under contract. We also have a relationship with most of the gearbox OEMs, which is really helpful because they are our supply chain. When we rebuild a particular gearbox, we’re using the OEM’s gears and related components.
GS: Describe your facility, and the work you’ll be doing.
BN: We are located west of Milwaukee in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Our building is 43,000 square feet, it’s clean and climate controlled, and all of our technicians are at the top end of the scale because we’re building our reputation on quality and reliability. We are also working with several state technical schools to develop training programs to insure a steady supply of employees in the future, and once they’re hired they’ll undergo internal training encompassing such things as mechanical skills, computer literacy, measurement accuracy, and process control and improvement. As for our target markets, although the balance may shift over time we’re expecting our primary focus to be on wind with a significant amount of industrial gearbox repair work, as well. We have built up an exchange inventory of the most popular wind turbine gearboxes, as well as mainshafts and bearings, and each remanufactured gearbox is fully load tested before it leaves our facility. And we didn’t just ask for someone to come in and build us a test stand. We went out and found top experts in areas such as foundations, controls, and data acquisition, and when we’re done it will be the largest and most sophisticated dynamic load test stand in North America. The gearboxes we work on will be returned to the client with a standard three-year warranty right out of the box, and you’ll be able to extend that to five years by agreeing to conduct annual condition monitoring and to take biannual oil samples. So you can see that we’ve really thought things through and done our due diligence, which includes membership in organizations such as the American Gear Manufacturers Association (AGMA) and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). I was recently a panelist at AWEA’s 4th Annual Wind Energy Operations & Maintenance Summit in Dallas, in fact, and we’re planning to do more outreach of that nature in the future. So with our combined drive, energy, and expertise, I feel that we are poised to become an important resource for our clients in both the wind energy and general industrial sectors.