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Gearmotor Pioneer Merkle-Korff Industries Celebrates 100th Anniversary

Merkle-Korff provided innovative components to Chicago area industrial and consumer manufacturers in early 20th Century now operates on global scale.

Merkle-Korff Industries, a pioneer in the development of small motors and gearmotors known as “sub-fractionals” and now a member of the Kinetek group of companies, celebrates 100 years of operation on October 11, 2011.

“Merkle-Korff Industries played a critical role in the development of many successful commercial, industrial and consumer products early in the 20th Century,” said Randy Bays, chief executive officer of Merkle-Korff parent company, Kinetek. “The innovative gearmotors produced by company founders Bernard J. Merkle and Abram Korff provide an excellent example to all of our Kinetek companies today.”

Merkle-Korff started out as a small specialty machine shop producing precision gears for Chicago’s industrial manufacturers and replacement gears for Model T and Model A Fords. By the late twenties, the gearmotor was born when the company mounted a small motor to a miniature speed reducer to provide the display industry with a complete package.

During World War II, Merkle-Korff’s facilities were converted to defense production. After the war, the company helped develop new automated methods that allowed family farms to be more productive and manufactured gearmotors for the vending machine, cup dispensing and pinball industries. Later, gearmotors were used in the first automatic ice makers for home refrigerators.

“Merkle-Korff’s products and markets have evolved dramatically from its early days,” said Norman Bates, president of Merkle-Korff Industries. “We now offer industry leading products and technology in markets as varied as commercial food equipment, pumps/valves, industrial automation, pellet stoves, door openers, medical equipment and renewable energy.”

Merkle-Korff also recently acquired the commercial refrigeration motors business of General Electric and opened an 11,000 square foot research and design facility in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Said Bates, “The addition of GE’s commercial refrigeration motors to our existing product line creates a strong and dynamic product offering that now includes advanced brushless DC motors and gearmotors, PMDC planetary and PMDC right angle gearmotors, high efficiency PSC motors, and PMDC and AC parallel shaft gearmotors.”

Merkle-Korff’s global manufacturing footprint includes Des Plaines and Elk Grove Village, Illinois; Darlington, Wisconsin; San Luis Potosi, Mexico; and Changzhou, China.

Merkle-Korff is celebrating its 100th Anniversary with employee company events throughout the year.