Fourth-generation metalworking shop works to generate student interest in manufacturing careers

Beverage Machine & Fabricators machined part
Part (convector plate) before machining
Beverage Machine & Fabricators part being machined
Part during machining
Beverage machine & fabricators finished machined part
Part after machining

In 1904, George Hewlett founded Cleveland Union Engineering Company in Cleveland’s Flats area. The company handled industrial metal manufacturing, welding, fabrication and steel erection. Hewlett’s daughter married John Geiger, who is the grandfather of the current owner, also John Geiger, and great-grandfather of Jake who also works for the company. In the 1920s, it began to develop and build equipment for the distillery and brewing industries to clean and pasturize milk jugs and beer bottles, hence a name change to Beverage Engineering. In the 1940s, it moved to its current location on Lakewood Heights Boulevard and transitioned its focus from beverage machines to machining for the war effort, and in 1957 it found its current incarnation as Beverage Machine & Fabricators, Inc. What do these changes signify? Adaptability! And, Beverage Machine has found its niche.

Though the company no longer is part of the beverage machine industry, it has continued its journey in the metalworking industry and now machines (cuts or finishes) hard-to-machine metal parts made from inconel, monel, stainless steel and titanium. It also has larger machines that can handle bigger, heavier pieces (up to 10 feet in diameter and 24,000 pounds) for the steel, energy, power, mining, nuclear, aerospace and defense industries. For example, it did a project for SpaceX last year, a company that designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. Beverage Machine also only handles one-off pieces and smaller orders rather than high-volume production. Its orders range from one to 25 pieces at a time. Five years ago, it added waterjet cutting to its capability, which broke the company out of traditional metal machining. Using the waterjet, the company has done work for sign and glass companies and machined the glass awards for last year’s Tri-C JazzFest. With one piece of equipment, it expanded capacity and its customer base.

All of Beverage Machine’s customers are regional, and they are served by only 16 employees. The company mainly employees machinists and is looking to and is willing to train a suitable candidate. Josh Smith, Beverage Machine’s waterjet technician, says that the impact on today’s labor problem started years ago when schools did away with shop programs and put the focus on college prep. He’s worked for the company for 16 years, and his dad has been the plant manager for 25 years. He says, “When I went to school, the perception was that JVS [joint vocational school] was where the stoners and illiterates went and that everyone who can think goes to college.” He says that in five years everyone in the industry will be retiring, and there’s going to be a shortage of skilled labor. He adds that the industry has to reach students when they are 11 or 12 to show them that jobs in manufacturing are cool and innovative. To that end, he has started “ThinkSpark,” a grassroots movement to create a foundation in Lorain County to inspire and mentor youth to consider careers in manufacturing, to partner with schools and connect children with technical programs, to develop a makerspace for youth in the program, and to create a robotic competition similar to AWT’s RoboBots that takes place every April at Lakeland Community College.

John Geiger relates that the manufacturing industry in the area is healthy, but that his biggest challenge, which is the same for all manufacturers, is finding skilled labor or even unskilled labor who are interested in technical training. Recently, he met with representatives from Lorain County Community College about bringing students in for an apprenticeship training program.

From Founder John Geiger to his son, John Geiger, a machinist, to his son, John Geiger, a history major and sales specialist, to his son, John, aka Jake, Geiger, a business management major, the company has stayed in the hands of this capable family for four generations. John says about his business, “There is enough domestic need, and our niche gives us enough work. China can’t serve these industries because customers have a part dependency and need it today.” He shares, “I get satisfaction in seeing what we create every day. It’s a tangible result.” His son, Jake, adds, “It’s rewarding to have a part come in and see the finished part leave the shop.” As Josh Smith sums up, “What sets John apart is that he can see the greater good and a need. He sees what we can do for the next generation. It’s not about making money. It’s about family.

Beverage Machine & Fabricators shop with gantry crane
One of two shops and the gantry crane used to lift heavy parts

 

Euclid High School robotics team gives it their all in battle bot competition

Euclid High School RoboBots robotics team 2018

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Joe Powell, HGR’s graphic designer)

Euclid High School’s robotic team, The Untouchables, set out to improve on last year’s finish, and did they ever. On April 28, 2018, teams from all over Northeastern Ohio met to do battle at the AWT RoboBots Competition at Lakeland Community College.

AWT RoboBots 2018 at Lakeland Community College

With last year’s bot suffering from lack of mobility, this year they put their focus into making their bot lightning fast. Their work paid off because their bot was considerably faster and more agile than its predecessor. Euclid didn’t have to wait long for its first win. Anxious for their bot to be battle tested, The Untouchables watched and waited as the other team didn’t bother to show up. While it was a victory, they still had no clue how their bot would do under fire.

After a short wait, it was finally time. The Wickliffe Metal Devils were their first opponent, and The Untouchables’ bot, Elliot Ness, did not disappoint. Euclid struck first sending the other bot two feet in the air. On the second hit, however, things took a turn for the worse. Euclid’s weapon hit with such strong impact that it destroyed the stabilizer bar on the top and sheared off bolts to attach it. The weapon was out of service but the match went on. The Untouchables used their mobility to repeatedly pin Wickliffe’s bot and leave with the win. The victory was short lived as they scrambled to put their weapon back together enough to compete.

Euclid High School Robotics Team watching the 2018 AWT RoboBots cage match
Euclid High School Robotics Team watching the 2018 AWT RoboBots cage match

Next up was a tough Mentor team that was all business. Not knowing how their weapon fix would hold up, Euclid went into battle without reservation. The first hit changed it all by knocking the weapon back offline. Mentor took advantage of this and attacked swiftly, which caused The Untouchables to blow the horn and call the match in order to not cause further damage to the bot. The back plate was knocked off, and it left the motors exposed. Continuing that match was not an option.

The team went back to work to try and repair the bot by any means necessary. After their loss, Euclid was put in the loser’s bracket in a match against Riverside by using their speed and agility, but the weapon still wasn’t working. They advanced to the semi-finals in the loser’s bracket where they lost decidedly to last year’s champs, the A-Tech Machinist. Overall, it was good showing for an up-and-coming team who is more than capable of finding their weaknesses and fixing them for the next year.

Euclid High School AWT RoboBots 2018 team at work on their robot
Euclid High School AWT RoboBots 2018 team at work on their robot

In the end, the victor was Cleveland Heights High Schools robotics team. They received a $250 award check for first place from HGR Industrial Surplus.

2018 AWT RoboBots winners Cleveland Heights High School

We look forward to next year’s competition!

AWT RoboBots sponsors support their team: Go Euclid High School Untouchables!

HGR Industrial Surplus wears Euclid High School RoboBots team shirts

SC Industries supports Euclid HIgh School RoboBots team
SC Industries
Beverage Machine & Fabricators
Beverage Machine & Fabricators
Euclid Heat Treating
Euclid Heat Treating
Gary Zagar of Zagar Inc
Zagar Inc.

 

A-Tech Machinists soar to new heights at National Robotics League competition

National Robotics League competition

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Jamie Joy, daughter of Ron Maurer, A-Tech Machinist’s coach and advisor)

I well remember the day. “Fighting robots?” I guess I had envisioned a tower of blocks with arms and legs throwing punches; I was skeptical at best. However, my dad had a completely different vision in mind. He’d just come home after visiting a National Robotics League competition. He imagined leading a group of young men and women, the next generation to enter the machining industry in which he’d spent his career, to construct from scratch a robotically engineered machine to face competitors with a high-speed, hardened tool-steel weapon. Though I wanted to be supportive, I can’t say I fully understood. That is until that first day of competition. It didn’t take long for myself, as well as the rest of our family, to realize the vision in which my father had spent countless hours striving. Even my two-year-old, at the time, came home battling his graham cracker halves against each other. We’d all caught the fever. Yet, behind the sound of grinding steel and robots sent flying through the air in three minute rounds, has always been the educational component.

Most schools are not fortunate enough to use classroom time to brainstorm, build and perfect their robots. However, A-Tech students, who are training to go into the machining industry after graduation, get the full spectrum of education from conception to final build, from battle to battle. They learn to meld ideas, strategies and concepts to create a robot that will withstand their competitors’ attacks. Throughout the school-year-long process, the students are hands on, machining raw material into each specific component of the robot’s assembly — weapon, axles, wheels, frame rails, base plates, etc. In addition to the parts it takes to assemble one robot, they compile enough for three complete machines, in the event that damage caused to the robot will call for a replacement component the day of the battle. Then the robot is assembled and analyzed on weapon speed, belt tightness, weight limits, drive control, etc. with adjustments made as needed. Finally, through a timed obstacle course, the drivers are selected, final tweaks made and the robot declared battle ready. With the investment of their time comes each student’s goal: Defeat the opposition, which makes success sweeter when it comes.

This year, A-Tech did just that, coming out on top for a second consecutive year at Lakeland Community College in the AWT RoboBots competition where they took home the first-place trophy from 25 opposing teams. This time, however, with the bragging rights of going undefeated throughout the day. At the National Robotics League competition in California, Pa., through a double-elimination bracket, the A-Tech Machinists tied for 13th place out of 64 teams. It was another great year of competition for not only the fans not only in the stands, but also those watching the live broadcast from home. 

Though, if you asked my dad, his greatest achievement wasn’t another trophy. It was the opportunity to instill in the next generation lessons in both the machining industry and in life, through a hunk of metal. In fact, 10 financial sponsors have backed that mission to be a part of the change in Ashtabula County: to teach through experience and personal investment the value of hard work. The hum of the weapon, sparks flying on contact, curling metal, bots rendered useless then reconstructed are just the surface. Behind all of it, is a draw for students to realize the necessity of the machining industry as they gain the skills to succeed within it. This year I brought home two excited kiddos who took foam building blocks, constructed their own “robots” with unique names and battled them against each other in makeshift rounds. I may be a little biased, but I’m so thankful that my dad had the foresight to see this thing through and the momentum from year to year to keep pushing his students to greater heights. It isn’t just the students who are all the better for it.

 

Euclid High School’s Robotics Team made us proud at the 2017 AWT RoboBots Competition!

Euclid High School Robotics Team RoboBot battle bot

Congratulations to Euclid High Schools’s Robotics Team “The Untouchables” and their battle bot “Eliot Ness” for making it to the fourth round of the 2017 AWT RoboBots Competition on Apr. 29 at Lakeland Community College. We are very proud of you and grateful for the opportunity to sponsor an amazing group of students. You all are winners to us! HGR’s employees showed up the day before the competition at work in their team shirts to show our support.

RoboBot 2017 T-shirt

Future looks bright for AWT RoboBots contestants

Euclid High School Robotics Team at 2017 AWT RoboBots

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Joe Powell, HGR’s graphic designer)

It was a gloomy overcast day out at Lakeland Community College for the 2017 AWT RoboBots Competition, but the future looks bright for the students on “The Untouchables” robotics team at Euclid High School. They worked all year at perfecting their weapon, and with early tests it looked like it paid off. The Untouchables were in the pit making last second adjustments while awaiting their match. They looked nervous but eager to see their bot in action.

The morning’s matches began with big hits and fast finishes. The weapons were causing a lot of damage and some matches were over after the first hit. It was Euclid’s turn to step into the octagon. Their weapon looked as impressive in their first match as it did in the test runs. As the bots charged each other, The Untouchables’ weapon struck the first blow hitting the team from Perry, Ohio, hard and disabling their weapon. After a few more hits, Perry was sent scrambling around to try and recover without a weapon. Unfortunately, the drive system for Euclid started to fail, and their mobility was slowed to a plodding stumble. They could hit Perry hard enough to knock them out, but couldn’t move enough to target them. Perry took advantage of this by maneuvering around them and eventually pinning Euclid to the side a few times, earning them points from the judges. Even when Euclid used their one release, Perry was able to use their agility to once again pin The Untouchables. That proved to be too much for the team from Euclid, and they lost a judge’s decision in the first round, which sent them to the consolation bracket.

They were disappointed in the pit. Their weapon could do the job, but moving was an issue and needed remedied. They all jumped on a task and got to work immediately. Time was an issue with the next round beginning in 20 minutes. They had to recharge and make improvements on the fly. Before you knew it, the announcer was calling Euclid to the set-up and weigh-in table. They tested the movement, and it seemed to have improved some, but not to the point they had hoped. It was do-or-die time for The Untouchables.

Their next opponent was a team from Pennsylvania, and Euclid wanted to show what their bot was made of. From the start, the bot wasn’t moving how they wanted it to; so, they planned their attack around their inability to move. The other team worked hard to move around them and hit Euclid hard with their weapon, which sent Euclid’s bot up in the air. When it landed, however, Euclid’s weapon made contact with their gear and knocked their weapon offline. The Pennsylvania team tried to maintain the aggression and pin The Untouchables, which resulted in a few points from the judges. There were just seconds to go when the Pennsylvania team tried to approach one last time. It proved to be their undoing. Euclid’s weapon caught the other team’s bot hard and sent it through the air for a last-second knockout in dramatic fashion. The Untouchables would live to fight another round.

The stage turned to the JuniorBots Competition which gave Euclid over an hour to work on their bot. Coming off their exciting victory, they wanted to get the bot back into the best shape for their next match. Euclid won on a forfeit due to the power failure of the other bot. They needed to win a few more to battle back into the finals bracket, and their next match was a tough one against Kirtland.

Kirtland‘s bot was fast and compact. The weapon was similar to Euclid’s but smaller and more direct in its attack. From the start, Euclid still was moving slowly but adapting well with a defensive strategy. Kirtland was moving around Euclid as if it were testing their defenses. After a few small hits, Kirtland went in for the kill. Euclid took the first few shots like a champ, but their weapon couldn’t lay a good hit on the faster, more agile bot. The Untouchables bot was fighting, but pieces were being torn from it by the other team’s weapon, and its bot was so low to the ground, Euclid couldn’t lift it when it did make contact. As buzzer went off and its bot lay in pieces, The Untouchables day was over.

As I walked out at the end of the day and looked at the sky, it was still gloomy and overcast without a single ray of sun. As I look to the future of Euclid High School robotics, it looks very bright. They have a weapon to be reckoned with and small improvements to be made to the drive system. When it all comes together, I may be writing this same article next year, with a very different outcome.

This year’s winners were repeat champions from 2016, The A-Tech Machinists from Ashtabula. They defeated Beaumont in the final round to go undefeated for the regional bracket and are on their way to the state finals. As a reward, they received the $500 scholarship from HGR Industrial Surplus, which I presented to the winning team.

A-Tech Machinists winning $500 scholarship from HGR Industrial Surplus at 2017 AWT RoboBots

HGR Industrial Surplus to give $500 scholarship to winning AWT RoboBots team on Apr. 29

Come on out to Lakeland Community College and join us to cheer on the high-school and middle-school teams as they compete to be the last battle bot standing. The battles begin at 8:30 a.m. The winning high school will be presented with a $500 scholarship check from HGR Industrial Surplus at the end of the event.

AWT RoboBots 2017 flyer

What do a Chicago crime boss and EHS’ competitors at the AWT RoboBots competition have in common?

Euclid High School robotics team working on its battle bot

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Bob Torrelli, Euclid High School’s Science Department chair and Robotics Team coach)

They are going down!

We had a very successful meeting in March at SC Industries. The robot is totally together and all that’s left to do is shed 0.15 pounds and practice driving and using the weapon.

The Euclid High School Robotics Team has been relentless in solving the gear ratio problem between the motor and the weapon shaft. We finally got it resolved while we did work on the robot during spring break. So, without any other unforeseen problems, we will be ready to test it out this week at Fredon in the cage. We need to solder some specific connections onto the new 12-volt batteries, hook the electronics together, and attach the armor. We have about four weeks to test it and make sure it is competition ready for the 2017 RoboBots Battle on Apr. 29 at Lakeland Community College.

Our team name still is The Untouchables, and our robot’s name is Elliott Ness.

HGR Industrial Surplus is one of the team’s sponsors.

Euclid High School Robotics Team’s battle bot build update

Euclid High School robotics students working at a drill press
Euclid High School robotics students working at a drill press

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Bob Torrelli, Science Department chair and Robotics Team coach, Euclid High School)

Heading into competition Apr. 29 at the Alliance for Working Together’s RoboBots competition at Lakeland Community College, Euclid High School’s team and coach are hard at work. The frame and the armor are complete. The wheels are on, and the skids are mounted in the front. The weapon and axle are being finalized this week and, hopefully, mounted. We will then mount and attach the motor for the weapon. We need to make sure we have the correct fly wheels and belts. Then we need to run the inside electronics. We are continually doing quality inspections before proceeding to the next step so that the robot holds up this year in competition. We should be complete in about two more weeks, then five to six weeks of testing and tweaking.

The students asked for one of the titanium rail holes to be enlarged, and Gary (pictured in photo) gave them a lesson on what it takes to properly enlarge the hole evenly and proportionally. They also gained experience using a band saw, a jigsaw and many other tools that they had never explored before.

Go Team Euclid! HGR Industrial Surplus is a sponsor for Euclid High School’s team and encourages youth to choose careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including manufacturing, welding, machining and other high-tech trades.

Local bolt manufacturer had its roots in WWII war effort and supplies bolts to critical applications

excavator loading dump truck at construction site

(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Alex Kerr, corporate secretary, Kerr Lakeside)

Kerr Lakeside Inc., 26841 Tungsten Blvd., Euclid Ohio, was started in 1945 by Charles L. Kerr. He then organized Krafline Industries for the manufacture of a special military fastener. Once World War II ended, the company discontinued operations until 1947, when the company was renamed C.L. Kerr Industries. It regularly bought and sold products from another Cleveland company, Lakeside Machine Products Company, which led to a merger in 1958. The new company was named Kerr Lakeside Industries.

Expansion continued for Kerr Lakeside in the 1950s and 1960s as the company made additions to its facilities on St. Clair Avenue numerous times. In 1965, Kerr Lakeside moved to its present location on Tungsten Boulevard in Euclid Ohio. Kerr Lakeside continued to make expansion to this facility and invested in two buildings next door through the end of the century, as equipment was purchased and space to hold inventory was necessary. The business has remained a family-run business since the beginning, now in its third generation of ownership, under the leadership of Charles Kerr II.

Today, Kerr Lakeside Inc. manufactures hex socket screw products, precision-machined parts, and cold-headed components. The largest portion of Kerr Lakesides business is its sale of high-strength, critical application fasteners. These high-strength fasteners are produced on one of Kerr’s seven cold heading machines. This process takes a steel blank and presses it between a punch and a die to form the metal into a fastener blank. This process can reach speeds upwards of 200 parts per minute and results in no loss of material, unlike machining that removes metal to form the parts. After the fastener blank is formed, the threads are rolled between two dies that form the threads of the fastener. Both these processes allow for the part and threads to be formed with little to no material lost and provide for a higher strength part. Last, the parts are sent out locally to a vendor for heat treating to increase the strength of the fastener. All parts are then inspected at Kerr Lakeside’s in-house laboratory to ensure they meet the required specifications.

Kerr’s full line of hex socket screw products is sold through distributors across the United States and Canada. These fasteners are used in a wide range of products, including automotive, machine tools, tool and dies, heavy-duty machinery, and mining equipment. Kerr says, “The bolts can end up in critical applications, such as in vehicles and motorcycles, trucks, construction equipment, cranes, molds and dies. Bolts aren’t the most exciting thing, but they do an important job.”

One of the many challenges for Kerr Lakeside, like many other manufacturers, is the availability of skilled labor. Kerr has taken an active role in the industry’s efforts to develop its workforce going forward. Kerr is a member of a number of associations — Precision Machined Products Association, Industrial Fastener Institute, and Alliance for Working Together — that encourage manufacturing as a career path by working with students and educators of local schools. Several area community colleges, including Lakeland Community College, Cuyahoga Community College and Lorain County Community College, now offer two-year manufacturing-related programs as a result of the associations and their members.

Kerr Lakeside also supports local businesses. According to its plant manager, the company has bought a National Acme screw machine, belt sander, conveyors, shelving, motors and pumps from HGR Industrial Surplus and has sold surplus equipment to HGR, as well.

Kerr Lakeside logo