Ever since The Barden Corp. was founded in 1942, the company has demonstrated a high level of expertise in manufacturing precision ball bearings. For more than 70 years, the company has manufactured quality products that meet super-precise and super-critical tolerances.
“At the start, our claim to fame was producing specialized bearings for the Norden bombsight,” explains Dennis Miller, vice president and general manager. “The company has evolved into a major producer of bearings used for exotic or extreme applications.”
The ISO 9001-certified company has been a part of Germany’s Schaeffler Group since 1991. The plant is part of Schaeffler’s Aerospace division. Barden’s products are used in machine tool, aircraft, special machinery and medical applications. The company serves OEM customers directly, while it serves MRO customers through a network of more than 1,000 distributor locations.
“Generally, our bearings are used in extreme environments that need a super precise and highly reliable product,” says Don LeRoy, director of engineering and sales.
For Barden to continue to occupy a leading space in the bearing world, it must maintain its technical superiority. Part of the way it does that is by aligning with universities and trade societies and through research performed internally and by Schaeffler.
“Our parent company is one of the largest bearing companies in the world, so there is a lot of technology and research available through them that we can take advantage of,” Miller says.
Barden also stays at the forefront of its industries by keeping abreast of the developments its customers are trying to bring forth. For example, if clients are looking to devise jet engines that can run with a higher capacity in the same envelope, Barden looks to eliminate wear and extend the life of bearings in an engine that runs hotter and faster.
Fortunately, the company has a comprehensive salesforce of degreed engineers as well as application engineers who work closely with customers. Barden’s people inquire about customer developments and learn where customers are having problems.
“We have standard catalog offerings, but we manufacture just as many specialized and customized products,” LeRoy says. “It is all about creating a customer for life by fixing their problems.”
Internally, Barden always is striving to become more efficient. The company utilizes Schaeffler’s MOVE program, which is a German acronym for “doing more with less.”
“It is a strong, structured program that is a great tool for improving how we do business,” he says. “We employ it in all departments and look for ways to reduce waste and get leaner. We have reduced past-dues and lead times, and done so with a much smaller inventory.”
Indeed, it is a Barden goal to provide customers with flexibility when it comes to ordering parts.
“We do a lot of planning with customers to find out what they expect to buy over the next year, and we work with them continuously to make certain that they don’t run out of what they need,” LeRoy says. “Our shop floor is designed to process bearings as quickly as possible and to provide flexibility to customers.”
Improvement efforts also extend to Barden’s suppliers. The company works closely with supply chain partners to help them improve performance, and then it works with customers on integrative planning. The better Barden understands customers’ bearing usage plans – e.g., what programs are growing or decreasing, or have high aftermarket content – the better it can serve them.
“The next step is to show our customers that if we work together on a quarterly or monthly basis, we can understand them better, reduce lead times further and speed up the manufacturing process,” LeRoy says.
Barden sees many opportunities in the years ahead. The aerospace industry is growing faster than the general economies in the United States and Asia. Aerospace companies like Boeing and Airbus, as well as companies in Russia and China, are all building new commercial aircraft. In addition, the growth in use of unmanned drones for military and commercial applications is expected to continue. The machine tool industry also is rife with opportunity, as are the auto, housing and medical markets.
Barden understands that its customers want to work with fewer suppliers, so it is also looking at ways to provide more than just bearings. By offering value-added services, such as housings and assembly of components, it can help customers reduce their supplier numbers.
“We have a diverse product mix, and we are looking to grow in diversified ways so we can bridge any gaps,” Miller says. “We will continue to help customers solve problems through products that can extend the life of equipment. We must always be on the leading-edge of design and materials and make sure that our customers understand how our products can help improve the uptime of their systems.”