Regal Beloit celebrates 40th anniversary in Cassville

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Regal Lab Technician Dennis Martin, who has been employed with the company for 22 years, conducts a motor test to verify if the performance of the motor is on target. Then, the motor goes onto the blower and a wind tunnel test will be conducted to make sure the air performance is correct. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

What makes a company last 40-plus years in today's competitive marketplace?

For Regal in Cassville, which specializes in making motors and blowers, it's product development, innovation and efficiency.

As a result, the company, previously known as Fasco, plans to celebrate a 40-year-long stretch of success in industry next month.

Blower Maker Vera Ray, a 38-year employee with Regal, along with her coworker and sister Mary Carlson, a 36-year employee, stay very productive during their 10-hour shift making blowers for motors with the speed and accuracy they have developed over the years. Employees can build up to 500 blowers per cell per shift, and the plant as a whole produces about 3,500 blowers per day per two,10-hour shifts. Plant Manager Mike Atwood said Regal's employees, which are a part of the company's success, are very hard workers and very knowledgeable. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

On Saturday, the company will host a picnic for employees and the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During the picnic, tours of the facility will be offered, along with a game of horseshoes, bean bag toss and a bouncy house for children. From 10 a.m. to noon, music will be provided by Final Destination, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be a cookout, and from noon to 2 p.m., music will be provided by Ozark Mountain Revival.

Fasco came to Cassville in 1975, and the name stood for the initials of the owner, Fred A. Smith, but the company has a much longer history of innovation, and as a division of Regal Beloit, continues that tradition still today.

In 1911, the Fred A. Smith MFG Company in Rochester, N.Y., was established, making parking lamps, vases, plugs, cigarette lighters, gaslight and mantle fixtures, bicycle and motorcycle lamps, tail lights and other practical items for everyday use and industry.

In 1928, the company sold the first hydraulic stoplight switches to Jordan Car Company and Chrysler Corporation. In 1933, Smith went into motor manufacturing, when the company made the first shaded pole motor. In 1934, the first blower, a coal burner pilot, was made. Smith also started selling a two-pole motors used on fans to manufacturers.

In 1942, during World War II, Smith manufactured bomb nose plugs for incendiary bombs, ammunition, shell, oxygen pressure switch, Mark XVIII gunsights, aircraft motors and torpedo steering motors and alternators. In 1943, Smith made stub lathes and the first trade use of Fasco.

After a long history of producing a lion's share of timely, innovative products, the company migrated to Missouri, building a plant in Ozark in 1965 to house its motor division, the same year it produced the first neutral-start transmission switch for Chrysler. In 1974, construction began on plants in Cassville and Eldon, and in 1976, an addition was built at both plants to warehouse distributor motors.

Blower Builder Carri Hastings, a 29-year employee of Regal, carefully works on building a blower. Employees can build up to 500 blowers per cell per shift, and the plant produces about 3,500 blowers per day per two,10-hour shifts. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"We still have and sell the Fasco brand name," said Carol Craig, human resources specialist at Regal. "So, it's kind of a brand for Regal."

In 2007, Fasco was acquired by Regal Beloit.

Mike Atwood, plant manager for Regal Beloit since 2007, helps everything run like clockwork.

"I make sure the right resources are in place so people have what they need to get the job done," he said. "Regal makes motors primarily. But here in Cassville, we make blowers that move air. A lot of them are used on boilers for heat and things like wood stoves. The other thing we do here is make a lot of parts that are used in our sister plants in Piedras-Negras, Mexico, and those parts primarily go into motors and some other blowers."

Atwood said product development has been key to the company's success.

"There were some really good products developed, things that no one else had," he said. "Over the years, they were focused on efficiency and improvement."

Assembly Operator Betty Stansberry, who has been employed by Regal for 39 years, one year after they came to Cassville, uses a machine to put studs in the shells of motors, which when it is assembled, helps hold them in place. Stansberry said her workplace is like family to her. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Engineering Manager Bob Garrison, who has been with the company over 40 years, remembers some of the advancements.

"We developed the first furnace draft inducer in 1981," he said. "It draws the flue gases through the heat exchange of a furnace and makes it more efficient."

"In 1992, the Department of Energy passed legislation making it mandatory to certify efficiency in furnaces, so we were right there," Atwood said. "So, all the big HVAC companies wanted what we had and from there, and it just took off. From there, we developed more versions that had more efficiency."

Innovation has been another key to success. A hallway in the 233,000-square-foot facility is lined with patents -- over 65 of them -- to prove it.

"That's also part of why we've been successful, having that intellectual property that others couldn't copy," Atwood said.

Regal Beloit can even make products quieter with a specially-insulated room, called an anechoic sound chamber, that absorbs reflections of sound or electromagnetic waves.

Die Caster Roann Smith, who has been with the company for 14 years, works on preparing rotors, which all go to one of the company's sister plants in Mexico. Smith said she likes the physical nature of the job. Julia Kilmer reporter@cassville-democrat.com

"You can see what kind of noise and where the frequencies are to change it," Garrison said. "A customer will tell you that cost, efficiency and sound are the most important things."

"There are a lot of things that go into making a product," Atwood said. "We do motor testing, then it will go onto the blower after it is assembled, then a wind tunnel test will be done to make sure the air performance is correct."

The Cassville plant produces about 3,500 blowers a day.

"The people here are really knowledgeable and experienced hard workers," Atwood said. "Our average seniority is 17 years so our employees here have a lot of experience building blowers."

"I think working here is like a home away from home for employees," said Craig, who worked in production for 10 years before transferring to human resources. "You have a really good work environment and coworkers. You put in good wages and benefit package, and people are just satisfied.

"We take pride in our product and what we do. I think that makes us strong and to still be in operation after 40 years."

Over the years, the company has been involved in many community projects, such as donating and planting many of the trees that helped landscape Cassville's Aquatic Center and park area, sponsoring youth ball teams and participating in scholarship programs and recycling projects.

Looking forward, the company intends to continue its long-held tradition and history of innovation.

"It's very competitive out there," Atwood said. "Regal's Cassville location does very well. I think we still make solid contributions to the company and we try to take care of our sister plants so they can take care of the customers.

"There are a lot of new products that are being developed by the engineering team here, so I think continued product development and the people will continue to be strengths, and I think we'll be around for awhile."

For more information about Regal Beloit, people may call 417-847-4775.

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