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Progress, Partnerships Mark Rimrock's 50-Year Anniversary

June 25, 2007
Decades of technical development and high-quality products, as well as personal commitment, help the automation specialist create a lasting impression.

Part finishing is one robotic application Rimrock has developed for forging customers.

A robot makes workpiece handling simpler, and more reliable.

An early staff photo of the Columbus Automatic Lubrication Co., or CALCO (above), and a 50th anniversary commemorative portrait for today's Rimrock Corp.

Rimrock's product line ranges custom manifolds (shown here), extractors, reciprocators, nozzles, spray tips, stationary spray systems, proportioners, and auto water purge systems.

Most manufacturers realize how the numerous changes to automation technology have influenced industry over recent decades. But one company's perseverance and progress through those years have made it a reliable partner to manufacturers in this everchanging environment. Rimrock Corp. ( celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, boasting a rich and innovative history that has helped to shape the way forging automation is used today.

The vision of a rugged product line and superior customer service began in 1956 with a family-owned company, known then as the Columbus Automatic Lubrication Co., or CALCO. Founded by Franz Stone, CALCO supplied spray equipment to forgers, foundries, glass and rubber molders, and extruders. In 1962, CALCO changed its name to Rimrock as a tribute to Franz's grandfather, who was nicknamed "Rimrock" in recognition for his love of geology and the Grand Canyon. (The name is also a wordplay on the founding family's last name, Stone or "Rock.")

David J. Ryan joined Rimrock in 1969, was promoted to President in 1984, and ultimately purchased the company in 1991. Under Ryan's leadership and foresight, Rimrock continued to grow and explore innovations in automation. "When I joined the company, we only made industrial spraying equipment, and started to look at growing the automation business after1971. We worked hard on servicing the customer and standing behind our products, and we built a reputation of honesty, integrity and commitment," Ryan recalls.

Rimrock began developing its own line of automated products in 1974, when it introduced its first ladler and extractor. It's current line of products include several reciprocators, custom manifolds, nozzles, spray tips, stationary spray systems, proportioners, and auto water purge systems.

In the early 1990s Rimrock became a pioneer in robotic collaboration with ABB, a leading supplier of power and automation technology, which has one of the world's largest installed base of industrial robots.

"At that time, Rimrock management saw an opportunity to provide a product-line extension to their portfolio" recalls Doug Niebruegge, ABB Inc.'s Robotics Div. Segment Manager for Plastics and Foundry. "Over time, Rimrock gained the expertise and knowledge to supply robot systems for die spray, material handling, and part finishing applications. Rimrock robot sales have likewise grown steadily over the years of cooperation with ABB in the forging, diecasting, and foundry segments."

Presently, Rimrock is a strategic partner with ABB, which is the highest level of that group's partnership program and is based on a partner company's unit sales and industry focus. According to Niebruegge, a strategic relationship means more than just selling a significant number of robots every year. It involves collaboration to position both companies for long-term success, which is achieved by researching and developing new products, and by market penetration and global expansion.

Another notable development was Rimrock's 2003 purchase of ABB's New Berlin, WI, division and Wolf Robotics. Rimrock's New Berlin office provides expertise in material removal, machine tending, and material handling. Wolf Robotics, formerly ABB's welding division, has installed more than 6,000 welding and cutting robots in North America over the past three decades.

In 2004, Rimrock purchased Lubrimation, a company that produced forging industry automation equipment. While Rimrock had been working in the forging industry already, this acquisition allowed it to expand on its current line of products, and recruit and hire staff members with years of experience within the industry.

The decision to increase its forging-industry focus has been beneficial, to Rimrock and to its forging customers. Companies like Minnesota's St. Croix Forge Inc. are realizing operational improvements resulting from automated systems that Rimrock has designed, installed, and implemented at their plant. "I would like to thank Rimrock for the extremely professional job done in relation to the implementation of our first automation project," comments Carlos A. Xifra, president of St. Croix Forge. "We enjoyed every step of this project, from the complete planning with the two-way communication that took place, to the installation, the training, and the continued assistance that has been given to us after the start-up."

This type of response is not surprising to Mike Gaby, General Manager of Rimrock. "We understand our customer's needs and requirements better than our competition," he claims. "Rimrock has the best and most experienced application expertise in the business to provide the most innovative automation solutions to our customers.

"There is nothing more frustrating than a supplier not understanding their customer's process," explains Gaby. "It is imperative, as we move into new markets, that we understand our customer's ‘pain.' To have this understanding, we acquired supremely talented individuals with specific industry knowledge and experience."

Rimrock's emphasis on partnerships and research and development opportunities are the core of its strategy for remaining on the cutting-edge of technology. As the level of competition increases globally, North American forgers are being asked to deliver parts with higher quality at lower prices. As demonstrated by many of today's most successful operations, automating production processes is proving to be critical to industrial competitiveness and organizational stability.

For forgers, Rimrock is providing solutions to help automate their process and cut costs. A principal example is a robotic cell comprised of three robots. The first robot loads the billet into the press. The second robot integrates the die spray and gripper into the end-of-arm tooling, in order to move the part through the various die stages, and cool and coat simultaneously. Then, the third robot loads the trim press. While automating the cell will provide increased quality and consistency, it also will reduce overhead and operating costs, in most cases with payback in less than one year.

Cost savings and innovative products are significant achievements, but a company cannot remain successful for half of a century without a deep knowledge of its customer base, and superior customer service. Throughout Rimrock's history, a commitment to customers and to providing exemplary service have been constant. "I was always very proud to be known as the owner of Rimrock," Ryan explains, "because of the excellent reputation that the company had in the industry, but mostly because of the very fine people at Rimrock and their efforts to always do the right thing."

Niebruegge adds, "From my point of view, Rimrock should be very proud of their history and development. I knew the founder, … and the values he established as a basis for business over his tenure: the customer and the employees. I find it refreshing that these attitudes have stayed with the company through the years. ABB is proud to have an alliance with Rimrock Corp."

"Our employees are hardworking, dedicated, loyal, and smart," Gaby states. "We have so many people who celebrate 20- and 30-year anniversaries monthly, … We have seen many competitors come and go over the last 50 years, while Rimrock remained strong within the automation industry. I think this speaks volumes about the quality of people, both past and present, who have made our company a long-term successful operation."