Time Machine

Dec 1, 2009

With the current state of the economy forcing many businesses to fight for their very survival, there’s a lot to be learned from companies with proven staying power. When your company is 94-years-young and still growing, your story warrants a closer look.

After three generations of ownership, Egge Machine Co. is not only maintaining its operational prowess, but continues to strive for its hallmarks of innovation, creation and service.

Larger than life, the company has served generations of former hot rod heroes-racers who pounded the historic dirt tracks of the 1920s-and later met the needs of hoards of collector car afficionados whose dream ride might be steel and axles that your great-great-grandfather once dreamed of owning as well.

Spanning decades of operation as a specialized manufacturer of domestic engine parts applications from the early 1900s to 1980, Egge now operates a state-of-the-art foundry and machine shop in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

The Early Years

Some may ask, what’s in a company name? It was popular to brand the name of the owner with the product being manufactured in the early years, when less techno-style company names were en vogue.

Thus, the Egge name was quite suitable as founder Edward N. Egge-E.N. to his friends-launched his company, circa 1915, in Plainview, Texas.

He started out selling and servicing replacement engine parts for vehicles of the day. And as a company moving to the needs of its customers, E.N. manufactured new parts when necessary.

Because of limited availability and no automotive aftermarket, replacement parts-especially pistons-were constantly in short supply and difficult to locate. Being an innovator, Egge solved both problems by making his own aluminum pistons using the sand cast process.

The Roaring Twenties found Egge relocating his repair operation to the West Coast. In 1923, Egge Machine Co. moved to downtown Los Angeles. The citrus boom was at its peak, and the company’s offerings grew to include tractor engine parts in an effort to keep up with the changing times.

In the 1940s E.N.’s son, Nels, began designing, building and utilizing steel molds in conjunction with the company’s sand casted pistons. The steel molds boosted the quality and throughput of manufacturing, as well as increased product availability for a wider range of vehicle models and years.

The post-war era saw the company grow into another area, providing parts for Indian and Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Basically, if a vehicle had a combustion engine, Egge had the parts to keep it running.

Hot-rodding was also becoming popular at this time and Egge was there, in close proximity to industry icons Edelbrock, Iskendarian, and SoCal Speed Shop.

When asked of the various business achievements Egge Machine Co. has achieved through the years, including surviving recessions, wars and the Great Depression, third-generation owner Bob Egge explains that the company simply adapted.

“During World War II, aluminum was scarce and we couldn’t make pistons. Dad (Nels) supported the war effort by making brass and steel fittings for the military. Perhaps the biggest step in growing the business in the late 1940s was when Dad learned to make piston molds using hot-rolled steel,” remembers Bob. “We began the transition from sand casting to permanent mold casting, which was a huge step for Egge.”

Both of E.N.’s sons worked in the business until the late 1950s, when E.N. died at age 82.

At that time, Sy Egge began Egge Marine, working on marine engines. In 1958, Nels moved Egge Machine Co. to Gardena, Calif., and continued the family tradition of manufacturing hard-to-get engine parts as well as buying new old stock (NOS) parts.

Nels had other remanufactured parts to offer everything needed to complete the engine rebuilding process. He also purchased a large number of three-piece molds, which allowed him to continue to increase the model years of cars and trucks covered by the company’s product line.

1972-Forward

As Egge became more of a household word to those looking for obsolete parts, Bob Egge again moved the company, to its present location in Santa Fe Springs.

Once again meeting the challenges of growth, Bob committed to expansion and acquired several buildings totaling more than 50,000 square feet. The inclusive framework of the operation included a manufacturing facility, warehousing, distribution, sales and operations offices, plus additional showroom space.

Further enhancement to the manufacturing process came in the form of hydraulic molding equipment-again, expanding the range of coverage, now to include 1960s and ’70s model years. Committing to keeping the family name moving vertically enabled Egge to maintain its superior service and sustain its growth model. Egge soon was a worldwide niche brand.

Bob Egge and his sister, Kathryn Weaver, are third-generation owners who have recently handed the management reins to new CEO Ernie Silvers. Silvers is a fit-and-finish leader who recently served as chairman of the Automotive Restoration Market Association (ARMO), a SEMA council.

With a broad-based platform to manage and operate Egge Machine Co., the sustained growth moving into the 21st century became an extension of the family tradition. It has been under Silvers’ guidance, along with help from Bob, that the company is fast-approaching its 100-year anniversary.

Today, the operation has expanded with valve manufacturing, oil, fuel, and water pump remanufacturing, timing case rebuilding and Babbitt bearing work, and now offers engine building and machining work as well.

Old school craftsmanship and modern technology led to the niche expansion where hard-to-find high-quality parts, made to original specs, appealed to drivers already sold on the Egge name.

But, to learn from the successes of a company, it’s important to understand the thought processes behind its decisions. So, how did Egge weigh the risks and rewards of buying new equipment?

Simple, says Bob Egge. “It essentially boils down to the availability of funding. There’s never a shortage of ‘wants’ for new equipment,” but purchases need to be driven by what a company can afford.

In the current configuration, the manufacturing of elder parts has taken on a new and vogue advanced engineering platform. Egge’s manufacturing facility now fosters technology advancements with three cells of CNC machines including a five-axis vertical machining center that can do the job of six manual machines. This allows for fewer mistakes while creating consistent, quality products.

Egge notes that the new technology has had a positive impact, and he is always watching for ways to make his company better and more efficient.

“I’ve always been an avid reader of the trade and machine magazines, as well as keeping abreast of industry trade shows,” he says. “It’s the only way I can keep up with changes in technology and new machining techniques.”

Into the Future

Note that each product manufactured by Egge Machine Co. is strictly made to spec and entirely at its southern California facility. A long-term commitment to growth, excellence and quality has enabled it to survive and thrive in an ever-changing marketplace.

Bob Egge explains that the company’s philosophy of being ahead of the curve while listening to its customers, being practical and growing from within while reaching out to a niche market has been instrumental in its 94-year run of success.

So, the next time reports of bleak economic news get you down, know that it is possible to persevere. Egge sure has.