Starting off as a maker of machine handwheels and cranks over a century ago, Balcrank Corporation has evolved into a premier designer and manufacturer of high-quality fluid dispensing equipment.
With equipment precision-made for a range of applications – including automotive quick lube facilities, commercial vehicle applications, vehicle dealerships and fleet, Balcrank is widely recognized by the automotive, commercial, and machine tool industry for its products.
“Over many years, Balcrank stayed alive through product innovation and essentially, giving the market and customers high quality products they needed along with being a strong supplier,” says Don Youman, President and Chief Operating Officer. With a history which parallels the growth of the automotive industry in the United States, Balcrank was created in Cincinnati, Ohio, the heart of the state’s “Machine Tool Colony.” Starting off as a mass producer of automobile starting cranks, the company soon began manufacturing steering drag links, ball-sockets for spark and throttle control, and bumpers, before entering the lubrication field in 1922.
Changing the company name to Balcrank, Inc. from The Cincinnati Ball Crank Company in 1933, the company continued to grow, and received the Army-Navy Production Award in 1943. Following the end of the war, “Balcrank returned to its roots” with the manufacture of quality aftermarket lubrication equipment. Over the following half century, the company continued to innovate, releasing about three new products each and every year. These included fluid inventory control systems, Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) dispensing systems, used fluid evacuation systems, and the company’s Pride series of pumps. “The good thing for our market is people always need their cars,” remarks Youman. “Oil changes are essential and as long as vehicles use internal combustion engines, there will be a need to pump and dispense oil and other vehicle fluids.”
Acquired in 2009 by Linter North America – a subsidiary of Linter Investments Corporation – Balcrank remains one of the oldest and most respected manufacturers of automotive products. Responsible for many ‘firsts’ in the industry, from tubular bumpers in 1920 to the air powered lubrication pump (1926), the world’s first high pressure coolant system (1960), a new generation of truck drain (2008), and Synergy Fluid Management Systems (2012) to name a few, Balcrank continues to provide the automotive, commercial, and industrial sectors with the highest quality products in the marketplace.
Providing customers with a diverse line of pumps, control handles, retractable hose reels, patented waste oil drains, DEF Dispensing Systems, fusion wireless control systems, lubrication equipment and more, Balcrank has always sold through distribution channels. “Many of our distributors still do business with us today,” states Youman. “Although the business has changed, traditional lube distributors are still going strong.” Today, with over 400 active distributors, Balcrank’s innovative products are sold around the world, and used in many types of vehicle maintenance shops. “Pumping these types of fluids is done in many different applications – from cars, trucks, buses, trains, and planes to industrial manufacturing, mining and many others,” says Youman.
Impressive Product Selection
Meeting the needs of the automotive, commercial, and industrial sectors by supplying and manufacturing the highest quality fluid dispensing systems, Balcrank provides a full complement of accessories such as grease guns and drain pans, along with durable used fluid handling equipment and made-to-order systems, designed and engineered for safety and efficiency. Along with both metered and unmetered control handles for maximizing system performance, the company manufactures an extensive line of heavy-duty hose reels up to 100 feet in length and suitable for most applications.
At the core of any dispensing system is its pump. Designed and made to meet exceedingly high standards, Balcrank supplies a range of pumps for light, medium, and heavy-duty applications. These include the Lynx and Pride Series of piston pumps, the Lion and Panther line of piston-pumps grease, and the Centerglo series of air operated double diaphragm pumps (AODD). Depending on the model, pumps are optimized for recommended applications including portable drum transfer, tapper/oil bar, short distance single dispense point, small tank packages, and low volume. Fluids types include petroleum-based oils, synthetic oils, anti-freeze (Glycol), windshield fluids, synthetic oils, and more.
Always innovating, Balcrank Corporation made a number of introductions to the marketplace in 2012. In addition to EV and EVX hose reels, the company brought Synergy fluid inventory management systems to its customers. “We utilize a series of electronic components that measure the flow through the system to the dispense point,” says Youman of fluid inventory management, which assists customers in tracking every drop of fluid in their facilities, including bulk tanks, hose reels, and even extending to portable equipment. “The information is translated back to a PC utilizing proprietary software to record who dispensed (employee), which fluid was dispensed at which location, how much was dispensed (quarts, liters, pints, gallons), what time and how much it cost.”
A few years earlier, in 2008, Balcrank brought a new range of Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) dispensing systems to the market, further providing dispensing options for all facilities. Packaged in bottles, drums, and totes, the company’s DEF products are used by automotive dealerships, truck/fleet service facilities and networks, vehicle manufacturers, agricultural service applications, and specialty and off-road vehicle service facilities. They are designed and packaged to make DEF refills much easier and convenient.
Ahead of the Competition
To keep up with market demand for its products, Balcrank Corporation maintains the same commitment to quality that customers have come to expect for almost 110 years. Like many companies, Balcrank has faced competition from offshore markets; however, discerning buyers realize that many of these products are inconsistent in quality standards. In some instances, end-users purchasing products such as hose reels made in China soon learned a costly lesson when these products failed within a short period of time. “Once they were educated on the need for this type of equipment, they purchased higher quality products the second time around,” comments Youman. “We have seen the same thing with many of the products we manufacture, but there is still a large market for low-priced imported product. We continue to provide a quality USA- or Spanish-manufactured product that we feel holds up better in the market and is a better overall long term value.”
To remain competitive and meet demand for its many products, Balcrank recently moved into a new facility. At approximately 100,000 square feet, the new building is smaller than the old one, but is actually much more efficient in terms of layout and equipment utilization. Newer, bright, and air conditioned, it provides a better working environment for staff, and serves as a source of pride for the Balcrank brand.
Active in automotive, commercial, and industrial sectors, the company produces products ranging from $25 to over $100,000, depending on the size and complexity of the system and customer. “When we provide equipment for a large automotive dealership, the Fluid Inventory Control System can be upwards of $60,000 to $70,000,” comments Youman. “Some shops can have over 100 hose reels and dispense points, thousands of gallons of oil and other fluid storage tanks and the pumps and plumbing to supply these fluids to the dispense points located throughout the shop. The fluid inventory control system monitors the dispense amount, who dispensed, where, what time and ultimately, did the oil get on to the repair bill. With oil being one of our customers’ highest costs of inventory, you can imagine how important it is to know where it goes. Synthetic oils can cost more than $20/gallon!”
The company’s products are crafted according to customer need and application. A small independent garage, for example, will not put the same stress on equipment as would be found in a demanding, dusty and dirty mining environment. To ensure quality and consistency throughout, Balcrank reels are laser cut, robotically welded, and powder coated. Control handles – the most abused part of any system, because they are often dropped or run over – are made to be exceptionally durable, accurate, and well-balanced.
Manufacturing three types of FIC systems, Balcrank continues its tradition of innovating and introducing many new products to the marketplace. Today, much of the company’s product is engineered in Spain, with engineers it its North Carolina facility focusing on product development, improvement, manufacturing and quality processes. Valuing client input, Balcrank regularly visits its many customers for direct input on existing products and new ones for the future.
Valuing quality and an unwavering commitment to customers, Balcrank realizes it is in a competitive market, and welcomes the opportunity to keep proving itself to existing clients while earning the trust and business of new ones. “We are in a dogfight with Chinese competition and hold our own in a very competitive global market,” says Youman. “We employ 50 people in our factory and provide a wonderful working environment for our employees. We have a very dedicated group, a family atmosphere and fantastic employees that all help us make a difference in our markets and committees. We are very proud to be an American manufacturer!”