Decades of Engineering Expertise

Belcan Engineering Automation
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Since it was founded almost sixty years ago, Belcan Corporation has grown to become one of the best known names across the U.S. and around the globe when it comes to engineering services. Belcan is dedicated to the ongoing success of its clients and provides quality outsourced engineering and staffing solutions to clients in transportation, aviation, consumer, energy, heavy equipment, industrial, lighting, marine and medical fields.
Belcan Corporation was established in the Cincinnati area in 1958 by Ralph G. Anderson. The company started by providing clients with temporary engineers; in time, it expanded and evolved into a full-service engineering company that responded to the outsourcing trend of large corporations. Belcan serves as an integrated services provider. From staffing solutions and recruitment for highly experienced technical workers, to complete end-to-end project services and turnkey industrial automation, Belcan has the flexibility to provide customers with any level of integration.

“During Mr. Anderson’s leadership, the company grew to be one of the largest privately-held engineering services firms in the United States,” says Joseph Work III, general manager of the Belcan Automation Group.

Anderson owned, operated and worked at the company until his death at age 86 in 2010. Belcan was inherited and managed by his daughter Candice, until it was purchased in 2015 by Boca Raton, Florida-based private equity firm AE Industrial Partners – which invests in aerospace and power generation companies.

Today, the company founded by Anderson continues to be successful. It has expanded to fifty-five sites worldwide with more than seven thousand employees and sees over $600 million in annual sales. These figures stand as a testament to the company, its services and its unwavering commitment to its clients. Belcan is highly responsive to customer needs, and this has resulted in much of its growth. It has offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Poland and created operations in India as a direct result of client demand. Belcan has been able to expand that center to support customers across the globe.

“Much like our customers, Belcan places value on proximity. So, often times, our design centers are positioned to satisfy a customer need,” states Work, who has been with Belcan since 1998. “Once established, they are then grown to accommodate many other projects and customers in the surrounding areas where proximity is a factor.”

The Belcan Automation Group was founded in 1987, in the Cleveland suburb of Solon, Ohio. Today, the group operates from a 68,000-square-foot, temperature-controlled facility equipped with high bay areas, crane access and a manufacturing floor of 35,000 square feet. Most of the roughly forty highly-trained staff have advanced degrees, including Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) or Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE).

When it opened almost thirty years ago, the automation group originally provided equipment engineering services to American multinational conglomerate, General Electric (GE) Lighting. As the business relationship grew, the operation expanded to provide turnkey, engineering equipment services to many clients who required specialty manufacturing equipment. Previously, GE lighting hosted their entire in-house machine design-and-build organization within the Belcan Solon, Ohio office. For the duration of GE’s lighting business, Belcan provided technology and manufacturing equipment exclusively for GE’s lighting operations.

Changes within GE’s service offerings allowed Belcan to negotiate arrangements to absorb specific GE employees into Belcan’s specialty equipment engineering division. After the company had been working exclusively on GE-based products for the first few years, the agreement expired, leaving Belcan free to pursue business opportunities with other clients.

“After the official term of the agreement, GE and Belcan continued to have an extremely close working relationship, with Belcan being a primary supplier of automation equipment to GE Lighting plants in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world,” says Work. A strong ongoing relationship with a number of GE divisions endures to this day.

The automation group teams with the local Belcan staffing group to meet project demands for additional resources. The company is fully staffed with mechanical engineers (several of whom have licensed professional engineer certification), electrical/controls engineers, technical/program leaders, mechanical/electrical technicians and machinists.

Belcan’s automation group provides turnkey custom automation and test systems, product development and optimization, and automation concept studies. The concept studies are typically performed for new products or processes. “We provide a robust program definition process that establishes a platform to develop system concepts,” comments Work. “This process is instrumental in mitigating technical and financial risk.”

Belcan provides machine design services, which are typically offered to other OEMs to help them design factory equipment that is offered as a product. Additionally, Belcan offers manufacturing support services, such as upgrading existing equipment or processes to operate more efficiently, developing and fabricating tools or subsystems to assist operators with assembly or disassembly processes, industrial control panel design and build and test rig build.

Built on a platform of sound engineering principles and extensive multi-industry experience, Belcan’s automation group does not shy away from difficult or challenging projects. The team has decades of cumulative experience and views every opportunity with an open mind. “We like to say we are technology independent, meaning that we are not afraid to develop new ideas and the processes that go along with them, without being tied to preconceived concepts or technology,” says Work.

By using a thorough requirements definition process, Belcan works with clients to uncover the truly important program specifications. Once this has been accomplished, difficult challenges can be addressed logically to identify the risks. The risks can then be taken on one by one to arrive at an answer. “Our team is very good at becoming part of the client’s technical team,” states Work. “Forming a great working relationship builds trust, which then allows for the free exchange of ideas. In some cases, we may end up knowing more about the client’s product than they do.”

Belcan’s recent initiatives include a new, customer driven focus on global manufacturing and supply chain and software, systems, and analytics, which have become the company’s fastest-growing businesses segments. Manufacturing and supply chain services are critical to many of the company’s existing clients in the aerospace and heavy equipment industries. These services have enabled Belcan to flexibly deploy its resource teams to clients moving from the new product design phase to building and delivering products.

“Software, systems, and analytics are an ever-increasing component of our client’s product offering,” says Work. “In addition, they are focusing on the internet of things (IoT) to collect and exchange data, which enables them to make quick decisions on product performance. Belcan has been at the forefront of engineering better outcomes by not only supporting the client’s software needs but also providing predictive analytics and data science for years. We are able to build skilled and efficient teams to assist our customers with software and systems development, verification and validation.”

As well as extending its global footprint into India and Europe, Belcan acquired Florida-based Tandel Systems, Inc. earlier this year. This company provides technical services and support to aerospace and defense sector customers. The acquisition brings key capabilities to Belcan, particularly in the area of designing and building sophisticated test systems for avionics and other critical aspects of aerospace systems. Also this year, Belcan completed the acquisition of European-based East Kilbride Engineering Services (EKES), a leading engineering consultancy company. The strategic move provides more service enhancements, an expanded market presence and the ability to offer clients exciting new options to grow economically.

Seeing growth in the medical device field, Belcan Automation works with manufacturers on new and innovative products, many never before produced. “In many instances, these firms do not have the in-house staff and expertise to take on complicated process development for their new products,” states Work. “They are excellent at designing the next great device, and they are skilled at maintaining a manufacturing system once it has been developed and installed. What Belcan Automation brings is the experience and breadth of knowledge to apply new technologies – where needed – to an application. We are able to apply certain processes that may have initially been developed in a completely different industry and apply them to a medical assembly process. This often delivers a competitive advantage for that client.”

Along with the automation group, the Ohio facility houses a national recruiting office for Belcan Engineering. The office is responsible for recruiting technical talent for the various Belcan teams across the globe, including high level technical talent such as engineers, scientists and technicians. Belcan is able to quickly resource talent for clients seeking to fill short or long term positions and projects.Moreover, with the necessary equipment and services – including assembly and test project areas, high capacity overhead cranes, an industrial control panel build area and model shop – the facility is ready to handle a variety of automation-build programs.

Belcan is able to work with companies at every stage as it has the engineering skills, trained staff, equipment, materials, complementary divisions and end-to-end global capabilities to ensure success. From small companies to Fortune 500 businesses, confidentiality is paramount, and Belcan office and shop spaces have restrictive access spaces that provide isolation for projects that require higher security for proprietary processes.

The highly flexible and adaptable company also partners with over forty universities across the United States to identify future candidates and host internship programs. To further enable that goal, Belcan has also implemented an in-house drafting apprentice program and is working with local community colleges to recruit newly trained drafters.

By using its ability to identify and address customer needs quickly, Belcan has created a unique niche in the market domestically and globally.

“By focusing on full product lifecycle engineering consultancy services, we can now look beyond the services we have provided the customer for over fifty-five years and onto what makes them successful for the next fifty-five years,” says Work. “The growing global reach is an added advantage for the organization to leverage additional talents and efficiencies for our clients to take advantage of. Overall, the future is bright for Belcan with more to come.”



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