Kilian Bearings


Kilian Manufacturing Corp. makes products that help the world run smoothly. It's just that some people are confused about what those products are. Kilian makes bearings that help van doors glide open, steering columns turn smoothly, and La-Z-Boy recliners pop up efficiently. But say the word "bearings, and people conjure up the image of tiny BBs or steel marbles. Steel balls do go into some bearings, but not all bearings have them. A bearing is a device that reduces friction between two moving surfaces. Kilian is the world's largest maker of machined race bearings. The bearings contain little balls that move around on a track, hence the word "race." The company runs its operations as smoothly as its products. It uses lean manufacturing techniques to clear bottlenecks in operations, has quality programs to keep its customers happy, and programs to keep its employees safe and healthy. The work force has dropped to 292 workers, off by 9 percent compared with year-ago levels. To avoid further cuts, the company has created new products to attract new customers. They include a new bearing for the McPherson strut suspension used in cars, as well as a stainless steel bearing called the Kilian Survivor for use in food processing plants. Few people know much about the Kilian plant, which is squeezed between Interstate 690 West and Burnet Avenue. Most folks believe the company makes little steel balls. Kilian was founded in 1922 in a factory on Pearl Street. It moved to Burnet Avenue in 1939, and added 28,000 square feet of space for assembly operations in 1997. The Torrington Co., a subsidiary of Ingersoll-Rand, bought Kilian in 1975, making it a part of its industrial division. Steel bars come in one end of the 96,000 square-foot plant, and are cut down to make bearings that go out the other. 

Kilian Bearings

Kilian produces a broad range of precision machined bearings and assemblies for standard industrial applications and specialized uses. Kilian ball bearings and roller bearings are supplied in various configurations under the Kilian, Argosy and Kilrol brands primarily to original equipment manufacturers worldwide. 

The benefits of Kilian bearing technology are available across a wide size range from 1/8-in. bore to 6-in. O.D. and a variety of materials, such as carbon steel, stainless steel and engineered polymers. Our broad capabilities provide unmatched flexibility to supply customer requirements in high or low volume, including custom designs for specialized applications. Major markets include automotive, aircraft, business machines, agricultural equipment and food processing. Standard bearings include single- and double-row ball bearings, flange-type ball bearings and CB14 conveyor bearings. 

Custom bearings are available in a tremendous variety of types and sizes, where Kilian value engineering provides reliable, cost-effective solutions. For example, stainless steel Kilian SURVIVOR® PS housed units are now available for food processing and other demanding industries. 

The company makes hundreds of thousands of bearings a year for use in van door hinges. They are the largest single application for the company's bearings. About 150 workers make them. Kilian is the sole provider of bearings for van hinges for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.  Last fall, Kilian began implementing lean manufacturing techniques at the company. The company installed more quality controls on its equipment and placed quality inspectors next to workers to catch mistakes early. An auditor who looked at Kilian's quality assurance systems recently recommended the company receive a QS 9000 designation. The designation means the company maintains systems to guarantee the quality of its products. It also implemented a manufacturing system that makes parts to order, instead of building up inventory. As a result, inventory dropped 40 percent. The company will sent 15 operators and two supervisors through training to learn more lean manufacturing techniques. Money for the training came out of an up to $25,000 grant from the Workforce Development Initiative of the Metropolitan Development Association. The plant has a portable defibrillator in August. A dozen workers are trained to use it should someone have a heart attack.