We Tour One Of The Country's Leading Shock Manufacturing Facilities
Over the last 5 decades, the German-owned ThyssenKrupp Corporation has built a trusted name in automotive product technology. It all started back in 1873 when a German entrepreneur named August Bilstein began a small window hardware manufacturing business to meet the demands of the ever-expanding industrialized world. August's son Hans Bilstein took over the company in 1919 and was responsible for its swift growth and diversification. Using plating technology developed in the United States, Bilstein initiated a foundry which eventually evolved into Europe's first large-scale supplier of chrome-plated car bumpers. As the company grew, so did its product portfolio. From elevators to car jacks, Bilstein became a mainstay. August Bilstein's approach was simple really; build the very best product available. He conducted production based on utmost attention to detail. Then in 1954, Bilstein made the decision to enter the automotive shock absorber business. He perfected a new design and kept up with demands of prestigious OE manufacturers such as Daimler-Benz. Over the following 12 years Bilstein established 16 worldwide patents on gas-pressurized shock absorbers. At the same time, Americans were raiding the deserts, discovering the pleasures of recreational off-highway motoring as well as competitive desert racing. At the time, Bilstein's Mercedes-Benz shock absorbers were the cream of the crop. Naturally, their use became well-known and it wasn't uncommon to see a Meyers Manx running around on OE Mercedes dampers. The famed Baja 1000 race eventually led to the formal presence of Bilstein in North America.
Today Bilstein employs nearly 200,000 people worldwide, realizing sales of more than $67 million annually. This large-scale presence doesn't just happen. It is the result of the meticulous procedure and protocol that is so often associated with German products. Recently we were invited to Bilstein's Cincinnati plant to go behind closed doors and see what goes into a Bilstein shock absorber. What we discovered was impressive. Although we can't show you a few of the critical steps due to confidentiality, let us assure you that August Bilstein's original concept of "product perfection" radiated in every aspect of the facility. Some 200 quality assurance procedures ensure each and every part of a Bilstein shock will perform flawlessly. In our opinion, it was almost silly to see such an obsessive approach to manufacturing. But hey, who are we to judge a company with more than 15 locations worldwide and net sales in the billion-dollar range? Check out some of the cool stuff we got to feast our eyes on inside the plant.