When August Behringer established a small workshop in Kirchardt, Germany, in 1919, it was little more than a general-purpose mechanical shop where he dabbled in, among other things, fixing bicycles and motorcycles. But by the 1930s, he’d hit his stride with a focus on fabricating agriculture and farming implements. Three generations and a century later, the Behringer name is associated with high-quality, precision sawing machines.
The Behringers never left Kirchardt, which is a centuries-old village that boasts a current population of around 6,000. The founder’s first machine shop still stands, but the company moved across town in 1970 to a larger facility in an industrial zone, which has expanded several times over the last half century.
One of the first important breakthroughs in the company’s history was the development of the first mechanical hacksaw, which was built in 1945 and would set the course for where the company is today. Another big step was the construction of a foundry in 1952, which was used to produce cast iron for making a range of sawing components.
Since then, many landmark moments have taken place at the facility in Kirchardt, which remains the worldwide headquarters and construction hub where the company’s products are researched, developed and built.
Hairs and Expansion
The second generation of Behringers, August’s sons, William and Herbert, took over the company in 1962. It was under their watch that the first real production of bandsaws at Behringer took place in 1977. Specifically, they introduced the dual-column bandsaw design.
“That’s a very important milestone,” says Rick Klipp, president of Behringer Saws Inc. in Morgantown, Pa. “The dual-column horizontal saw is still the basis of production sawing today.”
Before establishing a facility in the United States, Klipp says Herbert traveled to America in the 1970s and early 1980s on sales visits. He would find customers and have saws shipped to them from Germany one at a time.
“Once he established some ongoing business, the brothers made the decision to put a facility in the United States,” Klipp says, adding that the first facility was in Indiana in 1988, but was replaced by a newly built 50,000-sq.-ft. facility in Morgantown in 1993, which serves as the North American headquarters for the company.
In 1998, Behringer began building material handling components at the Morgantown location. Material handling parts, such as conveyors and loader magazines, among others, are fabricated there and integrated with saws. This allows Behringer USA to respond quickly to its North American customers’ needs. Behringer also has an engineering and design group for material handling based in Sinsheim, Germany, and facilities in Dijon, France; Shenyang, China; and the United Kingdom.
Another global milestone for the company came in 2010 when a new, state-of-the-art foundry was built in Kirchardt to keep the company stocked up on its much-needed cast iron.
“Building the foundry was a historic decision,” Klipp says, “People thought we were crazy for opening a cast iron foundry. The main driver behind it was that we wanted to control all aspects of our manufacturing. We control the quality of our components and we don’t rely on an outside vendor, so it allows us to be an integrated supplier – no other competitor does that.”
If there is one thing users of Behringer products can attest to, it’s the rigidity of the saws, which is due in large part to their cast iron construction. From the base to the guide arms, bow frames and wheels, Klipp says, “we use a great deal of cast iron in our equipment.”
“It’s a tried and true design,” he adds. “The cast iron, the rigidness, the vibration dampening characteristics – it’s something that makes Behringer stand apart. It’s the cornerstone of Behringer saws.”
William and Herbert Behringer each had sons, Rolf (son of William) and Christian (son of Herbert), who took leadership roles in the company in 1988 and 2000, respectively. Rolf focuses on the financial and purchasing aspects of the company while Christian is involved in sales, engineering, research and development, and marketing.
Under this third generation of leadership, Behringer is focused on the future and the needs of the sawing industry, which includes specialty saws. “In the past,” Klipp says, “saws were very versatile and designed to cut everything and anything. More and more, it’s become a specialty sawing market. We’re focusing on things like how to best saw Inconel and aluminum and how to saw 3-D-made products.”
For example, Klipp says two saws may look similar, but one is designed to cut Inconel at 80 surface ft. per min. while the other is built to cut aluminum at 4,000 surface ft. per min.
“These are two saws that look the same standing next to each other, but act completely differently,” Klipp says. “It’s the same with titanium and graphite, which are sawing areas that we’re focusing on – saws designed to allow the special OEMs to cut fast and economically.”
Another move the company has taken and continues to work toward is automated sawing solutions.
“Everyone I talk to in the industry,” Klipp begins, “says their big concern is labor – finding good, reliable, trainable labor – and the only alternative is to automate.”
One way Behringer reduces the amount of labor required for processing and handling material is through the utilization of loading magazines on the input side and sorting systems on the output side.
“We’re moving toward what you would consider lights-out operation,” he says, “with automation being the key.”
Automation requires more safety solutions, which is another area gaining additional focus.”
“We hear about that more and more,” Klipp says of safety features, adding that automated systems require sawing cells with light barriers and fences, which create an environment that vastly reduces the operator’s chance of being injured.
“We’re building machines with enclosed cabinetry rather than an open design saw,” he says. “We’re even enclosing feeding grippers and components that move automatically so there are no pinch points. That’s a consideration in our design and technology that’s important right now.”
Celebrating 100 Years
To officially mark 100 years in operation, Behringer is hosting a celebration in Kirchardt in November. Key employees from around the globe will be brought in, as well as VIP customers, for a three-day event.
“I’m going to say ‘made in Germany’ still carries a superior reputation in the marketplace,” he says. “‘German precision.’ They really have a reputation for machine building.”