American Multi-Spindle Icon Keeps Moving Forward

In many respects, Davenport Machine’s legacy is both a blessing and a curse.

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Davenport Machine’s roots trace back to the end of the 19th century in New Bedford, Massachusetts. It was there that a former Brown and Sharpe employee named William Simeon Davenport developed a clock pinion machine that effectively quadrupled the production of pinion output per operator hour when compared with the existing, less precise production methods.

Though founded several years earlier, Davenport assembled a workforce in 1905 to begin the manufacture of its own machine tools, including the development and manufacture of a multi-spindle turning machine. By 1919, the Davenport Machine Tool Co. was a great success, and in that year, it was moved to its present facility in Rochester, New York. Rochester was a more central location to customers.

Davenport introduced its machines to Europe in the 1920s and began successfully selling them there. The late 1940s through the mid-1980s represented a period of almost unbridled growth, as the ubiquitous Davenport five-spindle could be found in virtually every developed nation in the world producing parts for every imaginable industry. But the advent of CNC machine technology, increased use of engineered materials and plastics, access to lower cost countries for production, and a deaf ear to its customers’ needs and wants resulted in Brinkman International Group Inc.’s purchase of Davenport in 2003.

In many respects, Davenport’s legacy is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the company’s reputation as being one of the most productive machines in the world is well deserved. On the other hand, there is a lot of institutional memory regarding the earlier variants of the Davenport machine and the seemingly magical powers needed to harness its potential—a perception that can be challenging to modify. In 2003, all of this changed as Bob Brinkman pivoted Davenport Machine to a company that places the customer’s voice at the front and center of everything it does.

To better relate to customers, we recognize that customer requirements fall within two categories: qualitative and quantitative. From a qualitative standpoint, customers want access to information that leads to solutions in real time. They deserve and expect that the path to this solution should be as simple as picking up the phone and talking to somebody knowledgeable or being able to access information directly via our website.

Davenport has responded to qualitative customer needs in three ways. First, it is making more of its knowledgeable workers accessible to its customers. Second, it is redesigning its website with the sole intent of improving the quality, quantity and ease of access to content that is valuable to our customers. Third, the company is re-evaluating its partner network and adding partners to assist us with getting customers what they need when they need it, whether they need unique, automated machining solutions, closer proximity to spare parts or a different perspective on how to get a job done.

Quantitatively, the company has invested in updating both its machine offerings and its replacement parts. Since 2004, more than 1,400 replacement parts have been changed to improve their performance while remaining backward compatible.

Davenport has responded to numerous requests for higher capacity with a 1-inch machine that is still fast and economical. And, with the introduction of the Hybrid Concept Machine at PMTS 2017, the company aims to answer three of today’s most pressing demands from manufacturers with high volume production needs: 1) the size-holding capabilities and process control rival that of a single-spindle CNC turning center; 2) the operation of the machine should be reliable, demystified and simplified so that operator attraction and training is not a constraint; 3) and the all-in investment cost provides for a compelling financial return given the parts that are run on it.

I don’t believe that William Davenport ever imagined the business he started 120 years ago would be the sole American manufacturer of multi-spindle machines today. Nevertheless, it is our belief that with the assistance of our customers and their relentless pursuit of efficiencies and improvements, Davenport will be as relevant going forward as it was more than a century ago.