Reflections on 100 years of gears at Fairfield Manufacturing

Fairfield Manufacturing Corporation, now part of Dana, Inc., just celebrated its 100-year anniversary with an event commemorating this milestone for current and former employees.

Fairfield was founded in 1919 by David Ross, who also founded Ross Gear (now a division of TRW) and Rostone. Ross was a major benefactor of Purdue University (he is the Ross in the Ross-Ade football stadium) and is buried on the Purdue campus. The company remains the largest independent gear and power transmission product manufacturer in North America with around $300 million in annual sales and 1,100 employees.


I was proud to be employed there for almost 37 years; the last 16 of those years as chief engineer. How did I feel about returning to my former employer? I had and have many great memories of this place and time and in some ways, it felt as comfortable as an old shoe and as if I had never left.

I am proud of what I accomplished at Fairfield and for the many fine people I worked with over the years.

The company was founded right after WWI and has endured through wars, the Great Depression, recessions, good and bad economic times including two near bankruptcy experiences, multiple ownership changes, floods and fires. And through it all, it has persevered.

It was a privately-owned company under Ross family ownership from its founding until 1976. The company has been an integral part of the Lafayette community for generations and supplied employment for thousands over the years. It has always been a great place to work and a good corporate citizen. It has trained and provided personnel to many other companies in this and other industries.

Some have asked: In this world of technological improvements and constant change, will the world still need gears in the future? I say yes. Even electric cars have gears and a gearbox as I found out in my consulting work with Tesla Motors in 2014-2015.

I remember in the early days of my career when I was told that gears would someday be made obsolete during my lifetime. I wondered then; What would replace them? Gears and geared devices have changed of course over the years and there is always a lot to know and learn about them. But gears have been around for thousands of years (from about 2600 BC), and I suspect they will be around for awhile longer. So as long as something moves, gears will probably still be involved and needed.

So, cheers to gears and to 100 years of success at Fairfield. I am looking forward to what the next century will bring for Dana-Fairfield and the gear industry.