Progressive thinking at engine supplier

Last week I attended the 90th anniversary celebration of Mack Boring & Parts Co. in Union, N.J. Mack Boring is one of the leading distributors of marine diesel engines in the U.S., including such names as Scania, Mitsubishi, Isuzu and Yanmar.

Founded by Ed “Mack” McGovern after returning from World War I, the company evolved right along with diesel. Today, the McGovern family is still running the company. Its 70 employees supply marine and industrial engines to a network of 275 dealers.

Hornblower Hybrid Photo by Kathy Bergren Smith

The 90-year-old company’s success can be attributed to its culture of innovation. I have visited many old businesses and often found that their success is attributed to “a tradition of excellence” or “deep roots in the community.” Often that means the “last man standing” or “deep pockets.” At Mack Boring, it is different. It is about being nimble.

So touring Mack Boring’s five-acre facility where technicians assemble engines and gensets to order for commercial marine and military applications was a lesson in the latest thinking in manufacturing that is usually applied at giant corporations.

“We are using the principles of lean manufacturing to shorten the time it takes to assemble an engine,” said Patrick McGovern, the company’s chief operating officer.

The warehouse is divided into cells with all the tools needed for the job within reach so people don’t wander around looking for stuff. The parts needed to complete an engine rebuild are barcoded and sorted in order of use in the service section of the warehouse. The logistics team boasts turnaround times based on computer-driven efficiencies.

As politicians crisscross the country looking for stories about good manufacturing jobs, they would do well by traveling to New Jersey and visiting places like Mack Boring where U.S. innovation has been at work for generations.

After the plant tour, we got a chance to see a Mack Boring innovative application in action. The company hosted a cruise aboard the 600-passenger Hornblower Hybrid, a diesel-electric hybrid ferry and dinner cruise vessel that operates in New York Harbor.

This very cool boat, which WorkBoat Editor in Chief David Krapf rode on in July and will feature in the October issue of WorkBoat, is outfitted with a pair of Scania engines connected to variable speed induction generators supplied by Mack Boring to provide current to the electric motors. It is quiet and smooth as silk. No matter where you are on board there is not a hint of vibration.

By the end of the day, most of the Mack Boring employees were dancing on the deck of a space age alternative energy hybrid boat as it passed the Statue of Liberty. Only in America.

About the author

Kathy Bergren Smith

Kathy Bergren Smith has been a correspondent with WorkBoat since 2002. She is also a writer and photographer for the Port of Baltimore Magazine covering shipping and port activities. Smith, also a noted commercial and fine art photographer, resides in Annapolis, Md.

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