Seymour Gussack: Shaping the Bearing Industry for the Last Half Century

 

THE GUSSACK ENGINEERING AND MANUFACTURING enterprises span three generations, two continents and nearly a century.

Nathan Gussack, with an engineering degree from Russia's most prestigious technical school, arrived in the United States after World War I, and after years of experience in manufacturing, started his own hardware manufacturing business, Grant Pulley and Hardware. His son, Seymour Gussack, gained experience at a young age by working at Grant Pulley during high school and on summer breaks.

Seymour was an engineering student at Stevens Institute of Technology when World War II broke out. He was selected for Officer's Training School at Annapolis, receiving his Mechanical Engineering degree in 1944 while still in the Navy.

At war's end, after exploring civilian job opportunities as diverse as designing cigarette vending machines and production engineering in a zipper factory, he returned to the family owned Grant Pulley and Hardware for a decade of experience in applied engineering and business management.

In 1958, foreseeing a promising future in the bearing industry, Mr. Gussack and his brother, Milton, each invested $2,500 to found General Bearing Company, Inc. in Mineola, New York.

Growth during the late 50s and 60s was rapid. General Bearing was among the earliest companies in the field to internationalize. The search for sources of badly needed equipment, bearings, and bearing components led to profitable overseas alliances with Japanese and Polish companies.

General Bearing redesigned various bearing applications for simpler and more economical production. A steering-post bearing for Chrysler Corporation which had cost $1.20 was produced for $.40 and used for the next 20 years. The cost of bearings in AMF's then new pin-spotter for bowling alleys was reduced to $160 from $1000.

A new plant in West Nyack, NY accommodated General Bearing's rapid expansion. When there proved to be a lack of local technical skills to handle bearing production, the company researched foreign labor markets, uncovering Fiat auto workers around Turin, Italy who were proficient and experienced at the same machinery General was using. Over a dozen of these Italian workers and their families were brought to America by the company. General Bearing also sponsored a program which aided more than 60 children of employees' families with their university tuition.

With Seymour Gussack in command, progress and growth continued. In 1969, General Bearing converted a former tobacco warehouse in Wilson, North Carolina, into a manufacturing plant. In the mid 70s, a still larger 120,000 square foot state-of-the-art plant was constructed in Wilson to accommodate the company's constant growth, largely due to increased bearing production for the automotive industry.

In 1984, General Bearing moved its headquarters from West Nyack to a new building in Blauvelt, NY, incorporating manufacturing and distribution functions.

In 1987, when General Motors sold off their parts-producing facility, the famous Hyatt Bearing Division, General Bearing sold the North Carolina plant and acquired all of Hyatt's equipment and "intellectual properties", including bearing designs, drawings and manufacturing techniques.

Some of the equipment from Hyatt was moved to a new leased facility in Union, NJ for use in the manufacture of locomotive, truck and trailer bearings as well as locomotive bearing remanufacturing.

The bulk of the former Hyatt equipment was shipped to China. Some of it, too massive to move through New York Harbor, had to be routed through Virginia. In China, Joe Hoo, GBC's chief metallurgist, worked miracles in establishing a new joint venture, Shanghai General Bearing Company, Ltd.

The October, 1989 opening of the Shanghai bearing plant, with major Hyatt equipment installed, was a landmark event in Chinese economic history, with top Chinese government leaders and world business figures in attendance.