Made in Eastern Iowa: A long legacy for The Adams Company

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The current facility for The Adams Company, on the western edge of Dubuque, is only a sliver of its more than 130 years in the city.

The Adams Company has been part of the business tapestry in Dubuque since 1883. First as a foundry and now as a place that makes gears that go all over the world.

"In 1883, we were primarily a foundry," said Steve Arthur, the company's CEO. "Anything you could pour metal into. Manhole covers, heating products and we were in that business until about the mid-1950’s."

The pictures, from a Loras College collection on the city's history, shows a different era from when The Adams Company was in downtown Dubuque. Long days in the foundry.

While the foundry work is long gone, The Adams Company now uses the improved lighting, space and enhanced ceiling room for an improved workday.

"People don’t know a lot about what we do here but we are a custom manufacturer, we manufacture power transmission parts," said Arthur. "Primarily gears, some shafts. Mostly for off-road applications. None of it is proprietary to us. It’s always someone else’s product that we’re making for them."

As the efficiency improves, so does the workflow.

Pat Meehan started at The Adams Company nearly two decades ago, first in engineering after his degree in industrial technology from UNI. Here is what has improved.

"The technology and the tooling and the texturing," said Meehan. "How we hold a part, how we cut a part. Protect the carbide inserts, drills. It’s really unique. We cut the past, basically, the same way but we can do it so much faster and so much efficient. The machines we have are so efficient and we can do so much more with a small amount of time."

Meehan said the materials include carbon steel, alloy steel, rods and cast iron as well as stainless steel. The gears are the main element from Adams but so are the sprockets and other power transmission parts.

"Our pride goes everywhere," said Meehan. "It’s when you see an underground trenching unit. A railroad crossing arm everywhere, across the country and across the world. We ship to Scotland, Canada, Mexico. Small company, small-town Iowa but the parts that we’re making are going everywhere."

As with so many industries, Arthur noted the need to keep on top of the technologies and the advancements.

"Technology is changing all the time," said Arthur. "The parts are getting more difficult and everybody is trying to get more performance out of their parts so it’s more challenging. The new technology and the types of machines to cut the parts, the types of tools to cut the parts, how you hold the parts. We are constantly evolving our equipment."

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