A brand recognizable to many as an old industry standard is now under new ownership and offers an expanded product line of high-end metalworking machinery. South Bend Lathe Company was recently purchased by Shiraz Balolia, a longtime machinist and founder and president of Grizzly Industrial and Woodstock International. Having admired South Bend since his early 20s, when he started in the machinery business by rebuilding old metal lathes, Mr. Balolia says his vision is to reclaim the reputation the company enjoyed in its glory days.
Founded in 1906 by the twin O’Brien brothers, South Bend quickly grew into one of the world’s largest lathe manufacturers. Its lathes were known for high quality, precision and durability. After the O’Brien brothers died, South Bend was acquired by American Steel (also known as Amsted Industries) before being bought out by employees through a stock ownership plan and eventually sold to LeBlond Ltd.
Mr. Balolia will run the company independently from his other companies, but they will share distribution channels. While manufacturing South Bend machines in the United States is no longer feasible, Mr. Balolia plans to have the new line manufactured in ISO 9001 rated Taiwanese factories with a team of inspectors/engineers overseeing the entire process. While the lathes will have German or Japanese bearings, U.S.-made Allen Bradley controls, Meehanite castings and other modern components, Mr. Balolia plans to keep the line true to the classic South Bend style—including the signature gray paint.
“The diehard South Bend fans out there won’t be disappointed,” Mr. Balolia says. “The South Bend name deserves to be carried forward with its original reputation, and that won’t happen if it becomes just another rebranded machinery line.”
For more information from South Bend Lathes, call 360-734-1540 or visit www.southbendlathe.com.