Bendix at 90: Building on History to Craft a Safer Tomorrow

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Source: Bendix announcement

ELYRIA, Ohio – When Bendix Aviation Company and Westinghouse Air Brake established the Bendix-Westinghouse Automotive Air Brake Company in 1930, the internal-combustion-engine truck itself was barely 35 years old. Ninety years after that merger established the origins of Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, the company’s innovation, leadership, and global collaborations have never stopped improving the safety of North America’s roadways.

“As much as today’s trucking landscape – from its broad scope to its cutting-edge driver assistance technologies – would have been almost unimaginable to the Bendix team members of nine decades ago, the vision and dedication that fueled those innovators still remains a part of every employee today,” said Bendix President and CEO Mike Hawthorne. “And while we’re incredibly proud of the legacy of Bendix’s industry contributions over the years, we’re even more excited about the path forward that those achievements have made possible. Even at 90, we’re more energized than ever by these dynamic times, and the promise and potential of the road ahead.”

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Bendix, the North American leader in the design, development, and manufacture of active safety, air management, and braking solutions for commercial vehicles, was initially based in Wilmerding, Penn. It moved its headquarters to Northeast Ohio in 1941, and in 2002 joined the Munich-based Knorr-Bremse, the world’s preeminent manufacturer of braking systems for rail and commercial vehicles.

Moving Technology Forward for Safety

Since its inception, Bendix has consistently provided solutions that help fleets and drivers operate increasingly safer and more dependable commercial vehicles. Bendix air management systems, wheel-end braking components, and driver assistance technologies are all available as original equipment options – often in standard position – through all major North American heavy-duty truck manufacturers.

“There’s a long line of industry firsts in our portfolio, always with an eye on increasing value and what’s needed today for a safer tomorrow. The impact of our products is a legacy we’re proud of,” Hawthorne said. “Recent evidence of this is the next generation of Bendix® Wingman® Fusion™ with Enhanced Feature Set, elevating the capabilities of our flagship camera- and radar-based collision mitigation system. We worked closely with North America’s biggest truck manufacturers to develop factory-installed versions of the system to pair with each builder’s designs, needs, and priorities, and they’re already making a difference to the men and women behind the wheel, as well as everyone on the road around them.”

Bendix’s global ties as part of Knorr-Bremse have also enabled the expansion of its expertise and capabilities. Earlier this year, steering gear manufacturer R.H. Sheppard Co., Inc. became a Bendix company, strengthening the technology links between steering and braking that signal the next evolutions in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

Additionally, the dual factors of ADAS and electric-powered vehicle development are driving the North American industry toward the adoption of electronic braking systems (EBS), which have been in use in Europe for more than 20 years. Bendix is positioned to lead the change, which will enable smoother braking, improved brake balance, and optimal ADAS performance.

Through this complete portfolio of technologies, Bendix delivers on safety, vehicle performance and efficiency, and lower ownership costs, backing its components and integrated systems with robust post-sales support and training. These efforts are crucial to fleets and owner-operators and help improve their return on investment in safety systems, leading to safer roads.

Growth and Community Impact

Adding to its Northeast Ohio headquarters, Bendix began expanding its North American presence in 1980, opening a 30-worker manufacturing and distribution center in Huntington, Indiana. Today the location employs nearly 450 people across a multi-plant campus. The Bendix Distribution Center in Huntington is the company’s primary aftermarket distribution facility.

Since setting up operations in Acuña, Mexico, in 1988, Bendix has grown that bustling center of operations to four facilities accompanied by a sales and distribution facility in Mexico City and an expanding R&D Center in Monterrey.

And in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the state-of-the-art wheel-end production plant that currently employs 400 Bendix team members opened in 2007 following the consolidation of the company’s Frankfort, Kentucky, plant and the Glasgow, Kentucky, plant of its former joint venture partner, Dana Corporation. A recently completed 130,000 square foot expansion on 8.5 acres ensures the wheel-end group can expand engineering capabilities and increase air disc brake production capacity to keep pace with accelerating customer demand in North America.

The company added its all-makes reman steering production site in Lebanon, Tennessee, following the acquisition of the ProSteering business in October 2018; and in June 2020, acquired R.H. Sheppard, based in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with manufacturing and remanufacturing operations in Hanover and Wytheville, Virginia. With the addition of over 725 Sheppard employees, the total Bendix roster now sits at roughly 4,100 team members across North America.

The company is currently constructing a new, over 218,000-square-foot North American headquarters on approximately 60 acres in Avon, Ohio, with an expected phased move slated for fourth quarter 2021. The site will remain the home to Bendix’s administrative functions, as well as its R&D and engineering home base.

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The new headquarters will incorporate a host of environmentally friendly features, plus boast employee amenities such as an on-site fitness center and walking track, a family wellness clinic, and lab and office space conducive to the company’s Agile-based collaborative approach to product and technology development.

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