The Alemite Story
100 Years of Excellence
It may be surprising to learn how many of today’s lubrication practices are less than 100 years old. From the grease gun and grease fittings to service stations and lube trucks, the last 100 years have been filled with innovations. Alemite has either pioneered or refined these as vital components for the lubrication industry.
Alemite products have quietly been a major part of many of the world’s essential industries. Manufacturing, construction, agriculture, automotive, pulp and paper, aircraft maintenance, marine and mining industries have benefitted from the innovations introduced since its founding in 1918. It all started with a solution for a routine, daily task.
In 1916, a young man named Arthur Gullborg was asked to lubricate the die-casting machines at the Alemite Die Casting and Manufacturing plant. At the time, the only way to service the machines was to add oil into their refilling cups several times a day. This equipment was located in hot, dirty and unsafe conditions. At the end of his shift, Arthur was exhausted and covered in oil and grime. He knew there had to be a better way.
In order to improve on the messy cup design, Arthur began inventing different methods to lubricate the machines. It was through this effort that the idea of a better alternative was first conceived, utilizing a fitting (connector), hose (duct) and applicator (pump).
The fitting was hollowed out and fitted with a small spring with a metal ball at the end to help prevent the lubricant from escaping. The hose was composed of a flexible duct with a coupler on each end – one L-shaped and the other straight. The two different ends provided options when accessing a fitting, which often was difficult. The applicator would allow grease to be pushed under pressure through the hose to the application points. With this system, the bearings could be lubricated more quickly and easily.
This “pin-type” fitting and “screw-type” grease pump were the start of “The Alemite High-Pressure Lubricating System”, named after the Alemite Die Casting and Manufacturing Company where it was invented. Both father and son soon saw the benefits as machines ran better with fewer repairs or breakdowns. In 1918, they formed the Alemite Lubrication Company.
The diverse possibilities of this system were beginning to become apparent.
Seizing on the vast potential, the father and son team approached the U.S. Army with a quicker and more efficient way to maintain their fleet of trucks. After several test applications, the system was adopted as standard equipment on U.S. Army trucks manufactured by the White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Within months, other truck companies added the system to their vehicles.
Before the end of the decade, Alemite fittings were being placed on more and more automobiles, trucks and farm equipment. The Alemite Lubrication System was quickly becoming the standard used in manufacturing and other industries.
In December 1919, Bassick Manufacturing Company purchased the Alemite Lubrication Company and renamed itself the Bassick-Alemite Corporation. This new company marketed the lubrication system under the Alemite brand. With the support of this new financial and corporate backing, it was soon adopted as the industry standard.
The Branding of a Household Name
One of the early marketing campaigns introduced the importance of proper lubrication for automobiles. During that time, many individuals were servicing their own vehicles. The campaign became a very successful tool for Alemite, and soon many automobiles were equipped with Alemite fittings. Some models even included an Alemite “grease gun” as standard equipment. As a result of the marketing campaign, automobile owners learned that the grease gun was as indispensable as the tire iron and spark plug wrench.
As automobiles became more affordable, gasoline stations began to see a way to capitalize on other aspects of the automobile industry. Many of them quickly changed into “service” stations, relieving the automobile owner of the disagreeable task of lubrication. Recognizing this, Alemite introduced the H-15 hand-operated lubrication pump, further facilitating the transition from gasoline station to service station.
In 1924, Alemite introduced the P-25 air-operated lubrication service pump to meet the demand for quicker and easier servicing tools. With a 25-pound capacity, the pump enabled service stations to lubricate a vehicle much faster, making it more profitable for business owners. Later that same year, the P-100 was introduced for those performing a large volume of lubrication services. It soon became common throughout the industry to “alemite” vehicles.
In April of that year, Alemite purchased the Allyne-Zerk Company, and the Zerk line of lubricant fittings and guns was added to the Alemite offering. This new line of products featured a “push-type” system, differentiating it from Alemite’s “pin-type” system. Later that same year, the Stewart-Warner Speedometer Corporation acquired the Bassick-Alemite Corporation, adding even more opportunities for growth.
Just as the automotive industry was making Alemite a household name, industrial and manufacturing businesses saw the need for a more rugged, heavy-duty lubricating system. In 1922, a new “button-head” system was introduced by Alemite for construction equipment and other industries. Its low profile and flat head made it ideal for applications where debris or other hazards might catch and break off fittings.
From Automobiles to Aviation
Developments in industry and manufacturing grew, but the greater potential for growth was found in the automotive industry. In 1925, Alemite introduced gear lubrication service as part of its national advertising campaign. The campaign encouraged motorists to change their motor oil every 500 miles, thus creating the first maintenance standard for the automotive service industry.
Advancements in the aviation industry also were taking root. In May 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first solo, non-stop, transatlantic flight from New York to Paris in the “Spirit of St. Louis”, a single-propeller airplane that featured an engine equipped with Alemite lubricators. Alemite innovations were everywhere.
By 1930, industrial equipment and large machinery were becoming more common, and the need to lubricate machinery “in the field” led Alemite to develop the “portable service station” for the Caterpillar Tractor Company. Multiple lubrication pumps, hose reels and a variety of other equipment needed for field service were mounted permanently on the bed of a truck. This concept led to U.S. military services requesting custom-designed units in vast numbers before and during World War II. These “lube trucks” became commonplace and are still used by various industries and construction companies today.
Progress continued during World War II as industry was moving faster. The need for efficient and continuous operations became apparent. Alemite made advancements in several industries with lubrication tools and products. From fittings and pumps to various oil-based fluids, the Alemite name and its influence quickly became common. So common, in fact, that the verb alemite was added to the 1945 printing (1934 copyright) of Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition and remained for several years.
After World War II, Alemite quickly recognized the potential for growth in the service industry. The demand for clean and efficient shops meant modernizing outdated service bays. Offering everything needed to fill that demand in a new ultra-modern layout, Alemite could fit a shop with a “back room” where the drums and pumps could be kept out of sight. Front cabinets and shielded reels provided a polished and clean service area. A 27-month warranty (the forerunner to modern warranties) was offered on all new “Atomic” pumps introduced by Alemite during this period.
In the 1950s, three new lines of pumps were introduced to meet the demands of various industries and automotive service shops. Pumps able to withstand water, detergents and other corrosive liquids were launched under the “Spray-Kleen” line.
During this same period, Alemite engineers developed the Oil-Mist System of lubrication for commercial applications. It had several advantages over other methods of lubrication, specifically where continuous lubrication was needed. The system did not have any moving parts yet could deliver a constant, measured stream of clean, atomized oil to provide a cost-effective option for ongoing automatic lubrication.
Throughout the 1960s, Alemite continued to function as a resource and manufacturer of quality and reliable lubrication products. With refinements to pump efficiency and productivity, specialized pumps were introduced to meet requests from several industries. As clients expressed their needs, Alemite developed and improved various products. Pumps for inks and adhesives, along with self-contained, single-point lubricators, showed the versatility of Alemite’s commitment to the industries it served.
A New Era Begins
In 1975, a plant in Johnson City, Tenn., was purchased with the goal of centralizing the engineering and manufacturing process. By 1984, the Model 500 grease gun was introduced and proved itself as a workhorse of the industry. This introduction once again supported the fact that the Alemite brand was a strong symbol of quality and reliability.
During the next several years, the Johnson City plant would become the central location for research and design along with manufacturing and distribution. The products manufactured at this facility showed Alemite’s commitment to excellence.
In the late 1990s, Alemite introduced the RAM pump line. These pumps were efficient, quieter and more reliable than others on the market. Providing dependable operation, this new line of rugged, high-volume pumps set the bar for pump design and had other manufacturers scrambling to catch up.
Advancing Toward the Future
At the beginning of the new millennium, Alemite introduced a new line of aerospace fittings that were designed to meet the stringent requirements of SAE AS 35411, including performance tests, extensive documentation and complete traceability of materials. Along with aerospace fittings, a specially designed “Dual-Leverage” grease gun system was introduced in 2001, giving operators the ability to quickly choose either high-volume or high-pressure when lubricating grease fittings.
As the popularity of cordless tools began to rise, Alemite brought its powerful, 12-volt, battery-operated grease gun to the market, creating a new era of lubrication. In 2005, Alemite introduced the first 14.4-volt, battery-operated grease gun, making routine lubrication even quicker and more efficient.
Within the last 10 years, serious advancements in technology have aided in the introduction of two products for the lubrication industry. Alemite saw the growing demand for grease guns with more power and the ability to provide real-time tool information. In 2014, the 20-volt, lithium-ion grease gun was introduced for maintenance professionals. With its built-in intelligence, the innovative Model 596 featured a multi-function display to indicate cartridge level, battery charge level, amount of grease dispensed and several other important tool details.
In 2015, a new era in automatic lubrication was born when the Alemite 24/7 single-point lubricator was introduced. Designed to automatically supply a small quantity of lubricant to a single lubrication point on a regular basis for up to one year, these lubricators help to increase machine reliability, improve employee safety and optimize maintenance operations.
Alemite engineers continue to make advancements in lubrication technology. In 2017, the lever-action grease coupler was offered to make quick work of routine lubrication tasks. This newly designed coupler creates a superior seal and stays attached to the fitting, even when the lever is released. This enables single-handed operation of the grease gun.
As Alemite looks forward, its commitment to providing quality products across the globe endures. From custom-designed solutions to routine lubrication tools, Alemite engineers develop, design and manufacture products based on “voice-of-the-customer” input.
Many manufacturers have come and gone during the last 100 years, but Alemite remains the trusted brand used by lubrication professionals worldwide. Committed to its customers and promising to provide lubrication solutions that meet the demands of the modern world, Alemite continues to stand strong as a partner and leader in the lubrication industry.