Reliance Electric was founded in 1904 in Cleveland, Ohio, as a partnership
between two cousins: inventor John Lincoln and industrialist
Peter Hitchcock. Lincoln had been working on a new type of
direct current motor. Direct current was the primary means
of electrification at the time because alternating current
was considered dangerous and unpredictable. Lincoln invented
the first adjustable-speed direct current motor. They shipped
their first industrial electric motor in 1905. The two named
their new company after the inventor, Lincoln Electric Motor Works.
In 1907, Lincoln sold his interest in the company to Charles
and Ruben Hitchcock, Peter's sons. The youngest, Ruben took
over the company. But having little business or electrical
experience, Ruben sought a new president. He found one in
Clarence Collens, a Yale graduate, who stayed with the company
in that capacity for the next 40 years. When Collens came
on as president, the company was incorporated as Reliance
Electric and Engineering Company.
The variable-speed motor was Reliance's only product until
1913. That year, the company's chief engineer, Alex McCutcheon,
designed a new DC motor that soon became Reliance's primary
product. It was used in many of Cleveland's booming steel
mills and was a mainstay of the DC product line until the
began to design and manufacture industrial alternating current
(AC) motors in the 1920s, but the company was late to join
the race to convert to AC.
Reliance executives realized that they needed to find a niche
for their company to remain competitive and profitable. They
decided that the company would concentrate on becoming a flexible,
timely supplier of industrial motors and emphasize the applied
engineering aspect of the business. To accomplish this conversion,
the Reliance sales department was organized with technically
knowledgeable people. These representatives would not just
sell Reliance products, they would also investigate customers'
needs and recommend equipment to get the job done.
of the salesmen, Jim Corey, proved his technical expertise
when he received a patent for an adjustable-voltage, multi-motor
control system for use in the paper and textile industries.
Reliance made its first inroads into the AC business in 1927
with a modification of the General Electric enclosed fan-cooled
The company grew quickly on the basis of these new technologies,
and in 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression, Reliance's
sales peaked at about $3 million. The Corey motor helped partially
insulate the company from the severe economic downturn, since
the textile industry was virtually depression-proof. The introduction
of the first electrical variable-speed drive package during
the 1930s established Reliance's enduring leadership in that
facet of the business.
World War II, Reliance served as a primary supplier of motors
to the military, especially the Navy. The company also supplied
the motors needed to build hundreds of tanks.
During the 1950s, the company expanded its electrically based
products to include mechanical power transmission products
through the acquisition of Reeves Pulley and the Master Electric
and acquisitions continued in the 1960s and 1970s. The Mechanical
Group was expanded with the purchase of the Dodge Manufacturing Company in 1967.
Reliance became the largest industrial motor manufacturer
in the United States with the April 1986 purchase of the Medium
AC Motor Division from one of its oldest competitors, Westinghouse
November 1994, industry leaders Reliance and Allen-Bradley
joined Rockwell Automation, becoming the number one provider
of high-performance automation products in the world.
new motor plant was opened in Columbus, Nebraska in 1995.
Reliance and Allen-Bradley drive systems realigned
to form Rockwell Automation Drive Systems.
Reliance employs the newest satellite technology to train and communicate
with its sales force.
New innovations included:
- VTAC 7 drives for the HVAC industry
- The new line of RPM XL DC motors
- Engineered motors with ratings to 25,000 HP.
1996, Reliance, American Superconductor and the U.
S. Department of Energy develop the Superconductivity Partnership
VPI tank (largest in the United States) at Houston Service
Center, allowing for high quality remanufacturing of larger
PC3000 introduced to provide tight integration of high-performance
controllers via personal computer-based control.
IQ Intelligent AC Motors, the worlds first motors with
on-line motor-related process diagnostics, win five major
industry technology awards.
500 Integrated Drive motor introduced.
Powerful new electronic marketing tools developed
Reliance Electric Website launched, June 1996
- Innovative Reliance WebCD makes the Reliance website portable
Five-in-One Launch introduced five new products simultaneously using electronic marketing tools
IN plant awarded Demand Flow Technology 1997 Plant of the
production transferred from Athens, Georgia, allowing for
expanded motors production at Athens plant and greater drives’
manufacturing efficiencies in Mequon, WI.
support to motor efficiency initiatives continued through
commitment to Motor Challenge partnership with the U.S.
Department of Energy.
KATO Engineering sold to Caterpillar, its largest customer
innovative way to communicate to customers and distributors
through WREL 100.1, live radio broadcast at EASA 98 Show.
Electric Motors joined DODGE Mechanical to form Rockwell
Automations Power Systems Business in Greenville, SC.