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Trans-Atlantic deal re-unites flexible twins

24 March, 2009

Two former divisions of a company that specialises in flexible shafts – one based in the US, the other in the UK – have been re-united more than 20 years after separate management buyouts split them apart. The US operation, SS White Technologies, has bought the Milton Keynes business SS White Industrial, which has been renamed SS White Technologies UK and will continue to manufacture separately to service the UK market.

The businesses trace their origins back to 1844 when a US dentist, Dr Samuel Stockton White, set up a tooth factory in his attic. The business developed into the world’s largest dental manufacturing company which, in 1874, introduced a high-speed flexible shaft for dental engines. A few years later, these shafts started to find uses in industry.

In the 1920s, SS White set up an operation in north London, principally to supply speedometer cables to Ford. By 1961, the company was also serving industrial, defence and aerospace users, and expanded into a new factory in Bletchley. At its height, it employed more than 170 people.

Back in the US, SS White was taken over in 1968 by the Pennsalt Corporation (later to become Pennwalt), which split the dental and industrial operations. In 1987, the management teams of the industrial divisions on both sides of the Atlantic bought their businesses, which continued to operate independently until this year’s acquisition of the UK company by its US namesake.

For the UK operation, now down to 15 people, the deal gives access to the expertise and facilities in the US, including proprietary software for designing flexible shafts. General manager Steve Grimes sees the deal as being a springboard to further growth. He says that the US parent is committed to investing in the UK operation to improve its resources and service.

SS White’s variable-geometry, flexible rotary shafts (shown above) can accommodate misalignments and changes of direction, and offer a simple, cost-effective alternative to gears, belts and chains in certain applications.

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