World War II was a time of great change for the aerospace industry, initiating expansion and invention. Returning from World War II to his welding job at Curtiss Wright in the mid 1940s, Earl Walker rose to head of tooling at the successor company, McDonnell Aircraft Co. In this role, he found his department making small quantities of the same items on a repetitive basis, often halting important production in the process. Along with his wife Myrtle, and two McDonnell coworkers, he conceived the idea of starting a company to produce these items in quantity, selling them as needed, saving the aerospace company valuable production time. After acquiring some primitive equipment, they formed SNW Welding in the Walkers’ garage. They relocated to larger quarters after a fire forced their exit.
In its early stages, the aerospace industry was a small, tight knit community, and deals were made with a handshake, one person to another. As aerospace grew, Carr Lane grew with it, creating a customer base at Lockheed Martin and others. As outsourcing became more prevalent, and subcontractors more numerous, local distributors became more important, able to make connections and keep tabs of industry changes. In 1952, Earl Walker took Carr Lane’s catalog, six pages handwritten by his wife Myrtle, to Los Angeles where he signed the company’s first distributor.
Other distributors, and later regional sales managers, were soon added across the country. Automotive and other industries soon realized the benefits of using standard parts, and Carr Lane distributors were there to serve their needs.
At the dawn of the space age – “a man on the moon in this decade” – 1960s, Carr Lane was there to provide tooling products to the new industry. The needs of the aerospace industry changed over the decades, most recently driven by budget cuts and high competition from overseas. Carr Lane's product line continued to grow to meet new industry needs, primarily with a variety of fixturing products, including toggle clamps, hoist rings, and pins. Through the years the company catalog expanded to nearly 700 pages and into electronic formats. Any visitor to CarrLane.com can now download 3D CAD models of thousands of Carr Lane products. The company’s focused approach of making products that answer the needs of today’s aerospace, delivered quickly and supported by a knowledgeable sales and distribution network, spread the message of the benefits of high quality, high availability products made in the USA.
In 2012, Carr Lane celebrated 60 years of service. With the next generation of leadership, Carr Lane is making products directed to the new requirements of the aerospace industry, whether it is holding carbon fiber for airframes, or clamping jet engine components for machining. Carr Lane continues to offer solutions, such as the most recent Carr LockTM system, designed for rapid changeover in CNC machining centers. Many recently introduced Carr Lane products focused on labor savings, safety, or high precision.
Aerospace has consistently been at the forefront of the development of new techniques, technologies and approaches, and Carr Lane will be in the market with workholding products to address the new needs resulting from such an evolving industry.
By Alan K. Frost, President, Carr Lane Mfg. Co.