A Family Repair Affair

Tony Virgilio, winder, rewinding an armature

EMR keeps the Mid Atlantic’s motors running.

Family-owned and -operated companies are big business in the U.S. It has been estimated that by 2017, 40% of family business owners expect to retire, creating a significant transition of ownership in the U.S., according to the Mass Mutual American Family Business Survey.[1] Electric Motor Repair Co. (EMR) impacts more than 4,000 businesses in the Mid-Atlantic region, including leading grocery-store and fast-food chains, hospitals and educational institutions. Between its commercial and industrial customers, EMR completed approximately 41,000 jobs last year. It delivers service, repair, installation and sales to the elevator, commercial kitchen, refrigeration, industrial motor and marine industries.

The company that made a strategic shift in its business model two decades ago — from a focus on servicing small household appliances to commercial kitchen equipment and industrial motor repairs — will be making another strategic shift next year. Current president and second-generation owner Roger Kauffman is passing the proverbial baton to his daughter, Caroline Kauffman-Kirschnick. Caroline will be the company’s first female president in its 85-year history.

Even though nearly 70% of family businesses would like to pass their business on to the next generation, only 30% will be successful at transitioning to the next generation.[2] The family is proud of its heritage in running a third-generation business based in Baltimore that employs nearly 200 people across the Mid Atlantic in Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Pennsylvania; New Jersey; and Delaware. EMR and its executives have been recognized by Baltimore-area media for strong leadership and technical knowhow, including appearing on the Washington Business Journal’s Top Mechanical Contractors List, The Daily Record’s 2016 VIP List (with Kauffman-Kirschnick earning the Successful by 40 Award). Kauffman-Kirschnick, now 38 years old, also won The Baltimore Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award.

Humble Beginnings

Roger Kauffman’s father, Harry Kauffman, first joined EMR in 1946. His son was introduced to EMR when a freshman in junior high school. Roger began his career at the company in 1964 when he was hired to fix household appliances, including electric razors and window fans. When Harry retired in 1985, Roger, then 37 years old, began his 32-year leadership of the company.

Though it was never an expectation that the Kauffman children join the family business, four out of five of them are currently involved in it. These include Sarah Kauffman, billing clerk (age 20), Colin Kauffman, technician (age 25), Jake Kauffman, sales (age 35) and Caroline Kauffman-Kirschnick, general manager.

 Elevator Work

EMR’s industrial division offers comprehensive repair services for elevators’ electric motors, pumps, gearboxes and associated equipment, as well as electronic and electrical controls. With a full-service machine shop, EMR is capable of in-shop and in-field machine work and dynamic balancing. Elevator-motor rewinding and repair services are performed for elevator manufacturers and repair companies, and the services the division offers are continuously being expanded to meet the changing needs of the industry.

In addition to making mechanical, rewinding and machine-shop repairs to AC and DC equipment, EMR maintains a large inventory of used hoist motors, motor-generator sets and hydraulic-pump motors. Its onsite services include gearless armature rewinding, commutator machining, sheave regrooving, shaft repairs, alignment and electrical testing.

A recent shift in the maintenance and service of electronic elevator drives saw several customers removing DC motors and replacing them with AC motors. This saved them money, as AC motors have fewer windings and are more efficient. Additionally, EMR has seen an uptick in the number of elevator motors that need rewinding, likely due to the age of the elevator motors currently in operation. For motors that have faulty shafts or windings, the repair must be completed onsite. While these are often the most difficult projects, EMR states they are also the most rewarding for its technicians, who, the company says, “receive extensive training and support from the company on these jobs.”

 Kauffman-Kirschnick sees growth in the company’s industrial business as EMR continues to invest resources in expanding its footprint throughout the East Coast. As more industrial motors continue to age, EMR plans to have trained and knowledgeable technicians at the ready to service the often-complicated machines.

[1] MassMutual Financial Group, Kennesaw State University & Family Firm Institute. “American Family Business Survey” (www.massmutual.com/mmfg/pdf/afbs.pdf) (2007).
[2] PeakFamilyBusiness.com. “For Your Business Health and Family Wealth” (peakfamilybusi-ness.com) (accessed January 17, 201
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