As a young man working for the J. C. Penney department store in the late 1940’s, Richard Klein was determined to become a store manager. His Dad always told him to get a good job with a good Co. and work hard. Everything else would take care of itself. Klein was on his way, he had made manager trainee, the boss liked him, and he was on the fast track to job and financial security. However, his progress was soon temporarily interrupted as he joined the National Guard to fight in the Korean War.
Klein joined the National Guard in 1949. During his tour of duty he became a welder. In addition to his job as the battalion welder he also maintained the truck, equipment and machinery fleet in his battalion. Klein finished his tour in 1952 and returned to J.C. Penney as a Manager Trainee.
Klein soon grew tired of his jobs indoor confinement. He wanted to pursue his interests in trucks, machinery, fabrication and fixing things. Klein quit his job and pursued other opportunities. He started his own trucking business but unfortunately the trucking business proved to be unsuccessful. At the request of his former manager he returned to J. C. Penney. After a short time he quit again and went to work as a welder and mechanic for a truck repair Co. In 1957 in Azusa, California Klein started Klein Welding, a truck and equipment repair shop. This Co. would eventually become Klein Products, Inc. Due to his love of machinery and equipment; Klein pursued business opportunities with the local contractors who used trucks and heavy equipment. He soon made a name for himself as a reliable and talented truck mechanic and expert welder.
In 1958, one of the local dirt moving contractors who used Klein regularly for misc. repairs and welding jobs came calling with a special project. He wanted a large capacity water distributor to use on his large dirt excavating jobs. He wanted to use his LaTourneu C tractor scraper as the prime mover power unit and convert the scraper bowl to a tanker. Klein originally did not want to attempt the job but with encouragement from the contractor Klein successfully completed his first tractor scraper conversion tanker. Word spread about the new economical way to get large capacity water distributors on the job and soon Klein had orders to build tankers for just about every large job contractor in the area.
As a result of the increase in business Klein outgrew his facility in Azusa and in 1960 moved the operation to a larger facility in Baldwin Park, CA. In Baldwin Park Klein continued to develop and perfect his tractor scraper conversion tanker product line. This tank manufacturing experience also led to other opportunities. Klein soon began competing for and winning contracts for water truck tanks and related equipment for municipalities and other contractors.
The new larger capacity tractor scraper conversion tankers proved to be very productive on the job. The cycle times of the water equipment was greatly increased. However, the larger capacity tankers had their own unique problem. They took too long to refill using the typical method of water recovery. Much of the increased productivity was lost because the fire hydrant or auxiliary water pump that was used to refill water equipment recovered the tankers at a slow rate. So came the next step in the evolution of Klein Products:
The invention of the Porto-Tower™.
Invented in 1962, the Klein Porto-Tower® revolutionized dirt contracting.
The Porto-Tower® immediately became a pre-requisite on every dirt-moving job and made Klein Products, Inc. a major, national construction equipment manufacturing Company. The Porto-Tower® is a large capacity, self-contained, portable, highway legal water tower with a large diameter downspout capable of recovering a water-distributing vehicle at a rate of 5000 gallons per minute. That’s at least 10 times faster than a fire hydrant. Easy to use and easy to transport the Porto-Tower® became a standard item on every dirt job large or small. The Klein Porto-Tower® today, dramatically improved from that original design, is still a standard item on every job. Today, over 30 years after it’s introduction, the Porto-Tower® is still the superior product in its class. The Porto-Tower® continues to set the standards that others copy and imitate.
By 1964 Klein was designing, building and selling water equipment and many other specialized types of liquid distributing and hauling equipment to equipment dealers, contractors, mining companies and municipalities all over the Country. Business continued to grow. Klein out grew its Baldwin Park facility and another move was necessary. Klein bought 5 acres in Ontario, California and built a new manufacturing facility. In 1965 a new “state-of-the-art” Klein manufacturing plant was opened.
In the mid to late 1960’s America was building new roads, bridges, dams and infrastructure at a frantic pace. Klein tanks and tankers were being built and used abundantly. To better serve its growing list of customers in the eastern part of the United States, Klein searched for a suitable location for a second manufacturing and service facility. Texas came calling. In 1969, Klein Products of Texas opened its doors for business. From its Jacksonville, Texas location Klein Products of Texas provided the same quality products and service to the Eastern region customers with improved speed and economy.
In the 1970’s Klein Products continued to grow. During these years the Company truly made a name for itself as the Premier manufacturing Company in its class. In addition to expanding and improving their standard product line, new opportunities were seeked out and challenged. Relationships were forged with major equipment manufacturers such as
Caterpillar, Deere, Terex, Wabco and others.
These alliances helped develop Klein’s domestic and international business. With the Texas factory’s close proximity to the Port of Houston, exports to Central America, South America and the Caribbean Islands were convenient as well as economical. Special, sophisticated projects with Caterpillar included the design and development of the largest airport crash vehicle in the World and the design and development of water tankers installed on Caterpillar 613 tractors to be dropped out of Military aircraft into war zones for the U.S. Federal Government. Special projects with Terex and Wabco included new, large capacity water distributing vehicles developed for the emerging mining industry in the U.S. and abroad. In the 1960’s Klein Products made the decision to design and manufacture its very own line of water pumps and valves. This decision was made primarily because there were no commercially available water pumps or water control valves that were really designed to operate with our type of equipment or in our customers severe operating conditions. In the 1970’s Klein continued the design and development of Klein branded Water pumps and valves. Designed specifically for the severe, off highway construction and mining conditions facing our customers’ everyday. Today, these water pumps and valves enjoy a worldwide reputation for high quality and durability. Many of the features built into these water pumps and valves have become the standard in the industry.
In the 1980’s Klein Products continued to innovate and improve. The Ontario facility and the Texas facility would run at full capacity until the U.S. economy slowed down. Due to the slowdown in business Klein was forced to conserve. The Texas operation ceased operations and all business was consolidated to the California operation. By the end of the 1980’s worsening economic conditions combined with a terrible business climate in the State of California, forced Klein to take drastic measures to perpetuate the business. By now, the State of California did not want anything to do with heavy industry manufacturing. We found that we could not raise our prices high enough to cover the additional overhead of being in business in California and successfully compete in our markets. All of our competitors operated outside the State of California. We either had to move operations or quit business altogether. An opportunity presented itself in the Sate of Kansas that was hard to resist. In 1989 the decision was made to downsize the operation in California, and open a manufacturing plant in Kansas.
In 1990 the Plant in Kansas was opened and the downsizing of the California operation had taken place. Soon after the move, ownership of the Kansas facility was turned over to one of Mr. Klein’s sons. Agreements of distribution did not work out. In 1994 the two companies had a complete separation and went their own ways.
In 1994 Klein expanded again. A new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility was developed in Jacksonville Texas. Built on a 30-acre parcel of land this new facility was equipped to design and manufacture in house the entire Klein product line. The new Texas facility location lends itself well for United States distribution as well as Exports. The 1990’s proved very productive for Klein. Many new customers from all around the world were accommodated. Almost the entire product line was improved, updated and modernized. New products were introduced to the markets we serve. Klein continued to innovate and provide leadership to the entire Industry.
In this new millennium Klein has already begun more expansion. The Ontario, California facility just finished building a brand new parts warehouse and service shop. A 3-acre parcel of land has also been recently purchased in Ontario to accommodate planned growth in the near future.
Klein Products, Inc. is now a 45-year-old Company. Clearly the worldwide leader in the Industries it serves, Klein has proven itself over the years as the most successful Company of its kind it the World. As for the future, there are no plans to slow down. Our plans are to continue to innovate, improve and always provide the absolute best value to the markets we serve and to provide superior customer service.
NIEMCO has recently welcomed Klein Products of Kansas to its family of companies. Klein Products of Kansas will now identify as Klein-Niece.