How Gerding Enterprises Gives Back to its Community

One may not think about a “mom and pop shop” when hearing about a manufacturing company that has made parts for every NASA space program since Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle program—or that built the 8,000-pound lottery machine for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, but that does describe Gerding Enterprises. One of the few family-owned aerospace shops in the Midwest, Gerding Enterprises provides parts of exceptional quality to their customers, and they know all about how difficult that can be.

Plant Manager, Alex Lucas, shares, “We deal with tight tolerances, all the way down to +/-0.002. We will machine any kind of metal. We will do a heat-treated stainless. We have done tool steel up to 65 Rockwell. Any aluminum, we can machine. We’ve even done wood!”

Respected in the industry for more than 60 years, Gerding Enterprises is known for more than high-quality parts manufacturing. Every year, the company holds a fundraiser for the BackStoppers, a non-profit organization in Missouri that provides ongoing financial support to spouses and children of First Responders who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

“Every year from 1960, Gerding Enterprises would have an annual company picnic. It started out with 10-20 people, with us always doing the BBQing,” shares Owner Chuck Gerding.

The charity barbecue has now grown to more than 300 people annually. After 9/11, like many Americans, Chuck wanted to do something but was too old to join the military. He came up with the idea of having a custom BBQ trailer made and dedicated it to the military and first responders.

“After a couple of years BBQing for the picnic, it still was not enough, so we looked at different organizations and found BackStoppers. They give to the families of catastrophically injured and fallen in the line of duty First Responders. I truly wish this organization were nationwide. We have had four annual events and have raised $80,000.”

In 2019, Gerding decided to ramp up the event by honoring the St. Louis Blues’ first-ever Stanley Cup win. He chose to make and raffle off a Stanley Cup Blues tribute trophy.

“We had to be quick, because the Blues’ season ended in the middle of June, and the BackStoppers event was in September. I came up with the design and engineered it, and it really turned out nice.”

The quick turnaround was made possible with the help of Mastercam Reseller QTE Manufacturing Solutions. “We did use Mastercam for everything on this,” said Lucas. “Chuck came up with the design, I drew it up and brought it to life on Mastercam using Solids and Surfaces. Mark Clark from QTE provided the model for the arch.”

Chuck describes the benefits of using Mastercam:

“It would have taken much longer to get it done without Mastercam; we find it to be the most efficient CAD/CAM that we’ve used. The toolpaths from 5-axis all the way down to the 2D stuff—everything is used on a daily basis. Say a complex part has holes going in different vectors on a round part. We used to do that the old way of indexing head and then rotating mainly with the holes in. With the software, we’re able to put all that in one set-up without moving the part and while being as accurate as possible to make quality parts.”

High-speed machining with Dynamic Motion has been a major force in turning Gerding Enterprises into an internationally recognized name, and in machining the Blues tribute trophy. Dynamic Motion monitors the parent material constantly during machining and uses proprietary algorithms to eliminate air-cuts and anticipate material changes. Machines can be run at their maximum rates without sacrificing precision.

“That opened things up for us—the rate of how fast you can remove material. The Dynamic OptiRough toolpaths sped things up astronomically, extending tool life, and speeding up our run times,” said Lucas. He can run his machines at 12,000 RPM and close to 500 inches a minute, depending on the material.

The finished trophy debuted at the September barbecue and was an enormous hit. “There was a huge response,” said Chuck. Three different TV stations covered the event, and many more news sources have written about it as well.

The model trophy raised more than $10,000 for the BackStoppers, with tickets priced at $20 each. Chuck thinks that they could have raised even more if they had let the raffle run longer.

“The trophy is built the way Gerding builds aircraft parts—it’s Gerding-built; it’s Gerding-tough. If you take care of this, it will literally last you generations, not just a couple of years or a couple of decades,” said Lucas. “We actually built two of these trophies—one for the raffle and one for us, but it went over so well we are going to raffle the second one. There will always only be two of these for the public, so hopefully, we will sell all 1,000 tickets this year. This is truly a unique trophy, and we are very proud of it.”