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KEB History – Celebrating 50 Years!

Jake Wattenphul | May 12th, 2022


In this article, we take a journey through 50 years of KEB history. It’s a story of innovation, global expansion, and active listening to what our customers need in order to deliver the best possible solution. So many things have changed between 1972 and 2022, so for fun, let’s look at a few interesting events that occurred in 1972, the year KEB was founded:


1972 Fun Facts

  • 1972 became the longest year in recorded history when a leap second was added to a leap year.
  • Originally called the Appalachian Educational Satellite Project (AESP), TLC, “The Learning Channel” was founded by the Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA.
  • Eugene Cernan was the last person on the moon during the Apollo 17 landing.
  • Cost of an ad in the 1972 Football Championship Game was “only” $86,000. The cost of a 30-second ad in 2022 was $6,500,000.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 1,000 for the first time. (now 34,900).
  • Pong is introduced on Atari, the first video game with wide commercial success.


KEB automation logo timeline throughout history
The logo evolution from 1972 to current.


KEB’s Early History – Germany in 1972

Karl E. Brinkman is the central figure who founded KEB in a small shop in Barntrup, Germany. He began with a spring-set brake design and continued innovating with a product that combined a brake and clutch in a single unit. It was called the COMBIBOX. It became a hit with machine builders. But brakes and clutches were only the beginning.


The COMBIBOX brake/clutch product designed by the Karl E. Brinkman GmbH company in Barntrup, Germany.


The video below gives you a taste of KEB’s history through the eyes of long-time employee Leo Honetschlager. He takes us through the company’s milestones, while sharing his personal history from being hired as a draftsman in 1990 to today.



KEB History in North America

Demand for KEB products propelled the company to grow in size and product offerings. KEB expanded on the clutch and brake product line, developing new solutions for machine builders in the industrial automation sector. With a drive to expand its global footprint, KEB added new locations in strategic regions around the world.


The Beginning

In the North American market, KEB began a joint venture with a company called Tol-o-matic on February 28, 1979. A few years later, the decision was made to break away from Tol-o-matic and move into a small facility in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, under the name KEBCO.


Image of KEBCO's warehouse facility in St. Louis Park, MN included in an album from 1987
KEB America’s (KEBCO’s) first dedicated facility for stocking, customizing, and selling KEB products for industrial applications was in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. (the image above is found inside an album from 1987). 


Since then, KEB brought many advancements to automation and control in North America. Here are some of the milestones that we hit on our journey from Tol-o-matic/KEB Inc. to KEBCO Inc., and finally KEB America, Inc.


Eden Prairie Facility

KEB continued to expand into related automation products such as AC motor drives (Variable Frequency Drives). This required more space. KEBCO (KEB America) moved to a facility in Eden Prairie, MN.


The KEBCO (KEB America) location in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.


Mendota Heights Facility

As product expanded and demand for KEB products continued to grow, KEBCO moved to Mendota Heights, MN. It was here that local production, and custom manufacturing and engineering matured. New methods for designing or machining products came from a desire to maximize efficiency and get our customers the automation components they needed.


KEBCO (KEB America) in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.


Shakopee Facility Present and Future

In 2004, work began on a purpose-built facility that would serve both the present needs and allow for future growth and expansion. This move to Shakopee, MN also prompted a name change to KEB America Inc. In 2019, the second phase of growth doubled the size of the facility to a total of 150,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing, engineering, R&D, and office space.

The Machining department from 2005 – 2023


 See the before and after of our Lunchroom from 2004 – 2023


 This is the before and after of a portion of our production area 2004 – 2023


The before and after of another section of our production area 2004 – 2023


From an open field to a 150,000 sq. ft. facility 2004 – 2023

Drone Picture of KEB America Manufacturing Plant
KEB America’s 150,000 sq. ft. manufacturing and engineering facility in Minnesota serves the North American market with world-class automation products.


This 50-year milestone is one that we don’t take for granted. We want to thank our employees, our management, customers, and partners who have worked with us over the years, both at home and abroad. We look forward to many more years of success in North America and around the world.


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