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Walker Magnetics: A Small Manufacturer with Deep Roots



Back in 1896, a Massachusetts resident named Oakley Walker invented what is known as the electromagnetic chuck, a device that produces a variable magnetic pull that can be used to lift and hold ferrous metals. In a story that demonstrates the longevity of so many manufacturers in America, the company he founded, Walker Magnetics, is still doing business, and is still based in Massachusetts.

But it is doubtful that Oakley Walker would recognize his enterprise, which now has customers in 190 countries. Walker Magnetics is the largest company in the world that designs and manufactures magnetic products for workholding, lifting, material handling, and separation applications. It has about 200 employees.

Through the years, new applications have been developed. In the area of energy, Walker provides the magnet systems that move the steel that goes into the columns of large turbines for wind energy. They supply the magnetics used by street-sweeper trucks to clear ferrous metals out the way. The company also provides electromagnetics for the drums used at municipal solid waste plants, auto shredding, and mining operations.

As companies strive to be as efficient as possible, one of the processes they try to optimize is material handling. Here again, Walker’s magnets can be used to lift or hold coils, billets and rails, plates, and bundles. The company’s employees also make LiftMaster magnets, which can lift large volumes of metal scrap out of confined places, and even detect radiation in scrap materials.

In 2013, the privately held company was purchased by Alliance Holdings in Abingdon, Pennsylvania, which has brought modern financial strength to the manufacturing expertise and institutional knowledge at this venerable American industrial company.