The EnerSys Cleveland Charger Plant, formerly known as the Hertner Electric Company, recently celebrated 100 years of manufacturing battery chargers, motors and related products. For the past 80 years the operation has been located in the same plant on Elmwood Avenue in Cleveland.
At a recent open house celebrating the centennial, John Craig, chairman, president and CEO of Reading, Pa.-based EnerSys, praised the plant. “This plant produces high-quality products and is cost-effective,” said Craig. “This operation has built great battery chargers over the years,” he continued, “they’ve been able to take care of our customers.”
Founded by John H. Hertner in 1906 as the Hertner Electric Company, the company began by manufacturing rotating equipment such as motors, AC and DC generators and motor-generator sets for specialized applications. Among its early products were drive motors for electric powered automobiles and trucks, as well as the battery charging equipment necessary for this service.
Before the Second World War, the company served the motion picture industry and produced DC generators for carbon arc projection lamps, which took the flickering out of the early silent movies. This business was sold in 1941. During the War, Hertner was a prime contractor for the Navy for AC and DC generators used aboard ships and in underwater sound equipment.
Hertner’s four main product lines were battery charging motor generators and controls to recharge batteries used in electric trucks for materials handling as well as batteries used in mine locomotives and telephone stations; DC motors for trucks and mine locomotives; magnet generators for cranes; and 400-cycle motor generators for testing military components and ground support of missiles and rockets.
The period following World War II saw the establishment of a Small Motors division and the opening of several more plants in Ohio. A number of new products such as static rectifiers, special motors and high frequency motor-generators for carrier frequency systems were introduced. During this time the company was bought and sold several times to businesses whose primary focus was not battery related.
Since 1971, Hertner has been owned by battery manufacturing companies such as General Battery Corp., Northwest Industries, Exide Corp., and Yuasa Battery Ltd. In 2000, the company was purchased by EnerSys, a public company with 22 manufacturing operations worldwide.
While the technology has advanced, the business still relies on demand for heavy, lead-acid-type batteries used to power forklift trucks, mining machinery and other equipment. Today, the Cleveland operation employs 143 people and continues to maintain a design and engineering development staff.