Winter is here, and when you see snowplows on the roads, the hydraulic air-ram cylinders that operate the blades may have come from Air Draulic Engineering in Randolph. The four-generation family business got its start with Polish immigrant Stefan Gulczynski, who invented the air ram in 1937, according to the company. In 1950, Air Draulic was started by Gulczynski and his son, Frank. The company is now also a leading maker and supplier of custom conveyor systems. We talked to company president Paul Gulczynski.
Q. Is the family influence still strong at the company?
A. My father, Frank, worked here every day until he was 89 and in fact died in the shop in January 2015, of a blood clot. My mother, Maureen, still works here at 82; she does the accounting and is in charge of basic office operations, and my daughter, Alicia, is the new business development and marketing manager.
Q. What exactly do you make?
A. I always ask people if they’ve seen the TV show, “How It’s Made.” If you have, that’s what we do. We make the conveyor systems that carry products in factories in the manufacturing process, cookies, candy, sausages, steaks, bacon, soda, water bottles, you name it. The frame or the chassis of what the conveyor belt runs on is what we make.
Q. Is it an international business?
A. The air ram is pretty much locally used and was developed by my grandfather in 1936, when he created a way to use compressed air to lift the plows. But the conveyor systems are national and international. We’re all over the world, in places like Mexico, China, Brazil, Poland, and Australia. Locally, we’ve worked with Yankee Candle and Kayem in Chelsea, which about five years ago came out with its Al Fresco line, putting 400 sausages a minute into packages using a system we developed. It was one of their largest expansions.
Q. How has the business changed?
A. Back in the 1960s, it was drafting boards and T-squares; now it’s all computerized. And metal that was cut by hand is now laser cut. We’ve also expanded into doing more custom metal fabrication. Today, it’s all about speed; what they did 15, 20 years ago filling 200 water bottles a minute is now 2,000 a minute. Every product presents its own challenge, and that’s what we like.