When the Best Manufacturers Work, This Is Who They Work With

KM Industrial Machinery
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Since 1942, KM Industrial Machinery has been on the cutting edge of technology. As one of America’s foremost leaders in the machine tool industry, the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based distributor believes that, if you want to be the best, you must work with the best manufacturers in the market.

Forming partnerships with industry giants including JTEKT, Mitsubishi EDM, Roeders, Milltronics, Chevalier, and OPS-Ingersoll, Clausing Industrial, Takisawa, TITAN, and Roku-roku, KM represents many of the biggest names in 5 axis milling, high-speed milling, electrical discharge machining (EDM), turning, and grinding technology. Selecting only the best, KM chooses which lines to represent based not only on superior quality but support and service.

“We’ve had suppliers in the past that did not have good support and service, and they’re no longer in our stable,” says Larry Byers, who has served as company President since 1988, with his brother, Vice President Pat Byers, beside him. “So we try very hard to find quality companies that take care of our customers like we take care of them. You don’t stay in business for 81 years by not taking care of your customers.”

The three pillars of KM Industrial Machinery are quality, support, and service. By working only with the finest machinery manufacturers, KM ensures quality products and servicing. Many of the brands, such as Chevalier and Milltronics, have been a part of KM for about 40 years while others like Clausing Industrial have been with the company since the 1940s. One of KM’s largest lines remains renowned Japanese multinational Mitsubishi.

Like many of the manufacturers whose products are sold through KM, the company has a long and respected history. Founded during World War II, it was purchased by Larry’s father, Walter R. Byers, in 1972, and has been in the family ever since. Larry’s kids are part of the team: Daniel as Manufacturing/Sales Engineer and daughter Renee in Accounting/Inside Sales.

Throughout the years, KM Industrial Machinery has enjoyed the good times and survived the bad, from wars to recessions to pandemics. One of the key factors in KM’s longevity is consistency in the marketplace. “We represent some excellent products, better than we’ve ever had,” says Byers.

Like other businesses, KM Industrial Machinery faced challenges during the time of pandemic-related protocols and dysfunctional supply chains. The company is based in Kalamazoo—also home to some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical, medical device, aerospace, and defense manufacturers—and received letters from several key customers who asserted that they could not sustain their own essential production without KM’s services.

“We were declared essential by our customers,” says Byers. “We are a machine tool sales company, and everything starts with the machine tool. Every mold, die, aerospace component, and medical implant starts with the machine tool, so, absolutely, our industry is essential,” he says. “Not to mention our service staff that has to maintain thousands of machine tools in the field, being in the business as long as we’ve been. And those thousands of machine tools are still in operation and need to be maintained, serviced, and supported. So we consider that essential.”

In addition, KM is known not only for selling industrial machinery but also for providing consumables vital to keeping EDM, turning, grinding, and milling machines running, including EDM consumables such as brass, coated, taper, and stratified wires, EDM dielectric oils, EDM drills, tubes, graphite, and much more. Recognizing the importance of its many customers to the economy and refusing to be caught off-guard, Byers and his team decided to stock up on critical components and consumables in the early days of the pandemic. Once COVID was declared a pandemic in March 2020, supply chains worldwide became strained.

Fortunately, by the time these issues became critical, the company’s warehouse was bulging with consumable products and machine components. Although a significant investment, it was one KM had to make, and fast. “Our goal was, and is, keeping our customers running,” says Byers. “Our customers include defense and military—there are wars going on in the world—and they need critical components to keep their production going,” he emphasizes.

“Consumables keep us active with our customers as well. It’s a service to our customers, to keep them running. During COVID, that was our purposeful intention: to keep supplies ready and available for them. It was expensive, but it was well worth it. If enough people shut down, the whole economy would have locked up.”

In business for 81 years, KM Industrial Machinery realizes the importance of keeping up with the latest products and technology. All its suppliers have ongoing training, which KM attends along with various trade shows at home and abroad. The biggest is EMO, a European manufacturing industry trade show. EMO dates back to 1950 and is held every odd-numbered year. Keeping up with industry changes is critical, and education at KM never stops.

“It’s part of the day-to-day business we’re in,” says Byers, “and that’s what’s exciting about it. We get to see different processes, how products are made, and access a lot of technology.”

Over the years, KM has certainly witnessed many changes to the industry, including automation. “Automation is huge for us; we’re constantly reinventing ourselves,” says Byers. “Although artificial intelligence (AI) hasn’t yet affected KM directly, the industry is constantly evolving and the company often works with customers who are embracing robotics.

In the meantime, KM never forgets that it’s the basics that build relationships—like providing an invitingly spacious showroom and meticulously ensuring that vital consumables are always stocked up.

As for the future, Byers says KM will continue to grow and will keep servicing its customers the way it has for over 80 years: with respect and professionalism. And with no interest in retiring any time soon, Byers vows that KM will continue to be family-owned and operated, and for one of the best reasons there is: “We’re having fun, and we’re going to continue having fun.”



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