How does a company survive and thrive through a century as dynamic and
unpredictable as the 20th? For Bard Manufacturing Co., the answer has been imagination, innovation, and a large dose of hard work. Thanks to those factors, Bard today stands as one of the few companies to have made the transition from local “tin shops” into the high-technology worldwide marketplace of the 21st century.
The Bard Manufacturing story began in 1914, in Bryan, OH, a Toledo suburb that remains Bard’s headquarters
to this day. In March of that year, Bryan Plumbing and Heating Company was incorporated. One of its founding investors was Dale R. Bard.
Dale Bard, a skilled metal worker and inventor, saw wonderful opportunities in 1914. Luxuries such as telephones and electricity could be found in homes all over Bryan and Williams County. Two other new conveniences really caught Bard’s eye: indoor plumbing and central heating. A coal or oil furnace in the basement, with ductwork to carry the heat throughout the house, meant the new plumbing wouldn’t freeze and burst like it might if the only heat was from the wood stove in the kitchen or the fireplace in the parlor. And unlike a fire, a furnace meant both a person’s front and back could be warm at the same time.
Dale Bard decided there was no time like the present to open a business that would meet the demand for such “luxuries.”
The Early Years
Bryan Plumbing and Heating Co. set about developing and installing coal furnaces, ductwork, boilers, and radiators, along with a host of other products including wheelbarrows, rain storage tanks for attics, steel smokestacks, and cleats to hold down composition roll roofing.
In the 1920s, Dale Bard recognized that many homeowners were converting to oil heating rather than coal. The company responded in 1931 with a line of efficient, low-maintenance oil furnaces. As the 1930s progressed, the Depression-fighting legislation contained in the New Deal created a growth in housing starts across the country. The heating fuel of choice in this new wave of homes was natural gas, and Bard introduced its gas furnace in 1935. By 1939, an estimated one-fourth of all the new homes in the boomtown of Detroit had Bard furnaces.
Evolution of a Manufacturer
The company continued to grow and evolve. In 1941, it discontinued its contracting business to concentrate on manufacturing. In 1944, the company officially changed its name to Bard Manufacturing Co.
By 1945, the company had survived the Great Depression, two World Wars, and a 1944 fire that destroyed its factory building. Its reward was the post-World War II housing boom of the 1950s, and a huge market for its furnaces.
In the 1960s, Bard’s Wall-Mount™ heat pump quickly became a best seller in the growing California and Florida markets. The company’ s present day Wall-Mount series of heat pumps and air conditioners may be what the company is best known for worldwide.
A Proud Heritage, a Bright Future
Today, Bard continues to grow, and now has three plants: Bryan; Madison, GA; and Saltillo, Mexico. In 1992, the company restructured to focus on niche markets. The primary focus turned to expanding the wall-mount product line to service the telecommunications, modular, school, and commercial markets. The residential line refocused on oil furnaces, ground source heat pumps, packaged units, and horizontal discharge air conditioning.
New products introduced since 1990 include indoor wall mount, energy recovery, and dehumidification units, and complex controls systems.
After 90 years, Bard has met the challenges of time and today stands as one of only a handful of companies that have survived the transformation of the industry from coal bins and shovels to heat pumps and solar cells. The company has accomplished this through a niche product focus, a family business commitment enhanced with talented, non-family leadership; a flexible, modularized manufacturing system; and a focus on engineered solutions for customers.
Congratulations to Bard Manufacturing Co. as it celebrates its 90th year!