OTC celebrates 85 years of innovation by continuing to move forward

Jan. 1, 2020
Among all the booths on the AAPEX show floor this year, only a few feature companies that have been around for eight decades. This year, the OTC brand of SPX Corp. is celebrating its 85th anniversary by showcasing its new tools and products from OTC,

LAS VEGAS — Among all the booths on the AAPEX show floor this year, only a few feature companies that have been around for eight decades.

This year, the OTC brand of SPX Corp. is celebrating its 85th anniversary by showcasing its new tools and products from OTC, Actron, Robinair and Sunpro. The company has grown from a small machine shop, Owatonna Tool Company, to a global supplier of special tools and diagnostics.

“Kind of what makes our company unique is we’ve gone from making prybars to high end diagnostics for global companies,” says David Schaar, director of marketing for SPX Service Solutions.“Very few people in this hall can say they’ve been around 85 years as the same company.”

He says part of the reason the company has survived is because they are making their new tools faster, smaller and more affordable for DIYers and shops, all part of the innovation during the last 85 years.

One such innovation is the Auto Scanner Plus. At SPX’s booth at AAPEX, the scan tool was hooked up to a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Schaar explains that the tool looks up codes and gives the top statistically verified fixes for those codes. The fixes are from among 3 million options pulled from Identifix. He says there is no need to go online to look up the fixes; they most likely are included on the tool’s screen.

“For retailers this helps them sell the part, and it helps them sell the right part,” he says.

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Reuben A. Kaplan started OTC in the early 1920s. In his work, Kaplan saw a need for special-purpose tools to service the automobiles of the day. One of his first innovations was the “Grip-O-Matic” universal gear puller, for which he received his first patent. A few years later, Kaplan also invented special service tools for working on Model T planetary transmissions.

A number of OTC tools were used throughout World War II, according to the company. In 1950, when the OTC mechanical puller needed hydraulic power, Kaplan began his pioneering efforts in ultra-high-pressure fluid power technology, including a twin-cylinder ram that operated at 10,000 psi.

By 1985, OTC reports it had an extensive line of tools and systems for both OEM and aftermarket customers, and lead to its acquisition by Sealed Power Corporation (now SPX Corporation).

“Going forward, we are focused on developing tools that help vehicle technicians meet the demands of new and evolving technology, new government regulations and the changing vehicle service and repair landscape,” says Tanvir Arfi, president of SPX Service Solutions. “OTC is a major contributor to our success in these efforts now and in the future.”