THE YEAR WAS 1988.
George H.W. Bush won the Whitehouse. Spiked hair, valley girl accents, and hair band ballads were in; breakdancing, out. Then NeoBrake flashed onto the scene, and semi-tractors and trailers everywhere were mesmerized by the show these new brakes put on.
It was their generation’s Elvis.
Every now and then someone special comes along and captures the hearts and minds of those they meet. Those are the kinds of people Rick Ballew met early in his life and career that inspired him to launch NeoBrake.
Brakes aren’t sexy. But quality brakes are.
It was a journey Rick began straight out of high school. His first job was as production worker remanufacturing air brakes in the transportation industry. Within a week, he became shop foreman and soon after branch manager.
This is the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit that drives NeoBrake today.
During a time when large public corporations began buying out independent friction manufacturers, NeoBrake doubled-down. It was never about lining the pockets of stockholders, it was—and is—about lining brake shoes with the highest quality, best performing friction material available. Rick started in the business when asbestos fiber was used, and he’s been formulating friction material to perform as the next best thing ever since.
But the story only begins with Rick.
NeoBrake not only is a family business, it is a family—in the truest sense. The way friction material can bond together—and perform better than expected—that’s how it is. In fact, most employees have been with the company for between fifteen and twenty-five years. That’s how committed we are to reman brakes.
That’s why NeoBrake blocks perform better, last longer up and down the heavy-duty application scale than “so-called” name brand products—all for a more affordable initial investment, with lower maintenance costs as well over their service life.
The Road to better brakes.
1979 – Rick Ballew joins United Brake Systems, Inc. as a production worker in Indianapolis remanufacturing air brakes for the transportation industry.
1980 – Rick Ballew transfers to Milwaukee and establishes reman center from the ground up, followed by facilities in Grand Rapids, St. Paul and Fargo.
1982 – Asbestos fiber discontinued in friction material and the quest for high-performance, non-asbestos brake formulations begins.
1986 – Midland-Grau purchases United Brake Systems; the era of large public corporations buying out private companies begins, including the mergers and acquisitions of the independently owned friction manufacturers.
1986 – Rick Ballew joins startup reman shop Friction House two months later.
1988 – Midland-Grau buys out Friction House after losing more than fifty percent of their business to them.
1988 – Rick Ballew launches NeoBrake Systems, Inc. on October 1.
1990 – NeoBrake partners with Huntington, Indiana-based FMC to develop and establish NeoBrake’s proprietary asbestos-free friction formulations.
1997 – Rick Ballew travels to Asbest, Russia in hopes of further developing his non-asbestos formulations and meets with Uraliti Friction Manufacturing Company, as independent friction makers in U.S. are down to four, with only a fraction of the manufacturing capabilities.
1998 – FMC struggles with the onslaught of new Chinese complete clutches entering U.S. market; a plant fire ultimately leads to its closing. NeoBrake begins working with the formulators at BrakePro, but the partnership is short-lived due to BrakePro closing months later.
1998 – Rick Ballew travels to Chennai, India and develops relationship with Sundaram Friction, Ltd.—the only manufacturer of friction in the world to receive the Japanese Deming Award. Rick finds a friction partner that shares his passion and persistence to improve upon NeoBrake’s proprietary formulations for the heavy-duty market.
1999 – NeoBrake moves into a new 40,000 sq. ft. manufacturing facility.
2006 – NeoBrake establishes formal CIP program to bolster its commitment to product quality, performance and enhanced roadway.
2008 – NeoBrake implements Kan Ban inventory management system, boosting manufacturing and shipping efficiencies.
2010 – NeoBrake invests $2.5 million in manufacturing and automation equipment.
2012 – NeoBrake purchases a 20,000 sq. ft. warehousing facility.
2014 – NeoBrake launches premium line of wheel-end components marketed under the Matrix™ brand name.
2015 – NeoBrake rolls out Matrix Revolution™ – a stunning high-performance, machine-balanced brake drum.
2016 – NeoBrake debuts premium line of semi-metallic Air Disc Brake pads.
2017 – NeoBrake unveils Matrix NeoCast™ – the world’s first lightweight cast iron 4707Q brake shoe.