Established near the end of World War I in 1918, Koike Seisakusho and Koike Sanso Shokai — one root of Koike Aronson / Ransome, Inc. — was founded by Mr. Seiichi Koike. Koike truly began to grow its operations near the end of World War II. Well-known today for its precision cutting and welding capabilities, oxygen (as in the air we breathe in) was the cornerstone to much of its initial success.
“Koike Sanso Kogyo was originally founded in Tokyo, Japan as a manufacturer and repairer of welding and cutting equipment and industrial gas supplier,” shares Ronald Krasnek, export sales and marketing manager, with the company. “And according to our CEO, his great grandfather who founded the company, would cart these oxygen cylinders where required all by himself.”
By 1947, the company expanded and also established its first oxygen manufacturing gas plant in Tokyo, Japan. But even before then, Koike Seisakusho changed its name and was incorporated as Koike Sanso Kogyo Co.
“Sanso means oxygen in Japanese, so this technically stood for ‘Koike: the oxygen company,’” Krasnek explains. “Back then, oxygen was commonly used for cutting steel. Basically, a mix of oxygen and fuel gas would be used to create a preheat and oxygen would cut the metal…somewhat similar to how a hand torch works.”
The majority of Koike’s customers that currently use its products include steel service centers, heavy equipment manufacturers, general fabrication shops, and other types of steel products manufacturers. Additionally, several other customers still use the oxygen cylinders, such as in the medical or food and beverage sectors.
Throughout the ’50s, Koike Sanso Kogyo continued to innovate. It began production of one of the first portable, automated gas-cutting machines: the IK-12. This model became a best-seller soon after its release and still a top, go-to portable machine that can be used with one or two oxy-fuel torches.
Koike also manufactured Japan’s first electrical discharge machine, a metal-fabrication process that uses sparks or electrical discharges. For this, it was awarded the first Okochi Commemorative Award, which acknowledges achievements in R&D.
Over the next few decades, the company grew on a global scale. it would establish Koike America in Illinois, as a marketing and after-sales service base. Then, Koike Europe opened in the Netherlands and, eventually, Koike Korea Engineering started in South Korea. Eventually, it would also have locations in Germany, India, and Brazil.
Koike also made some acquisitions over time. In the mid-80s, it acquired Aronson Machine Company, a welding positioner manufacturer.
“Aronson built many different products, such as turning rolls as one example. Their main idea was to develop products that could help move or position heavier pieces for a workpiece in place to then weld them more safely and efficiently.” Krasnek says this was often for military products, such as army tanks that required assembly.
This acquisition resulted in a single company — Koike Aronson — that supplied the market with some of the top welding positioners and thermal-cutting products, worldwide.
A handful or so years later, Koike Aronson purchased the former Ransome Company, which also developed positioning equipment. This led to Koike Aronson/Ransome, Inc. and what’s been called, “The most complete line in the industry” when it comes to positioners and cutting equipment.
“Ransome specialized in positioning and welding equipment built for the petrochemical industry,” he says. “For example, one of them is an AGW or an automatic girth welder, which performs precise horizontal welds. They also had one called VUP, which is a vertical up that was used for building items like storage tanks. They offered a lot of specialized equipment that allowed Koike to expand in a certain way.”
Today, Koike Aronson / Ransome’s line-up of cutting machines, positioners, welding equipment, portables, and gas apparatus is one of the broadest in the world. Together, the combined companies have since worked to leverage one another’s insight and merge certain technologies.
“One thing we’ve been putting together is complete welding packages,” explains Cliff White, welding product manager. Both Cliff and Krasnek work in Koike’s Arcade, New York manufacturing facility, which was established in 1946. “So, let’s say a customer requires a submerged-arc welding package, it consists of a manipulator, a positioner, and the welder of their choice.” The arc-welding process typically consists of creating a welded joint between steel components using an electric arc.
“Or maybe it’s a MIG welding or a pipe-welding package. There are a lot of options we can offer based on the specific application,” he adds. MIG stands for metal inert gas welding.
One of the advantages of the Koike Aronson/Ransome company is flexibility. Its cutting machines can be customized to fit nearly any requirement and its welding and positioning equipment can be made to accept workpieces of nearly any size.
“But we sort of look at it like the chicken or the egg…and what comes first,” says White. “So, when we talk about customized products, we don’t typically design positioners for set applications. Rather, we’ll change or modify a design to be used for each customer’s specific requirements.”
He adds that it’s not like a car where the buyer might change out the tires or the stereo. “We want our customers to know that we’d do that for them. We can design the positioner to fit into their unique application, or to help them manufacture their products better or more economically. We engineer to their needs.”
Given, the company’s global reach, it can do so regardless of requirements, culture, or language.
“When we first acquired Ransome, the company had a large presence in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East — which was great,” Krasnek. “But one of our biggest challenges at the time was simply dealing with different languages to ensure we could properly understand and convey the design requirements and applications to customers that were from virtually all over the world.”
When sharing critical equipment information between customers or engineers, it’s important to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.
“Virtually everything now has been digitalized where we used to work off of hand drawings in some cases, so it’s easy to find any product or equipment details,” Krasnek says. “And we’re such a global company that we offer the resources and personnel to ensure nothing is left uncertain or unanswered.”
Koike Aronson / Ransome even offers a 4,200 sq. ft. demo area where it displays products, provides demos, and trains its service technicians. Its machines are also serviced by the same experts who build them.
“We have so much product available…I mean a quick look at our website will show you that,” he says. “But more than just a supplier, we’re a full manufacturing facility and solutions provider. We can customize parts or re-design components to ensure they fit for our customers, regardless of the application or industry. I think we’re quite unique in this way.”