OTC celebrates 85 years of innovation

Company become a world leader in automotive aftermarket specialty tools, equipment


The Owatonna Tool Company (now the OTC brand of SPX Corporation) is celebrating its 85th anniversary.

OTC began as a small Owatonna machine shop operated by Reuben A. Kaplan 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. The tool remains virtually unchanged to this day. Copied throughout the world, it is testimony to the soundness of his original design.

Building on this success, Kaplan founded OTC in 1925.

A few years later, Kaplan also invented special service tools for working on Model T planetary transmissions.

Success continued and, by 1934, OTC had a substantial selection of mechanic's tools being peddled to farmers, service stations and garages all over the country. The tools were sold directly to the customer from makeshift display boards fitted into panel trucks or converted autos.

When World War II broke out in 1939, the U.S. Army and Navy began buying large quantities of OTC tools, and the company received 5 "E" for excellence awards from the government for superior performance in meeting the critical needs of the military. By 1945, the company had doubled its staff.

Then, in 1950, when the OTC mechanical puller needed hydraulic power, Kaplan began his pioneering efforts in ultra-high-pressure fluid power technology, a technology virtually untouched by hydraulics manufacturers of the day. One notable development was a twin-cylinder ram that operated at 10,000 psi – a pressure almost unheard of until many years later.

During his career, Kaplan was granted 15 patents, was the guiding force behind many others and created hundreds of other specialty tools.

By 1985, OTC had an extensive line of tools and systems for both OEM and aftermarket customers. That success led to its acquisition by Sealed Power Corporation (now SPX Corporation) of Muskegon, MI.

In the ensuing years, OTC has taken a leadership position in the growing field of electronic diagnostics including the Genisys scan tool and more recently the innovative Pegisys diagnostic system.

Today, as a vital SPX brand within SPX Service Solutions, OTC is a major global supplier of vehicle electronic diagnostic instruments; fuel systems service tools; special service tools; general purpose tools; pullers; heavy-duty tools; shop equipment and hydraulic components.

"This anniversary is a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge our rich company history, and to show appreciation for what has become the world's foremost automotive aftermarket brand," says Tanvir Arfi, president of SPX Service Solutions. "This is also an opportunity to send heartfelt thanks for the valued contributions from thousands of employees associated with the company and brand over the past 85 years. They have truly made a difference."

"Going forward" adds Arfi, "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. OTC is a major contributor to our success in these efforts now and in the future."

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