The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) Hall of Fame recognises the pioneers whose inventions, ideas, leadership and courage have contributed to the industry. For 2020, AEM included brothers Ray and Koop Ferwerda, inventors of the Gradall excavator.
“The innovation of the Ferwerda brothers and their Gradall excavator has enabled thousands of miles of roadway to be built more quickly, allowing us to build the future we know today,” said AEM President Dennis Slater. “AEM is proud to welcome these innovators to our respected list of industry leaders, inspiring the next generation to develop and pursue their ideas for a better future for everyone.”
Born and raised in the town of Sneek, The Netherlands, brothers Ray and Koop Ferwerda took a job aboard the Great Lakes-bound steam ship Sardinian in 1920 as a means of passage to North America. While steaming across Lake Erie, the boiler of the Sardinian exploded, and rescuers took Ray to Ohio, while Koop made ground in Ontario. Writing back home to The Netherlands in order to find each other, both Ray and Koop eventually made a home in the Cleveland area, finding jobs first at a local dairy, then building roads and sidewalks in Cleveland’s eastern suburbs.
In 1925, the brothers had saved up enough to open the Ferwerda Brothers Contracting Company, still focusing their work in the eastern suburbs. By 1940, they had sold some equipment, and saved enough money, to start developing an idea they had: A hydraulic excavator with an extendable boom that could reach down beneath the roadway to grade embankments, a previously time and labor-intensive task.
In 1946, in working with Warner-Swasey, the Gradall M2400 would become the first hydraulic excavator to enter series production in the U.S. Since then, the Gradall excavator concept has been expanded, still using the triangular, extendable boom design first devised by the Ferwerda brothers.
“We’re honoured by this induction into the AEM Hall of Fame,” said Ray K. Ferwerda, Jr., grandson of Koop Ferwerda. “We looked at some of the other award winners over the years, and it’s quite incredible, the people the Ferwerda Brothers will be alongside.”
These inductions bring the total number of inductees to sixty-four. The AEM Hall of Fame has been recognising luminaries in the agriculture and construction equipment manufacturing industry since 1993, and includes such luminaries as Benjamin Holt (Caterpillar), Joseph Cyril Bamford (JCB), Jerome Increase Case (CNH Industrial), and John Deere (Deere & Co.).
The Ferwerda Brothers are the third sibling team to be inducted into the Hall after Louis and Cyril Keller (Bobcat) and Maurice and Douglass Steiger (Steiger, along with their father John).