Gene Jensen solved mechanical challenges. He grew up in the depression, lived in tents as his father, originally a baker in Denmark, traveled the US for work. As a boy, Gene worked with his dad unloading box cars, poring cement or taking on whatever other work was available. The depression ended. Gene bought himself a white suit. Went to a dance, met a girl, started a family. Gene raced boats, and cars, constantly tweaking the mechanicals to be more competitive.
Long before professional race driver Tony Bettenhausen was killed at Indianapolis in 1961, he had attempted to get Gene into racing. Gene’s young wife discouraged that career path. So in WWII when the Dodge plant in Chicago was converted over to make B29 bomber aircraft engines Gene got a job overseeing a group of women who were grinding the crankshafts.
Just as he was preparing to leave the factory and go into the service himself the war ended. He bought into a failing tool shop, turned it around to profitability then sold his share. He started another company producing tooling in 1954, and then bought out the partner. Gene moved the business from Stone Park, IL to Mt Prospect, IL in 1968 and renamed it Jenco.
Gene’s sons David and Dennis also both had mechanical ability. As often happened in a family business in the 50s they were hand making precision components and putting complex tools together before they got into high school. After investigating other options after high school graduation, they both came back got involved with the business and bought out Gene in the late 70s. Gene told his sons that business should “Grow like an Oak, not a Willow”. The brothers added people and equipment carefully, and took on new challenges.
One of the first Agie Wire EDM machines in the Chicago area was purchased by Jenco. The brothers used this to build increasingly complicated progressive dies. In the early 80’s, more wire EDMs were added and more dies were built. The majority of the work required high precision and repeatability.
In the mid 80’s many of the customers who needed stamped parts and progressive tooling also needed a method of assembling those parts so Jenco began designing and building assembly tooling.
Dave’s son Greg joined the company around this time. The assembly tools started to get smarter as Greg designed in and added electromechanical components that would check for the parts and their features before putting the parts together.
Over the first 4 decades of the company thousands of progressive dies and assembly fixture lines were built for a wide range of products. The sophistication of the tooling and controls evolved.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s Jenco increased the volumes of its internal stamping department, producing hundreds of thousands of pieces per month.
In the 90s Dennis’s son Mark joined the company, and a wider range of manufacturing equipment beyond progressive dies and assembly fixtures was designed and built. The internal stamping department grew and millions of parts per month were run from copper, brass, stainless and steel.
At the end of the 90’’s, Dennis and Dave cut back their hours and Mark and Greg took over day to day operations. Dennis and Dave kept themselves available for consulting on projects, but soon their daily arrivals, turned into random visits.
Just after the turn of the century, Jenco was building increasingly sophisticated assembly equipment. At the same time the presses in the production area were stamping out millions of parts. Supplying multiple customers with high volumes of parts on time with no quality issues for over a decade had given both Greg and Mark a deep appreciation for what their customers needed in production equipment.
At this point a choice was made to phase out stamping and focus on producing equipment.
Stamping slowly tapered off, and throughout the 00’s the energy of the company went fully into designing and building custom systems for a wide variety of assembly, production, test and inspection systems.