Speco Celebrates 100th Anniversary at IPPE in Atlanta

IPPE attendees are invited to join the celebration at the Speco booth (C28159) on Tuesday, January 30, for cocktails and cake.
Speco Inc., the Chicago-based manufacturer of machine parts and tooling for the global meat processing industry, is proud to announce the company's 100th anniversary in 2024. The company announced that it will host a reception at the 2024 IPPE Show, which will be held January 30-February 1 in Atlanta, GA.

IPPE attendees are invited to join the celebration at the Speco booth (C28159) on Tuesday, January 30, for cocktails and cake.  

“We're not much for tooting our own horn, but 2024 is a big year for us,” said Craig Hess, the third-generation owner and CEO of Speco. “We're still here because of our loyal customers and industry partners, and we want to raise a glass with them and say, ‘Thank you.'”

Hess' great-grandfather was Carl Wilheim Dieckmann, who came to the United States as a young man from Ploen, Germany. After spending a few years as an apprentice for an Ohio meat processor, he moved to Chicago to launch his own business.

“In 1924 my great grandfather, a professional wurst macher — a sausage maker — started selling his new patented disposable blade inserts to most of the meat processors in the old Chicago stockyards,” Hess said. “He developed a better knife blade for the meat guys.  He got the idea from the Gillette Company, after they came out with disposable razor blades. His blades were sharper, didn't need resharpening, and they kept their edge.”

In the early 1930s, Mr. Dieckmann's grandson, Charles William Hess, started working for the company. He possessed a strong mechanical mind, and it was his idea to begin manufacturing all the products they offered. He purchased a lathe and drill press and set up the manufacturing in the family's garage on the north side of Chicago.

In 1946, Specialty Manufacturers Sales Company outgrew its manufacturing space, and the company bought a 3,000-square-foot building in nearby Schiller Park, IL, a land of tomato farms and dirt roads at the time. (They remain located at that same location today, just minutes from O'Hare International Airport.) In that same year, they incorporated, and the name of the company was changed to Speco, Inc.

There have been several expansions and buildings added since the early days, allowing for additional employees, more manufacturing space and new offices. The company continues to be a leading provider of meat grinding knives and plates, blade inserts, skinner tooth rollers and blades, emulsifier replacement parts and bone collector systems.

Hess, who begins his 50th year with Speco this year, attributes the company's successful longevity to a few simple rules that he drives home often to all company employees. “We make a very good product and sell it for a fair price, and we take care of our customers. It's just good common business sense. We try not to make it too complicated, and I think our customers appreciate that.”

“Technology has brought us great productivity advancements and allowed us to continuously improve our process and our products.  We develop products, all materials are 100% certified, and we guarantee the quality,” he added.

In addition to manufacturing technology advancements, new product innovations and improvements in raw materials have also contributed to the company's growth. In the 1950s, Speco became the first manufacturer in the United States to use an alloy steel high in chromium and carbon, which proved far superior to anything else on the market.

Speco has introduced many patents, including its bone collector system in 1978, which remains the most widely used bone collector system in the world.

Speco is moving forward with the fourth generation of family ownership, as daughters Charlee and Jackie have grown up in the business and both were recently promoted to Vice President.

Hess reflected on the lessons of business he has come to learn since he started as a 12-year-old, packing boxes of blades and plates during the summer. “My Dad always preached, ‘Quality will keep you in the game,' and that's something we never lose sight of.” 

Speco sells its products in more than 60 countries, primarily through a worldwide distributor network, and Hess expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to say thanks to customers from around the world. “The IPPE event seemed like a natural place and time for us to celebrate with customers, friends and colleagues. After all, if it weren't for them, we wouldn't be here today, getting ready for the next 100 years.”