Kato Engineering Inc.


This page shows Kato Engineering Inc.'s history - from its foundation to the present.

1926 Founded in Mankato, MN - USA
1999 Acquired by Emerson
1999 Merged with Leroy-Somer
2017 Acquired by Nidec


Kato Engineering was founded in 1926 by Elmer Jensen and Lewis Wilkinson. They started the Mankato, Minnesota business to manufacture power supplies for radios. Less than a year later, Cecil Jones came aboard. He would take over as owner and president of Kato Engineering a few years later, a role he would hold for some four decades.

Elmer Jensen
Lewis Wilkinson
Cecil Jones


In 1928, two years after the founding of Kato Engineering, owners Elmer Jensen and Louis Wilkinson first met the young man who was to become the dominant influence for years to come. That first meeting with Cecil Jones led to the development of a company that has become synonymous with the very best in power generation and conditioning that industrial and commercial users have come to expect when they see the Kato name.

Jones, a graduate of Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis and master electrician, had developed a rotary converter, a device that rural families could use to operate AC appliances from their DC storage batteries. Believing that Jones and his invention would be valuable to Kato, Jensen and Wilkinson hired him to take charge of production. As a result, the rotary Kato converter was an overwhelming success.

Though the original owners eventually left the firm, Kato Engineering Company flourished under Jones' direction. By 1936, the company had grown from five employees to nine and was producing several small generators.

Kato received its first government contract in 1938. It was to furnish the original 31 U.S. Army flying fields with AC generators for ground instrumentation needed for aircraft to land. Then in 1939 the government awarded Kato a second contract, and the company was on its way to significant growth.

Kato Engineering had 497 employees in 1945 when employees were housed in six different buildings. In addition to manufacturing thousands of AC generators for all branches of the Army and Navy, Kato also manufactured units for countries around the world.

During the years following World War II, Kato supplied generators to various industries and built a reputation on quality, dependability and the ability to meet specific customer needs with design and manufacturing innovations. The largest generator the company made then was 15 kW, but by 1949 it was turning out 225 kW generators that weighed some 1000 lbs. (450 kg.). 

In 1978, Kato became a division of Reliance Electric. The acquisition by Reliance resulted in continued growth and investment in Kato - a new facility was added in North Mankato, Minnesota in 1981 and then expanded in 1993 and again in 1998. This facility now totals about 245,000 square feet.

Two years after the Kato acquisition in 1978 Exxon purchased Reliance, then a NYSE stock held company. In 1986 Reliance purchased the company back from Exxon in a leveraged buyout and took the company public with an IPO in 1992. In 1994 Rockwell International Corporation acquired Reliance Electric and Kato. In April of 1998, Caterpillar, Inc. purchased Kato Engineering from Rockwell. In June 1999, Kato was purchased by Emerson Electric. Together with Emerson's other generator plants (one in Tennessee, three in Europe, and one in Asia), Kato makes up one of the largest generator manufacturing companies in the world.

To continue to meet customers' demand for up-to-date designs, of the highest quality, at the lowest cost and with the shortest manufacturing time, Kato Engineering has installed state-of-the-art equipment in the new plant. This equipment includes precision machining equipment, computer controlled coil forming and taping machines and a best-in-the world vacuum-pressure impregnation system for treating electrical equipment with resin. We are continuing to invest in our employees and with new equipment and products to meet the world's power needs. Our product line now extends to include machines capable of producing up to 15 MW and higher. In 1995 Kato Engineering achieved ISO 9001 certification, a quality program that is recognized world wide.

Demand for electrical power is being created by deregulation of utilities, co-generation and the needs of third world countries to develop their resources, and Kato is a major supplier to this rapidly expanding world market for dispersed and standby power. Kato generators supply power to tap the world's resources - oil, gas, coal, uranium, copper, iron ore, lumber and others. Tankers, freighters locomotives, aircraft, mass transit - Kato furnishes the power to keep all of them moving. Hospitals, communication industries, remote areas of the country...any place where dependable controllable electrical power is needed - that's where you find Kato generators.


In 2017, Kato Engineering was purchased by Nidec.

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