(Photos by Dylan Senkus)

Reber Machine and Tool Company Is Still a Success After 72 Years

Reber Machine and Tool Company all started as the brainchild of successful pharmacist Donald H. Reber. With a proclivity for machine tools, he began dabbling with them in his bedroom on East Main Street in Muncie in 1942. He moved the growing operation into the family basement and later the garage, before buying a property on South Liberty Street in 1952. The business is still housed there 72 years later.

“Granddad’s hobby turned into a lucrative tool business,” said Terry Reber, vice president.

A third-generation business shipping its products all over the world, Reber Machine and Tool has long been a mainstay in the Muncie community, creating tools for customers within a 100-mile radius.

What’s the secret to this company’s success?

They’ve kept it in the family. Donald H.’s three boys, Donald E., Jack and Dave, all cultivated lifelong careers at the shop.

Today the core team is comprised of Donald E.’s sons, Neil and Terry Reber, serving as president and vice president respectively, along with Plant Manager Eric Dishman, whose father, Rick, worked in the same capacity for decades before his death. He started at the shop as a teenager, with Eric following suit years later.

Doug Reber, Jack’s eldest son, rounds out the team as project manager.

“I remember hearing stories of dad standing on a milk crate at the age of 12 to run the lathe,” said Neil, whose grandfather had purchased a lathe, developed an adaptor, and sold it back to the manufacturer so he could afford to buy his own.

In the early days of operation, Reber Machine and Tool made parts for shops immersed in the war effort. Since then, customers have included City Machine, Ball Brothers and Westinghouse.

“There was more demand than supply,” said Neil, who recalls labor being less than $1 per hour.

“We’re a manufacturer of made-to-order parts,” said Terry. “If they can dream it up, we can make it.”

Reber Machine and Tool redesigns parts for practicality and cost savings, with strengths in computer numerical control machining, as well as compression and injection molds. Creating industry products such as bottle caps and baking equipment, the shop has serviced Muncie entities such as Ball State and Muncie Community Schools. Some of their designs have helped launch a NASA space shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope.

“Dad just told us not to work on automotive brakes or airplanes,” said Neil. “The last thing we wanted was a lawsuit!”

“If problems arise, we figure it out,” said Neil, who realizes his long-standing business is often held to a higher standard than most. A low employee turnover rate testifies to the leaders’ respect for their workforce.

“We’re not a hire/fire place,” said Terry, who added that his dad had trouble letting people go.

“Everyone here is treated like family,” added Eric.

At ages 71 and 68, brothers Neil and Terry realize they will eventually pass the torch to Eric, whose dedication to the business is obvious. Like his dad, he has become an integral part of the family.

“Eric will step in and develop his own team when the time comes,” said Neil.

Whenever that happens, one thing is certain – Reber Machine and Tool will continue to offer a quality product at a competitive price.

Reber Machine and Tool Company is located at 1112 South Liberty Street in Muncie. Contact them at 765-288-0297 or at rebermachine@rebermachine.com. Visit rebermachine.com for more info.

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