Conveyor belt company celebrates 70th anniversary

Paul Steinhoff

WINCHESTER – Ashworth Bros. Inc., a company specializing in conveyor belt production, will mark 70 years in business Sunday, with a celebration scheduled for later in the month.

The company moved to Winchester in 1955, nine years after its founding in Worcester, Massachusetts, and is responsible for numerous innovations in conveyor belt technology used or emulated by virtually all food processing outfits.

Jonathan Lasecki, the plant’s chief engineer, has worked for the company for 25 years. He explained some of the company’s notable innovations.

“Prior to our belts, everything was straight-running, so we patented the first turn-curve belts that went around corners and we also patented the low-tension spiral system, which revolutionized the food industry – especially in the Western hemisphere,” Lasecki said. “You could take a small room and put 1,000 feet or more of belt, so you have all that processing space.”

Lasecki went on to discuss how the industry has changed over the years.

John Lasecki

“In the early days, it was like, ‘I need a belt,'” he said. “They didn’t really care. Now, product markings to the back of a product are very critical. If it was a doughnut, for instance, I know what it was made on. There are certain belts that adhere to certain products. … By knowing that and learning that, you’re able to direct people to the right product the first time and eliminate some trial and error that they had in the past because they didn’t know. They would pick any belt and didn’t know there was a difference.”

The work done by those at Ashworth Bros. has led to increased productivity in the food processing industry at places such as Interbake, a commercial bakery in Front Royal, and Kraft in Winchester, both of which use belts from Ashworth. This increase in productivity, Lasecki explained, has led to increased revenue and profit for these companies and companies like them.

“I think we’ve helped them (food processors) be more profitable and grow faster and do more of what they do,” he said. “Obviously, because of the technology and conveyors in general, I think we’ve allowed automation in plants that may not have been available. … You took from baking at home to big production plants, so you have that ability to move that through the plant. … That’s what conveyor belts allowed you to do.”

Paul Steinhoff, director of operations at the plant for the past 10 years, talked about how the people who work for Ashworth Bros. feel a sense of family at their job.

“We’ve got a lot of people who have been here a long time,” he said. “It’s a family feel. They (employees) feel a part of it. We try to foster that sense.”

Lasecki echoed that sentiment.

“It’s a big company but it’s not a ‘big’ company,” he said. “Everyone knows everybody. Everyone relates to everybody. I don’t think there’s anybody that says ‘I’m not going to work today.’ They want to be here. It’s just enjoyable to come to work. You’re not a number.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com.