Massachusetts-based Hi-Gear Products and US Pack have a unique story. Founded more than 25 years ago by Russian newcomers to America, Hi-Gear has become a global leader in the automotive aftermarket industry, producing and distributing superior chemical products to customers around the world. 

After more than a decade of successful brand development and worldwide distribution, the company founders made a strategic decision to bring manufacturing capabilities under the same roof. Through this enterprise, US Pack was born. 

Today, Hi-Gear/US Pack operations include an R&D lab and an expansive manufacturing facility. It also has a 300,000-square-foot distribution center and strategically located warehouses in the United States, Europe and Asia. 

“Hi-Gear was founded as a family owned distributor of automotive aftermarket products,” Business Manager Cheryl McLarney says. “Around 15 years ago, company leaders acquired a turnkey manufacturing facility in Massachusetts to bring the production of its own brands and product lines in-house. This provided the company with flexibility with product development and allowed us to offer private label manufacturing services to other automotive aftermarket distributors. Since then, US Pack has grown to produce about 90 percent of the products Hi-Gear sells and it contracts with external customers to manufacture private label chemical products.” 

The Hi-Gear brand was built by offering a broad range of expertly formulated, high quality products. Because of the diversity of product offerings, US Pack developed broad experience and a great degree of technical knowledge. 

“We do a fair number of household and industrial products in addition to automotive chemicals. This product diversity, as well as the rigorous quality standards demanded by Hi-Gear, has helped us to innovate and remain an industry leader,” CEO Bob Waalkes says.

Diversity and Variety

The organization offers more than 3,000 products for nearly every application in the automotive aftermarket industry. It provides everything from gasoline and diesel additives, greases; engine, transmission, power steering and hydraulic fluids to cooling system additives; metal conditioners; appearance and car care products; epoxies; adhesives; repair products; aerosol cleaners and lubricants. It also offers a variety of household and industrial chemicals. 

With the diversity and quality of Hi-Gear’s products, along with US Pack’s broad expertise and capabilities, the organization has stood the test of time. Through strong relationships in the former Soviet states and a solid distribution network, the company has grown, evolved and created a very successful export business model. 

“Russia and the former Soviet states are our largest markets, and we have a presence in more than 40 countries right now,” Waalkes says.

The organization has developed long-term successful relationships with reputable distributors across the globe. The strategic growth of the company is linked to active involvement with these industry leaders, as well as to participation in multiple domestic and international automotive aftermarket exhibitions each year. 

Trade show events provide an opportunity to learn about new industry standards, trends and compliance issues. At the same time, they bring potential new customers to the table. 

For contract customers, US Pack offers turnkey services, multiple product lines, diverse packaging and strong export experience. Having everything under one roof allows the organization to take a concept from R&D all the way to packaging. 

On Top of Change

Keeping up with change has been critical to the company’s success and longevity. As the automotive industry and engine technologies have continued to evolve, the organization has responded with innovative solutions and product formulations to meet emerging challenges. Investments in manufacturing facilities, the R&D lab, IT and more have also been critical. 

Another key investment area has been in energy. Utilizing the expertise of companies such as Gehrlicher Solar America Corp. Hi-Gear and US Pack developed and built photovoltaic solar systems at their Massachusetts facilities. Combined, these solar farms produce more than 1.6m KWh annually. The systems reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 112 automobiles from the road every year while also reducing the energy costs of the company by more than 70 percent. The company’s development of green energy has reduced its carbon footprint, contributed to a cleaner environment and provided significant energy-cost savings that have been passed on to customers.

“Over the past few years, we’ve made a commitment to green sustainable manufacturing. As part of this commitment we developed solar programs at each site,” McLarney says. “In Fitchburg, we’ve installed a 1 MW system, and in Leominster a 350 kW system. These systems are capable of meeting nearly all of our electricity needs.” 

“This, along with lean manufacturing training and the systematic evaluation of our processes for greater efficiencies, has given us a measurable competitive edge,” Waalkes adds. “It is all about creating efficiencies, lowering costs and being more competitive in the marketplace.” 

Throughout its history, the company has survived many tumultuous, political and economic global storms. The geopolitical turmoil we see throughout the world today continues to be an issue. Maintaining strong relationships with key business partners, as well as preserving its reputation for excellence and integrity, has always enabled the company to ride the waves of change and to thrive. 

“The beauty of our organization is diversification,” Waalkes says. “We do business all over the world and have many avenues that lead to meeting client needs.”

“We have a corporate culture that truly sees challenges as opportunities,” McLarney adds. “We are always looking for ways to grow and find doors to open as others close.” 

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