100 Years of Doble: Frank Doble’s Legacy & Journey to Innovation
“Dr. Doble was the Captain, and it was his persistence, courage and optimism that made it possible for him to guide the ship through very rough waters. At times he was a very difficult person to work for, but somehow, I realized that no one other than a man of his type could have ever faced the tremendous odds against success and finally win.” – Howard A. Walsh on Frank C. Doble, founder of Doble Engineering Company.
Only two-thirds of businesses survive two years. Half make it to five, and only one-third will survive 10 years. The most common roadblocks: lack of capital, leadership failures, infrastructure issues and poor financial management.
When you consider these statistics, the odds were stacked against Frank C. Doble when he founded Doble Engineering Company 100 years ago. Despite facing challenges of his own – financial constraints, stiff competition, insufficient market education and more – his commitment, optimism and faith in his vision never wavered.
Frank Doble’s early years
Frank spent his teenage years exploring the automobile and electric power industries—both of which were extremely new to the scene. Even with modest grades, he secured the best engineering education the era had to offer from Tufts University. Between classes, he found himself involved in multiple hands-on projects, wiring and rewiring the school’s buildings, and even took on the installation of the university’s new telephone system.
This pioneering mindset led to his first invention—a seven-pound portable telephone engineers could use to communicate with each other across intense, high voltage transmission lines. Shortly after, Frank used components from this telephone to create the industry’s first line-insulator tests, Type A and Type B, which significantly increased the safety and accuracy of field testing.
The insulators, among Frank’s other initial innovations, such as Power Factor Testing, were the first products from Doble Engineering Company and laid the foundation for the extensive portfolio of services, training and products our organization offers today.
Overcoming adversity and common business challenges
Despite his early successes, Frank was leading a young business. He had to convince power companies the niche he created was viable, as some didn’t yet understand the value of testing and predictive maintenance. Before his tests became industry standards, he also experienced challenges with manufacturers, as his insulators, by design, exposed flaws in their products.
Frank also faced intense competition, with one rival going so far as to issue a series of patent infringement claims. The judge ruled in Doble’s favor, and this experience only strengthened Frank’s resolve to earn more market share and recognition for his achievements.
As with any business, there were also financial realities. Struggling to turn a profit during the Great Depression, Frank often relied on loans from the company’s treasurer, Philip W. Davis, to prevent insolvency. The line-testing business offered little room for expansion. By allowing operators to remove defective insulators and encouraging manufacturers to create better products, his early inventions ironically eliminated the need for themselves.
Frank tackled these challenges head on and with an upbeat attitude. He fought to keep his employees, developed new product lines, educated the market on the need for testing and propelled the company into its next phase of growth. His sense of mission to serve the power industry is what carried him forward.
Powering continuous innovation and excellence
As Walsh put it, “It’s interesting to look back at how Doble Engineering Company survived the first ten years and eventually succeeded.” It’s truly a rarity for a company to have thrived for so long.
The niche Frank created has evolved as the industry has grown, and today, our company carries on his mission, leadership and commitment to innovation. From our premier Doble Client Conference and other training events to the building of the Doble Knowledgebase and Doble Service Agreements, we’re consistently bringing new resources, knowledge and ideas to our clients to ensure their overall success.
The same persistence that kept our company afloat in its early years will continue to keep Doble Engineering Company prospering throughout its centennial celebration and into the next 100 years.
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