C&A Scale Service Inc.
C&A Scale Service Inc. is a leading manufacturer and installer of bulk weigh grain loadout systems located in Crescent, Iowa. The company also sells and installs trucks scales, truck probe sampling systems and bulk controllers for large grain facilities and cooperatives across the globe.
Founded in 1985, C&A Scale takes its name from the company’s founder, Chuck Hildreth and Art Carlson, who left the scale company where they met and struck out on their own more than 30 years ago. A true family-run company, Chuck’s brother Cliff Hildreth is still involved in C&A to this day as a part-owner who oversees the company’s truck scale service and installation division.
Hildreth built his first scale to load out rail cars in 1986, but the company’s real turning point came when C&A Scale began to outsource its welding work to LeMar Industries in Des Moines, Iowa. “They can build a scale in two to four weeks, where it used to take our welding shop eight to 10 weeks,” says Keith Clausen, co-owner and Hildreth’s nephew.
The increased output was necessitated by a robust grain market that saw C&A Scale’s orders quadruple. “With the grain booms we’ve had here in the last six or seven years, that’s important; we went from building three scales a year to 12 scales a year,” says Clausen, who joined C&A Scale 15 years ago and bought into the company in 2010.
“We went from building scales to building support structures, the scale houses, the load-out spouts; we try to do a full turnkey package,” says Clausen. “It’s a one-stop shop: you can buy it and we’ll put it up, make it work, train you how to use it and service it later on.”
The company has completed projects across the nation and around the world, including work in Canada, Australia and China. On the West Coast, C&A Scale has worked extensively with United Grain Corporation, completing controller upgrades and scale testing for the Vancouver, Washington-based agricultural giant.
“Testing on the West Coast for scales is very stringent; it’s a whole different set of rules,” says Clausen. “We had to go in there and tweak all the scales to make them test perfectly, which means within the pound on a 120,000-pound scale.”
Throwing weight around
A majority of C&A Scale’s revenue comes from the bulk weigher side of the business, with each unit costing between $200,000 and $400,000, but the company is churning out far more than 12 jobs a year. “We put in 30 controllers a year on bulk weighers and maybe 10 to 12 truck scale automation projects a year,” says Clausen.
C&A’s bulk weigh loadout system uses the AGRIS oneWeigh system to ensure speed and accuracy in every load. The systems features a precise hopper system, rapid draft cycles and an easy-to-use interface that uses RFID technology, railcar data and AGRIS’s V9 business system to help improve turnaround time.
In recent years C&A Scale has seen major growth on the truck scale automation side of the business. C&A has been installing leading brands of above- and below-ground, concrete or steel truck scales, including Rice Lake and Cardinal Truck scales, for over 25 years. “That is a big growing point. We might not do the actual scale part, but we go in and do the tag readers, remote displays and outside printers,” says Clausen.
Another 10 to 15 percent of C&A Scale’s business in generated on the service side, with the company traveling across the region to perform repairs and routine maintenance on bulk weigh systems installed by other companies.
“We’ve worked on everyone’s stuff, which makes it very difficult at times when you are directly competing on new projects and you don’t get it and then later on you get the call,” says Clausen. “You want to say ‘good luck, call who you bought it from’ but a lot of times we go in there and fix it and hope they don’t make the same mistake next time.”
While it can be frustrating to lose out on new jobs to more established, well-connected names in the industry, C&A Scale sets itself apart by offering a superior level of customer service. The company offers 24-hour-a-day service and support, ensuring that customers are never left high and dry when the next load of grain rolls in.
“We don’t have all the bells and whistles of sales and videos, but I don’t think anyone is going around saying they can beat C&A Scales on service,” says Clausen. “We try to handle everything as quickly as possible and I think we talk to customers in a way that no one else does.”
C&A Scale often acts as a subcontractor to large general contractors, but is given the role of project manager for the weighing portion on most of these projects. The company has excelled in that role to the degree that large general contractors often seek the team out first when a major weighing project comes down the pipeline. “They always come back to us for that — a lot of guys say they don’t even bother to get bids from anyone else,” notes Clausen.
For over 30 years, a small, core group of employees have helped keep C&A Scale up and running, but as the company continues to grow to meet the demand from the booming grain industry, it has added three employees to the bulk weigher side of the business. “That’s nice because now I don’t have to be the guy on-site every single time,” Clausen says.
As the company continues to grow, Clausen sees great potential for C&A Scale within the industry. “I have always believed that the ag business in general is way behind the rest technology-wise,” he says. “We still have some sites handwriting tickets for coming in and people who have never used a computer.”
Tracking industry trends will help C&A Scale stay competitive in the market. Clausen says last year container loading was a hot topic, but today truck scale automation has moved to the forefront. “It’s a pattern that goes around in a circle depending on the year and the area,” he says.
While high grain yields have spurred big growth in recent years, Clausen is confident that C&A Scale’s expertise could be translated to success in almost any corner of the weighing market. “Everything gets weighed, it doesn’t have to be grain; we could get into wood pellets or rock too,” he says.
As the agriculture industry continues to find its technological legs, C&A Scale Service Inc. will be there to assist in bringing the latest innovations and automation procedures to large grain facilities and cooperatives around the world as a premier manufacturer and installer of bulk weigh grain loadout systems, trucks scales and controllers.