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Soo Tractor Sweeprake Co.: The Best Equipment You Didn’t Know You Owned
An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) produces products or components that are purchased by another company and retailed under the purchasing company’s brand name. Soo Tractor Sweeprake Co. (Soo Tractor) is one such OEM, and a highly successful one at that. Thousands of farmers across the U.S. use farming equipment manufactured by the Sioux City, Iowa-based manufacturer daily and they have no idea Soo Tractor is to thank for their dependable equipment.
Dexter Schaible, president of the venerable company, explains that Soo Tractor has a long history supporting the agricultural (ag) sector, a history that stretches back to the middle of World War II. Soo Tractor was founded in 1942 and family-owned since 1946, and over the years the manufacturing company has produced wooden sweeprakes, front-end loaders, backhoes, roll back truck beds, wagon and truck hoists, corn stalk cutters, push-off hay stackers plus three-point and mid-mount mowers.
As the years went by, Soo Tractor’s business strategy evolved with the times. In 1972 Soo Tractor started delivering front-end loaders to Massey Ferguson, and in 1993 Soo Tractor added AGCO Corporation (where Schaible previously worked) to its roster of clients needing the manufacture and delivery of loaders and backhoes. Today Soo Tractor uses CAD engineering to prototype precision machinery to meet customers’ needs. The flexible company remains a primary supplier to AGCO, which acquired Massey Ferguson, and Soo Tractor delivers machinery for that brand, as well as produces big bale accumulators, tongues and hitches for AGCO’s Hesston brand.
A Reputation for Quality with Large Manufacturers
Schaible estimates that the company employs 80 to 100 personnel and grosses between $20 million and $25 million annually. “Our ag equipment is popular with customers,” reveals Schaible. “Our products have a reputation as the highest quality units made, even among larger manufacturers.”
The company maintains two production facilities in Sioux City, where it fabricates, welds, paints and assembles (machining is contracted out to several steel/laser-cut shops within a 50-mile radius). It manufactures hay bale accumulators and mower-conditioner tongues at its 139,000-square foot, six-acre facility on Hawkeye Drive, and loaders and backhoes at the company’s 167,000-square foot, nine-acre facility on West 1st Street, to the tune of over 8,000 units yearly. Both of the company’s facilities are outfitted with state-of-the-art production facilities that incorporate robotic controls augmented by a staff where 30 percent have over 10 years of dedicated service to the company. All these elements combined have resulted in a highly efficient company that is always prepared to take on new orders.
Soo Tractor doesn’t maintain a marketing or sales team, so Schaible is excited about the company’s recent agreement with Amity Technology, a major ag product producer in Fargo, N.D., that will involve a lot of custom welding for air grain drills – an advancement that promises further growth. “Amity has contracted with us to produce their drill frame at our production facility on Hawkeye,” he proudly notes.
Even though the company doesn’t manufacture products under its own name, a Soo Tractor-made product is distinguishable to the savvy buyer because the company utilizes a unique powder coat paint process on its products. Powder coat painting increases a product’s durability to withstand damage and environment, as well as provides aesthetic incentives for sales.
At Soo’s manufacturing facilities, which were upgraded only a few years ago with additional, large-opening painting lines, the company has multiple powder coating paint booths, which allow it to paint any color a customer requires. A computerized automatic gun adjustment with photo sensors allows the company to accommodate different size parts. In the last stage of the powder paint application process, the paint is cured in a Soo Tractor convection oven. Then product is direct-shipped to the customer by trucks, van or flatbed, complete with scanning for verification and tracking. The entire turnaround on an order is one to four days.
Company Achieves Elusive Certification
An ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management certification is the mark of a dedicated management team, and in 2010 Soo Tractor turned to Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) for help in achieving the certification. Soo Tractor had been working with an outside consultant for two years, but could not bring closure to the implementation of the desired quality management system.
CIRAS worked with the president of the company and his management team and production operators to successfully define and develop the quality system. The system was put in place and audited for compliance.
In August 2010 Soo Tractor was successful in receiving an ISO 9001:2008 registration for their Quality Management System, and as a result additional sales contracts in excess of $1 million have recently been secured, according to Schaible, who was quoted as saying the following:
“With CIRAS Assistance we were able to get back on track, simplify our processes, and get certified with very few problems. CIRAS was able to tell us where we needed to spend our time, not waste time, and speed up the timing for our registration.”
Now entering its seventh decade in operation, Soo Tractor continues to innovate, most recently through developing a new concept for a bale accumulator that can be folded up and transported in a 10-foot package. Without a sales or marketing team of its own the company has found great success through the advertising of its quality by others. Fueled by a growth in hobby farming and its ability to keep low overhead, the Soo Tractor Sweeprake Co. has extra capacity and is positioned to find increasing success as a preferred custom contract manufacturer.