Reprinted from GRAIN JOURNAL January/February 2012 Issue
The motto above was adopted early in the company’s history, but it still describes what Warrior Mfg., LLC does best, according to President Paul Soukup. “We work with customers to find the best solution to meet their structural steel needs, whether it’s a greenfield situation or an expansion.”
Soukup and his brother, Greg, purchased Warrior in 2001. Paul serves as president of the company, while Greg is a financial investor and strategic planner.
The company was founded in 1978 in Redwood Falls, MN. A few years later, some financial trouble led to it being sold to a trio of partners, from whom the Soukups purchased it in 2001.
“Originally, the company manufactured three-point quick hitches, a product that we still manufacture today for some of the same customers,” says Soukup. “In about 1982, customized support structures were added, from which catwalk bridging and support towers evolved.
“Today, we are an industry leader in conveyor trusses, support towers, quick hitches, stair systems, and custom fabrication needs. If it’s made of steel, we do it!”
New Location in Hutchinson
In 2007, a new 100,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing plant was opened in Hutchinson, MN, about 50 miles from the original plant in Redwood Falls, which is a 25,000-sq.-ft. facility.
“We made the decision to invest about $11 million to expand our operations, and Hutchinson was chosen primarily because of its labor resources,” says Soukup. “A technical school located within the city limits trains skilled drafting and welding laborers, which benefits us immensely.
“We have equipment at both locations, but the main office was moved to our new state-of-the-art facility in Hutchinson. While multiple products are made at Hutchinson, we manufacture tractor hitches and miscellaneous metals at Redwood Falls.
“There is daily interaction between the two production facilities to keep pace with our many projects. Although we have no specific plans for future expansion, we own about 16 acres at Hutchinson should the need arise.
“We have 70 employees including c about 15 in the office in administration, accounting, sales, and the balance in engineering and design. Most employees have been with us for a long time, and with the 2007 expansion, we were able to add several new people. We’re blessed to have a lot of work in front of us.”
Customization is the Norm
“We tackle every project, no matter how big or small, assuming that it will require some customization to best fit the end user’s needs,” says Soukup. “Although 90% of the project may be cookie cutter, that 10% customization makes all the difference for ease of installation and in ensuring the contractor walks away with a very satisfied customer.”
During the design phase, 3-D modeling software is used to create drawings, which are shared on-line with customers during the approval process.
“We download these large 3-D drawings to an FTP [File Transfer Protocol] site that clients can access, and we hold Webex conferences to demonstrate and discuss the plans and details,” says Soukup. “It’s a very productive way to interface with clients to make sure everything is just right. Our engineering and design services truly differentiate Warrior from our competitors.”
Sales Around the World
Warrior has an internal sales force, with the majority of sales made to general contractors and millwrights but some to large company end users.
“We have excellent relationships with our customers, most of whom bring us repeat business,” says Soukup. “We consistently complete projects on time, within budget, and to the highest possible quality.
“We work internationally, with probably 80% of our sales being domestic and 20% international. Earlier this year, we wrapped up a significant project in South America, and now we’re shipping to Russia and the West Coast. Our backlog of projects is three times greater than last year, so we have a pretty good ending for 2011 and a significant start to 2012.
“Our core business is still designing and fabricating support structures for the grain and feed industry, an area in which we have been very fortunate. It makes up about 75% of what we do, but we also do a lot of work in other industries such as mining, sand and gravel, fertilizer, ethanol, biodiesel, refining, wind, and water treatment. There still is a lot of room for growth in the grain industry, as well as in other areas.”
Warrior’s newest product is bunker walkways, which came about from a customer’s request for building a walkway around temporary grain storage structures.
“To meet OSHA guidelines, individuals can’t stand on a bunker wall to pull a tarp over the grain,” says Soukup. “There is competition out there, but our bunker walkways can be custom-designed to fit any size or shape structure, and we’ve had rave reviews about the ease of installation with our walkways.”
In July 2011, Warrior received AISC building fabricator certification from the American Institute of Steel Construction. “We are the first grain industry material handling fabricator to have this certification,” says Soukup. c “It not only qualified us to diversify into the building industry, but it also opened up more opportunities in the grain industry. Earning this certification required making a lot of disciplined changes to meet the guidelines, but now, our production capability and quality standards are second to none.
“The third party auditors who came in during the certification process commented that they had never been in a fabricating facility that was as organized and clean as ours. AISC certification is a strong selling point for customers, and it brings in more business. For example, we’re currently installing two 320-foot conveyor truss spans, for which AISC certification is required.”
Since 2005, Warrior also has been certified by the Canadian Welding Bureau and the American Welding Society, which Soukup says has brought in multiple opportunities for the company.
Why 40-ft. Lengths?
“Our standard 40-ft. length structures outpace our competition by minimizing field assembly labor and erases the headaches associated with sorting through multiple component shipments for the contractor,” explains Soukup. “The 40-ft. standard length also maximizes the entire length of a flatbed trailer when factoring freight costs.”
“We are fortunate to have supported the grain industry for the past 34 years. We look forward to continuing to supply contractors with cutting-edge structural solutions that additionally will help owners and their material handling needs for years to come.”