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Terex Load King, manufacturer of construction and specialty trailers based in Elk Point, South Dakota, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The company has come a long way from direct sales and a “bare-bones” engineering staff, according to Parris Erickson, 44-year veteran sales engineer for Terex.
Founded in 1956 by O.D. Hanson and manned by a small crew, Load King made a slow but steady impact on the market with quality, reliable lowboy trailers. In 1962, the company realized the benefits of working through a dealer network and decided to sign with Sheehan-Bartling Company of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Additional dealerships fueled Load King’s growth, allowing for broader distribution of its lowboy trailer as well as the industry’s first bottom dump trailer. Called “The Orginator” by those within the company, the bottom dump proved successful and established Load King’s reputation for innovative design and manufacturing. More recognition came in the mid-1960s, when the company received Patent of the Year honors for its folding gooseneck design.
“We all knew it was something special and realized the impact it would make on the industry,” says Erickson, who worked on the fourth model of the design.
A few years later Load King was acquired by Oklahoma City-based CMI, which provided Load King with significant room for growth. The company signed a 450-trailer contract with the U.S. Government and began turning out three to five trailers per day. The “bare-bones” engineering staff that Erickson had once described suddenly grew to 24 employees.
As years passed, modifications were made to the product line, specifically the bottom dump trailer design and the addition of folding and detachable gooseneck models. The company also built upon the popularity of the hydraulic folding tail. Then in 2001, Terex Corporation purchased CMI (and in effect, Load King).
The acquisition and changes that ensued, according to Everett Vardaman, Load King’s current general manager, positively reshaped the company. “While we were prospering as part of CMI, there was little synergy between our two companies,” he says. “They had their product line and we had ours. It always seemed as if something was lacking.”
In 2004, Load king was approached by Terex management and asked to consider becoming part of Genie’s construction group. “I had already made several visits to Genie’s facility and was thoroughly impressed,” Vardaman says.
He agreed that Load King should become a part of Genie’s Aerial Work Platform group, and in 2005 that’s exactly what happened. “That change was, perhaps, the most profound shift we’ve experienced as a company.”
Since then, the company has added numerous employees and plans to further extend its growth efforts. Other changes have also been taking place, including the implementation of lean manufacturing principles. “In such a system, a particular phase of the manufacturing process is continually examined, improved, reexamined and refined until, as the name implies, there is no ‘fat’ in the process,” says Brad Allen, senior director of operations for Genie. “As a result, the overall manufacturing scenario is made safer and more efficient.”
A new line is currently being installed at the Elk Point facility that will be dedicated to the development of a trailer specifically for the rental industry. Other changes include a future expansion of the company’s engineering, management and sales capabilities.
“The people of this company are truly the reason for our success,” says Vardaman. “No one can foretell the future, but this company definitely has the right stuff to be here another 50 years.”