MTW ‘digs in’ with new product line, spurs job growth
Just four years ago, the staff and administration of Merrill Tool and Water (MTW) Jet took their service level and market position to a whole new level when they welcomed a 16-ton, 2×4-meter, fiber optic laser; expanding the company’s existing water jet cutting operations.
The addition not only advanced the range of industrial cutting services the company is able to offer, but also led to the addition of five new jobs.
Then in the Spring of 2016, just short of two years since implementing their laser cutting operations, the company leveled up yet again when the first Nortec-MTW Raptor Power Box Rake rolled out of the plant’s assembly area.
The machines are manufactured in partnership with Nortec of Antigo, who ceased production operations in 2011. Soon afterward, the two companies formed the partnership for MTW to manufacture the components and produce the machines, while Nortec addresses all sales and marketing duties.
According to MTW Operations Manager Paul Kudick, each of the Raptor machines, as well as specialty on-demand machines such as Rock Pickers and Silage Facers, are completely constructed within MTW’s 55,000 square foot production facility. Only the tires for each machine, powertrain and hydraulic components, and hardware such as bolts are screws are brought in from the outside.
The story of the new soil processor production line unfolded rather quickly as Kudick explains.
“We began the design phase in late 2015 and began assembly of the first Raptor in the Spring of 2016. By March we had our first prototype ready to test, and after a few minor engineering adjustments, our first Raptor rolled out in April of 2016.”
The production line of the Raptor family consists of three classes; the Raptor-E (Economy size), standard Raptor and Raptor-X (Extreme). Each varies in size from 4, 5 and 6 foot wide models (Economy Class); 6, 7, and 8 foot wide sizes for the Raptor, and 8 and 10 foot wide models for the “X” class.
“The widths are part of the classification but how each class will be used also factors in,” explains MTW Managing Partner Lee Opsahl, “The frame and components are lighter for the economy, heavier frame and components for the standard Raptor, and heaviest frame and components for the X class.”
Weights range from 700-1,800 pounds. The Raptor line can serve a variety of purposes from ATV and snowmobile trail grooming, to landscaping and dirt track grading, hence the higher market demand than the Rock Pickers and Silage Facers; which also carry the Nortec-MTW name.
“We consider the Rock Pickers and Silage Facers more of specialty items as we generally get orders for them on an as-needed basis,” Kudick adds. “Those machines are more targeted by the agricultural market, and since that market has fallen on rather rough times, we just don’t have as high of a demand for them as we do the Raptor family.”
When orders are received, the Rock Pickers are the largest of all products produced at MTW; measuring 22 feet long by 8 feet wide (13 feet wide with a discharge conveyor), and weighing in at over 9,000 pounds.
In either case, the customer base for the Nortec-MTW production line range far and near; from as far as the Ukraine, Canada, Texas, and California; to as close to home as Missouri and Minnesota.
The new production line has led to yet another influx of job positions at MTW; consisting of three new positions since production began in 2016 and a strong possibility of another three or four more by year-end.
If the projected employment expansion comes to fruition (40 employees to date and 44 by year-end) the facility will have doubled its work force since October of 2015 (21).
In looking back on production numbers of the Raptor family, there very well could be reason for optimism on not only job expansion, but additional similar products in the future.
According to Special Projects Coordinator Heath Heidemann, 12 units were produced in 2016, followed by 30 last year. This year alone, 16 units have been produced with a projected end-of-year production topping out at 50 units. There are currently nine units in production at the facility.
In addition to the Raptor family production, Merrill Tool and Water Jet has enjoyed expansion in other areas of service as well; including the installation of another Vertical Machining Center last year and a new Sub-Spindle Turning Center.
The Vertical Machining Center is capable of serving a variety of needs from plastic assembly components to custom machine parts. The new lathe is also versatile in its capabilities, with the ability to craft a variety of custom machine components.
“Since my brother and I founded Merrill Tool and Water Jet out of a garage in 1999, we set a goal to grow our business revenue by 20% each year, and we still strive to meet that goal every year,” explains Lee Opsahl. “As we grow our sales revenue, that goal becomes more difficult to reach every year. It is our hope the Nortec line continues to help us reach our goals for the next three to four years.”