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Tuesday | 15 August, 2017 | 12:58 pm

Time tested tool

By Colin Linneweber

Above: Prior to the hydraulic ironworker, fabricators used a conventional machine designed with a flywheel.

Scotchman Industries released the hydraulic-powered ironworking machine 50 years ago

August 2017 - The founder of Scotchman Industries Inc., Art Kroetch, was conducting business in Minnesota when he noticed an advertisement in a local newspaper. The ad featured a Minnesotan’s invention of a prototypical hydraulic-powered ironworking machine. Kroetch quickly contacted the inventor and, following some negotiating, purchased the patent for this creation in 1966.

Kroetch and his six employees subsequently began to hone and refine the machine out of a warehouse in Philip, South Dakota. Roughly a year later in 1967, Kroetch unveiled Scotchman Industries’ revolutionary 35-ton hydraulic-powered ironworker.

 The entrepreneur passed away in 2007 but Kroetch’s legacy and contributions to the machinery building industry remain firmly intact. After all, prior to the hydraulic ironworker, fabricators used a conventional flywheel designed machine. Today, Scotchman employs almost 80 people and Kroetch’s hydraulic-powered ironworker is available in 14 distinct models and three styles. Art’s son, Jerry, now president and CEO of Scotchman Industries, explains why this tool has stood the test of time.

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From humble origins (1965 above), Scotchman now has a 120,000-square-foot factory (2017 below).

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 “A hydraulic ironworker is like a Swiss Army knife. It punches and shears angle iron, flat stock, channel iron and round and square solid rod,” he says.

“It can also notch square and rectangle pipe and 90-degree V-notches.”

With models that range in size from 45 tons to 150 tons, Kroetch claims that Scotchman’s ironworking machine is exceptionally durable. Customers who initially bought the machine 40 years ago are still calling for replacement parts, rather than requiring a new unit. Possibly more important than durability, the hydraulic powered ironworker helps users increase productivity and output.

 “We have all heard the expression that time is money,” says Kroetch. “With our machine, an ironworker’s punch is eight times faster than a drill press and the shearing of flat, angle and channel iron is eight times faster than a saw.”

Scotchman has endured lean times but endured the Great Recession without much hardship; it wasn’t the first downturn.  “Scotchman has been through a few recessions over the last 50 years,” says Kroetch.

“The last recession in 2008 was relatively easy to deal with because we had zero debt. The toughest one for us was in 1981. At that time, we were in a very large growth period and very deep in debt with an interest rate at 22 percent. But we are all dedicated to this company and we all worked very hard to get through it.

“Since then,” he says, “we’ve continued to grow each and every year. All of Scotchman’s employees are key to our success.”

A half-century after Art Kroetch’s trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Scotchman Industries serves the metal fabricating sector on a global scale. As his son says, “If you work with steel, you have a need for a Scotchman hydraulic ironworker.” MM

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