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LANDOLL CELEBRATES ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY
Source: Landoll Corporation news release

For those who knew him as a child, it wasn't much of a surprise when Don Landoll started his own company at the age of 20. After all, one of his favorite toys was the Erector Set that he received for Christmas when he was six-years-old. Before that, it was Tinker Toys that were used to build new designs. Even more ironic, Landoll built an electric-powered ferris wheel with his Erector Set before the family home even had electricity.

Today, 50 years after starting Quick Service Welding which evolved into the Landoll Corporation, Don Landoll is the owner and CEO of a multi-million dollar manufacturing company that continues to bear his name. In the meantime, Landoll's business has grown from one employee to nearly a 1,000 and from 12,500 square feet to more that 800,000 square feet of manufacturing space. Having grown into a global supplier, Landoll markets products from five different sales divisions to 39 countries last year alone.

"My first shop was in an old ice house on the family farm," says Don, the oldest of eight children who grew up on the Landoll "homestead" north of Hanover, Kansas. "I received my first welder when I was a sophomore in high school. A year later, in 1959, Dad built a new shop on the farm and I was really feeling blessed."

Using his acquired talents, Landoll built his first farm wagon with a hoist in vocational ag class before he finished high school in Hanover (Kansas). Upon graduation, Landoll decided to join the military. Fortunately, that turned out to be one of the few failures in his life. After graduating on a Tuesday and leaving for the military the following Sunday, Don failed the physical and was back home the next day. It was at that point he became an employee of Hanover Implement and Manufacturing for the next three years.

"Hanover Implement was actually an International Harvester dealership," Landoll explains. "They manufactured truck and trailer hoists and playground equipment, which is what I was involved in."

According to Landoll, his "big break" finally came in November 1963 when he partnered with a gentleman who was 30 years older at Quick Service Welding.
"He paid cash for his half of the business and then had to co-sign on a loan for my half," Landoll recalls. "Three and a half years later, he left the business and sold his half to me."

Even back then, Landoll says he realized the importance of diversification - a philosophy that continues to be the fundamental principle at Landoll Corporation.

"As Quick Service Welding, we offered welding, radiator repair and a blacksmith shop," he relates. "Personally, I preferred the welding projects and building things; but it was the radiator repair and blacksmithing that brought in the most money at the time."

That didn't stop Landoll from designing and building equipment, it just taught him the importance of innovation, customer satisfaction, strong relationships and solid foundations. By 1967, Landoll Mfg. was building stock racks to fit in pick-up beds. A year later, the Landoll product line included a livestock liquid supplement feeder and the company's first chisel plow.

"At the time we were building chisel plows, I think there were at least 40 other companies that were also building chisel plows," Landoll says. "Of course, the market was good and we were selling everything we could build. In fact, shortly after that, around 1973, Case came to me and asked about building farm implements for them. I didn't even have an engineer working for me at the time, so they sent down an engineer to help design the product and production equipment. We ended up building four different products for Case."

The devotion to tillage equipment expanded further in 1976, when Landoll introduced the SoilMaster - a machine that would prove popular for years to follow as minimum tillage gained popularity. However, Don Landoll wasn't content to focus on just one market, especially since his tillage products were primarily used in the fall.

He needed a product with a year-around market, so he invented the traveling axle semi-trailer in 1976. As the company's first major patent, the trailer features rear axles which move forward as the bed tilts, allowing the rear of the trailer to contact the ground for drive-on loading. Once the trailer is loaded, the wheels roll back into position as it returns to level, making it ready for the highway.

More trailers have since been designed, developed and manufactured since that time which include traveling tail models, a "bus-hauler", a detachable gooseneck and container trailers. Naturally, the availability of their own trailer line and a fleet of trucks, used for product delivery, eventually led Landoll to develop their own transportation services group.

The late '70s brought the company a contract from John Deere to build dozers and ROPS for their track tractors. The biggest surprise, came in 1983 when Landoll won a contract to manufacture aircraft deicers for the military after building the first model in 1979. Over the next 14 years, Landoll would end up building more than 2,000 truck-mounted aircraft deicers for the military and the airlines.

"We were such a small company in comparison to other manufacturers at the time that some of the truck manufacturers wouldn't even sell to us," Don recalls. "Eventually, we made a deal with Ford and acquired $13.8 million worth of Ford chassis in one day. It was such a large purchase that it was hard to even fathom."

That led to another contract with the military in 1992 to build a total of 1,785 FMTV wreckers over the next nine years. At the same time, Landoll was building trailers for the National Guard - a product they continue to sell to the military to this day.

"We've been fortunate that we have not been without some type of government order or contract since 1984," Landoll relates. "Once we were approved as a GSA (General Services Administration) contractor, we discovered there is a demand for a wide variety of equipment and machines within the various branches of the government and military." Current GSA customers range from the Department of Homeland Security to the Navy, Forest Service and FBI.

With government contracts, tillage and trailers within its portfolio, Landoll took another turn in 1993 when the company purchased the Bendi line of narrow aisle forklifts, adding material handling to the product mix. Ten years later, Landoll purchased and added the Drexel line of forklifts. Even then, Landoll management wasn't content to focus only on the commercial market. Today, a number of Drexel SwingMast® forklifts are built specifically for the military for moving both materials and bombs.

Other company acquisitions have included ICON scrapers and graders, purchased in 2007, and Brillion Farm Equipment in 2010. ICON builds products for both industrial, government and agricultural markets. Brillion is known for its seeders and revolutionary Pulvi-Mulcher machines. These two company acquisitions also build on Landoll's recommitment to agriculture, which began in earnest approximately eight years ago.

"Landoll has been continually building tillage equipment since 1968, when we introduced the first chisel plow," says Jamie Meier, Landoll's Ag Division Sales Manager. "From the time it was introduced in 1988, the Landoll Weatherproofer has been a market leader. The whole agricultural line kind of took a backseat for a while due to the demand for trailers, forklifts and government orders."

Meier says the focus began to change in 2006, when Don Landoll hired 10 agricultural equipment salesmen in just one day. That was also the year when Landoll introduced its new 6230 Disc, the VT Plus (Vertical Tillage). To highlight their renewed focus on agriculture and to make the machines more acceptable with all dealers, Landoll changed the equipment color from yellow to blue.

Other new Landoll farm equipment machines include a line of grain drills, coulter chisels, disc rippers, Ripolls, in-line rippers, field cultivators, and seeders. The focus on farm equipment didn't come without a huge investment, either. Meier says he and his staff travel to as many as 40 farm shows per year, asking farmers what they want and need.

"We're here to help our customers solve their problems, not to tell them how to farm," he says. "We listen to farmers to find out what their needs are and build something to address those needs. I think our VT machine, which provides enough angle on the gangs to move a little dirt and anchor the residue, is a good example of that."

"Another example is our 5000 Series Grain drills," Landoll says. "When you're the 'Johnny-come-lately', you have to offer some kind of benefit nobody else has. That's when we came up with the pneumatic down-pressure feature on our openers so producers can better match planting conditions."

At the same time, Landoll was building a new factory along U.S. Highway 36 in Marysville, primarily for tillage equipment manufacturing to supplement the existing production plant north of their corporate office. From the beginning, Landoll says he pledged to build the most advanced tillage factory in American in order to build the best equipment in the world. In the process, he purchased and owns the largest tube laser cutter in North America.

"Again, that is where our diversification has helped everyone," Landoll says. "When you know you have a four-year government contract, you can justify buying all this new technology. You can use it for building tillage equipment, forklifts or what have you. So when we built the new plant on the highway, I set out to build the most modern manufacturing plant in America."

Landoll has invested in some of the most cutting-edge equipment available world-wide, convinced that the proof is in the products they build. Today, the equipment inventory includes nine plate laser cutters, four tube lasers, CNC press brakes, CNC machining centers, a water jet cutting table and one of the nation's first fiber optic laser cutting machines. They also installed one of the most advanced powder paint facilities in the industry - long before any of the competition.

"We're also heavily into robotic welders, with more than 30 robots throughout the plant," Landoll says. "In fact, some of the robots we had in mind weren't available at the time, so we bought the robotic arms and designed and built our own."

More recently, Landoll has taken yet another step in serving customers with the construction of a new 67,000-square-foot parts warehouse and distribution center.

Don Landoll certainly doesn't limit his investments to machines and equipment, though. He also invests heavily in his workforce and the community. As an example, he provides three different types of profit sharing, culminating with an end-of-the-year bonus for each employee based on their W2 tax form the previous year.

"Our employees realize that faulty products cost them money," he says. "They also know that scrap matters. So they strive to build the best products possible in the most efficient manner."

In an effort to repay the community for their many years of support, Landoll has contributed millions of dollars to various projects around town, including renovations to the Marysville airport, building a library reading park, renovating the St. Gregory school and playground, renovations and addition to St. Gregory's church and upgrading and expanding the local bowling alley. Landoll was the largest contributor to city's new $17 million community memorial hospital. The company continues to provide the use of its two airplanes for medical flights.

"Our mission has always been to ensure total customer satisfaction by continually improving quality and value in our products and services," Landoll concludes. "At the same time, we strive to provide our employees with an environment that encourages the development of personal and professional abilities, while being an asset to our community through growing quality employment and local leadership ... all while providing respectable return on investment. With the help of the community and our employees, I look forward to seeing the company move forward to the next generation and another 50 years."


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