We're a 43-year-old family business that manufactures scrap processing equipment--such as car crushers and landfill compactors--for the solid waste industry. I like to say that we're in the business of creating more space. We do more than $50 million in sales, and traditionally 20 percent of that has been exports. As we've grown, it's been hard keeping that number up. So we want to sell our new scrap crushers and balers in Europe, where we've sold other products very profitably. These things are huge: 45 feet long and up to 126,000 pounds. (That's a car baler with me in the photo.) That's as much machine as you can send down a U.S. road legally, and manipulating something that big through small European communities is next to impossible. So we decided to shrink them. The goal is to reduce the volume by up to a quarter and shave 5 to 25 percent off the weight. We're hiring three or four engineers for the project--it will probably take two years and cost a couple hundred thousand dollars. The idea is to use high-strength steels and redesign the operation of the machines themselves. Shrinking them will also allow us to ship via container rather than bulk freight or on vessels where you roll the machines on and off. That should cut our freight costs in half.
Kendig Kneen is the CEO of Al-Jon in Ottumwa, Iowa.