Schweiss Bifold Doors began in 1976 with three employees in a 36" x 45" converted corn crib in
Fairfax, MN. Then known as Schweiss Chicken Pluckers, Inc., the company manufactured agricultural
equipment such as farrowing crates for sows, snow blowers, farm trailers and tiles, as well as its
namesake - the Schweiss Chicken Plucker. This product was a mechanical finger device powered by a
small electric motor that mechanically removed most of the feathers from a chicken.
Today, the company is a leading manufacturer of Hydraulic and Bifold doors for hangars, agricultural structures and other projects. It also has been successful in developing the Lift-Strap System-an alternative to traditional cable lift mechanisms.
This is due, in part, to a fateful encounter Mike Schweiss, owner/president of Schweiss Chicken Pluckers, had in 1980 at a wedding reception. While discussing his business with a friend, Schweiss' friend suggested building a door that folded up. (That friend would die later that evening of a heart attack.)
Schweiss built many other things and decided a Hydraulic and Bifold door would fit with his current product line. The company initiated a marketing system to help the customer and contractor understand what was needed to mate the large doors into existing buildings. "From the beginning we made it a point to design each door to precisely fit any style of building, thus eliminating headaches for the end user," stated Schweiss. "Our installation manuals are detailed with step-by-step instructions and visuals so the do-it yourself customer has complete confidence should he desire to install his own Schweiss Door."
The first 12' x 12' door was made piece-by-piece. It was installed on a Renville County Highway shed, approximately 10 miles from the manufacturers facility. According to Schweiss, this door is still in operation today and in good working order.
As the Schweiss doors became more widely accepted for use in aircraft hangars and agricultural buildings,
the manufacturer's name was changed to reflect it's new product focus. Today thousands of doors have been
installed across the U.S. and internationally.
Although approximately 75 percent of Schweiss Doors' business comes from the aviation industry, it is also finding a place for its doors in many other applications. Because the doors work well in large openings, the company gets inquiries from horse arenas, large boat marinas, green houses, paint booths and trucking firms which have several loading docks but want only one opening. "The agricultural and farm market also continues as a dependable source of new sales, especially with the continual trend of larger farm equipment," noted Schweiss.
Even shopping malls are beginning to show interest in the doors. Schweiss commented, "Give us an opportunity at a unique usage and our design people will make every effort to produce a unique, attractive and totally functional space closing mechanism." To accommodate its growing business, Schweiss Doors also had to expand its manufacturing facility. It is still located near Fairfax, but now the facility consists of eight buildings on 26 acres. The newest addition was a 15,000 square foot painting facility. Four of the buildings are used for different phases of manufacturing. The other buildings are utilized for steel storage, component parts, equipment storage and the company headquarters.
The company's staff has expanded as well. The manufacturer employs a total of nearly 62 people, with that number rising to 76 during the height of the agricultural season. Heading the management team, of course, is Schweiss. Other members include: Julie Schafer and Jeremy Rieke, Sales, who have been with the company for 20 years and 15 years, respectively; and 30-year veteran Dave Schweiss, Service/Sales; Manufacturing foreman Joe Volz has been with the company for 25 years; Prototype/Design, Brad has worked for the company for 13 years.
Over the years the process by which the doors are manufactured has become more efficient. This
has enabled Schweiss Doors to offer some standard sizes such as 16', 24' and 40' doors. However,
experience has taught that rarely is a door opening an exact standard size. "We measure to the
1/4," both vertical and horizontal dimensions, and then build each door to these exact
specifications," stated Schweiss. "In essence, each door is a 'custom fit' door."
Both halves of each door are made from structural steel tubing, with the frames being factory welded. Tubing sizes start at 2" x 4" and go up to 4" x 4." The doors have trusses to provide extra strength. The trusses are positioned to eliminate any bowing or sagging when the door is opened or closed. The doors may be insulated with blanket foil or hardboard. The insulation fits between the doorframe members and the outside sheeting.
Depending on the strength needed to withstand 90 mph winds or 150 mph winds, the steel ranges in thickness from 14 gauge to 1/4". Each door is factory assembled for quicker installation.
A variety of optional features are available for the Hydraulic and Bifold doors. To save indoor
building space and keep all openings in one area, steel and/or aluminum walk doors are offered
with a keyed cylinder lock. Single or double insulated windows may be placed at any height or location.
Radio-controlled doors allow the door to be opened, stopped or closed from any vehicle. Two handheld remote controls and remote external antennas come with each of these doors.
An electric photo eye sensor is designed to stop the door in an emergency. (All doors installed on residential garages must be equipped with this feature.) Warning lights and horns alert people in the area when the door is operating. An emergency back-up system permits the opening and closing of the door if there is a power failure.
A two-button dead man switch prevents the door from moving in either direction unless the operator is pushing the up or down button. Automatic side latches are designed to make opening and closing the Schweiss doors easier.
Most overhead doors and early model bifold doors used a cable lift system, and the Schweiss Bifold
door was no different until about 10 years ago. It was then that Schweiss' made an important discovery.
Schweiss noticed the problems associated with the cable lift system. When the cable became frayed, it
got tangled which caused the door to lean to one side. Eventually the cable would break. It was
obvious truckers were using 4" straps used to secure trailer loads.
Schweiss knew the straps could be used as a lift system. Schweiss and his engineering and design team developed the idea into the famous Lift Strap System.
The straps are made from a high strength polyester material. They are available in widths up to 6" and have a tensile strength of 29,000 lbs. The Lift-Strap System is designed to lift and lower doors quietly. "With the ability to stretch up to 3%, the strap system moves the door without the jerky action associated with cable systems," Schweiss said.
The system works by quietly wrapping around the take-up spindle when the start/stop button activates an electric motor. This increases the circumference of the spindle, which speeds up the wrapping. "We did vigorous in-house testing of the new Lift-Strap System, the equivalent of 20 years of conventional usage, without a single malfunction," Schweiss stated.
Although the cable lift system is still offered on the Schweiss Bifold Door, nearly 80 percent of new doors are ordered with the Lift-Strap System. Old doors are also getting the Lift-Strap System. According to Schweiss, "We're now getting requests from earlier customers who have our original cable systems and are now wanting to replace it with the Lift-Strap. It definitely has given our Bifold door package special recognition throughout the building industry."
Hydraulic "One Piece" doors are a clean design with few moving parts, takes up less headroom. Schweiss Hydraulic doors are another style of door giving the customers choices. Schweiss designs and builds hydraulic doors like no other!
Like most companies, Schweiss Doors has found the Internet to be a valuable marketing tool. Extensive print
advertising has put the Schweiss' website - www.bifold.com - into the public eye. "Because our website is
listed with our ads, we have a wide base of exposure and the traffic simply keeps on growing," commented Schweiss.
On the website, customers can find information about the company and its products. While the products can't be ordered from the website, it has generated enough interest to get approximately 15 percent of Schweiss' current customers to call and place their first order.
This trend is expected to continue as overall business is increasing. "The long-term future of our industry: Faster, Simpler, Easier, Quieter, Safer Door openings have a bright future," Schweiss concluded.