Hanson Silo notes 100th year
CEO Gregg Hanson, left, and his sons Mike and Matt run the day-to-day operations of Hanson Silo Company. Now in its 100 year of operation, the diversified company has expanded their sales nationwide with many products for agricultural and commercial use.
Towering crane, huge concrete precast panels move
under massive 58' Schweiss bifold door
For over 100 years and four generations, the Hanson family has been involved with agriculture and has grown to symbolize quality, economy, and dependability. Hanson Silo was founded at Lake Lillian, Minnesota in 1916 by Emil Hanson - a local farmer who wanted a better product for himself and for his neighbors. His goal was to manufacture an improved product at the best price with the lowest upkeep. Hanson silos are easily identifiable - those with the checkered pattern on top are a Hanson silo.
Hanson Silo Company has come a long way since those early days of just erecting silos. Current CEO, Gregg Hanson, grandson of Emil Hanson, has had the foresight to diversify the company's list of products and along with that a large new manufacturing building was erected using Hanson concrete panels.
New plant expansion has 58' Schweiss bifold door
Another good example of foresight was Gregg's decision to build a new plant a couple of years ago incorporating the Hanson Neopor 4" thick R-24 insulated concrete panels that were poured directly from the in-house automated concrete batch plant and put in place. The 70 ft. x 180 ft. building has a 37 ft. ceiling capable of housing a huge crane. A 58' x 31'9" Schweiss bifold liftstrap / autolatch door on the east side opens wide to enable the crane to lift the heavy concrete forms making them ready to be delivered to waiting customers wherever they may be in the United States.
"It's a good door. We needed a door that big to run our crane through. I wouldn't say that it has made our job easier, more than anything it's made it possible. Our kind of cranes normally do not go in a building. The door allows us to lift the panels off the tables and to the door and drive the crane out on the yard and stack the panels on racks and trucks and bring the crane back into the building. We open it often, in the summer it stays open all day."
- Gregg Hanson, CEO
Hanson Silo Company
The massive door with a built in header and external truss for extra strength has a 60" wedge when open that provides a nice shaded canopy. The bottoms of the four large door windows are situated five feet from the floor, adding natural light inside. Total door weight with sheeting and liner is 14,854 lbs. It is opened and closed with three 3 h.p bottom drive 3-phase motors using 12 liftstraps, each capable of lifting 29,000 lbs.
"It's a good door. We needed a door that big to run our crane through. I wouldn't say that it has made our job easier, more than anything it's made it possible," said Gregg. "Our kind of cranes normally do not go in a building. The door allows us to lift the panels off the tables and to the door and drive the crane out on the yard and stack the panels on racks and trucks and bring the crane back into the building. We open it often, in the summer it stays open all day."
Hanson Silo leads the upper midwest in the production of precast concrete panels and modular walls for various uses. They are unsurpassed for commercial, industrial and agricultural applications such as bunkers and the like, so why not utilize this for precast concrete walls for a building? That's exactly what Hanson Silo decided to do for its own building at the Lake Lillian company headquarters.
Hanson Silo Company home office and plant is located north of Lake Lillian, Minnesota. They also have locations in St. Peter, Luverne and Lakeview, Iowa.
Precast concrete is a time tested construction material. The builders of ancient Rome poured concrete material into molds to build their complex network of aqueducts, culverts and tunnels.
The farming tradition has remained at Hanson Silo, as well as the commitment to producing the best quality products for the dollar. The development of new Hanson products is the pinnacle of this commitment. Fine quality materials, pride in personal workmanship, and simplicity in engineering, has always been the trademark at Hanson Silo.
Quality accessories were not always available, so Hanson Silo began to manufacture all of its own accessories. With high caliber products, and its agricultural heritage, Hanson Silo has developed an enviable reputation for service, dependability, strength, workmanship, and for personal pride in a valuable product.
A major improvement to silo construction came with the Hanson Silo patented silo dome roofs back in 1938. It was originally invented as a self supported roof structure for covering silos. These domed roofs are now taking another turn as architectural eye-appealing dome projects for homes, restaurants, playground, casinos, sports complex, movie sets and church uses.
"The first domed silo roof was designed by my uncle Newell in the 1930s to replace the hip-style roof design. Hip roofs were very prone to getting wind damage or blow-off. The domed design, which they had a patent extending for 17 years on, interlocked the roof. The ancient Romans came up with the dome and realized how strong it was. My dad and uncle took the Roman engineering and figured out how to make it work on a silo. It was a real sales boost for Hanson Silo. A lot of silos were even built without roofs resulting in so much spoilage and it would freeze so stinking hard. The domed roof was originally offered as a $300 option," noted current CEO Gregg Hanson.
The original dome roof manufacturing machine was run with a gasoline engine and a shaft running into the building before electricity. Hanson Silo invented the self-supported dome roof structure initially for covering silos throughout rural skylines across much of North America. They have made over 50,000 since that time. Now they can be used as an integral part of a building or simply the aesthetic appeal of a structure. The orange silo you see at the Mills Fleet Farm stores is a good example. Their steel domes are shipped in stacks of pie-shaped steel sections, ready for assembly on-site on top or on the ground and set with a crane The panel edges are roll-formed into channels at the factory and are placed and bolted together during assembly resulting in an appealing free-standing structure. Domes are available with a base diameter from 10' to 30' - generally produced as perfect hemispheres, they can also be formed into modified shapes.
Gregg Hanson, has been a vital cog in the companies modern-day operation and growth since taking over reins of the company. Starting out at age 9, Gregg began learning the silo business under the oversight of his founding grandfather, Emil and father, Willard Hanson.
"In my early years we did about 1,100 silos a year throughout the midwest states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakota's. I worked in the block plant where they made silo staves and in the roof department," recalled Gregg.
Visitors to the Hanson Silo Lake Lillian location can see this Schweiss lifting gate at the entrance to the office and plant.
In 1970 he came back to work full-time after graduating from Bemidji State College with a Industrial Engineering degree.
"I initially designed a system for digging our own foundations; you couldn't depend on contract people to come and dig for you. I bought the equipment and went out myself to figure out the process of digging a perfectly round hole with a backhoe. If you dig a hole like a stop sign it takes a lot more cement. At that time we had six foundation crews and at any given time three of them could be sitting under a shade tree waiting for a contractor to come; not a very good use of their time," explained Gregg.
"The first year I came back we also designed a new hinged door system so you wouldn't have to take all the doors down. This was new to the industry; no one else was doing this. Silos were getting pretty tall, some with 20 doors in them, and if you had to take them all down it took a lot of time and then when it came to refilling the silo you had to put them all back in again."
Hanson Silo Company now works out of four locations, Lake Lillian, St. Peter and Luverne, Minnesota and another in Lakeview, Iowa. At one time they had as many as 350 employees. When Gregg graduated from college the company had about 175 employees.
While working at a farmsite north of Benson, Minnesota Gregg met a girl named, Linda, who was to become his future wife. They were married in 1973 and now have two sons, Matt and Mike and a daughter Mary Kay.
For the past seven years, Matt has been company President In Charge of Operations; Mike is the Director of Business Development, Sales and Marketing.
"Dad is an engineer and always looking for better ways to improve a process or product," said Mike. "His biggest contribution to the company is optimizing the internal process. He's a good opportunist - when the timing works out for a piece of equipment or for something for plant expansion he's not afraid to pull the trigger and implement it. He's a hands-on CEO and still spends a lot of time in the plant and does some sales work," said Mike.
"Dad has been a real visionary on taking a 100 year-old company into new markets and then developing new capabilities internally to serve those markets," added Matt. "A good example of that is the concrete wall panels and pre-stressed concrete roof panels, along with the columns and beams associated with those buildings and manufacturing technology. He's been productive in getting our company to handle the needs of new markets. That includes training of staff and also adapting the physical plant to be able to fill the needs of these markets. In our manufacturing area, he converted our production floor to handle different parts of we are doing now and converted 20 acres more of our yard for a concrete storage area."
When Hanson Silo built their new plant they had Schweiss Doors install this 58 'x 36'9" bifold liftstrap door on the east end. The door opens wide for a crane to load precast concrete panels and other products. Another Schweiss hydraulic door is shown to the right.
Future success of Hanson Silo involves focus on new ideas, product acquisitions and management techniques
CEO Gregg Hanson will be the first to tell you that it is not business as usual in the silo industry. Decades ago Minnesota farms were in the heyday of smaller dairy operations that have now gone by the wayside of larger corporate dairy farms, lessening the need for the extent of silo construction like it used to be.
He is not one to sit back on his laurels and has been the company visionary for many years going back to when he joined the company out of college. Gregg, still very zealous in the company's success, is sharing his business acumen with his two sons, Matt and Mike, who are now integral cogs on the day-to-day foresight of the company.
"I put Matt in as president in 2007. He is very good in sales and marketing along with focusing on big jobs and jobs in the grain industry and such. On the operations side he has a really good manager beside him. They conduct meetings to discuss issues, strategies and that sort of thing," said Gregg. "Mike's been active for six years and has always been a good negotiator and he's also involved heavily in the sales and marketing effort. He's probably a lot like me in that respect sniffing out opportunities; it's fun to see that. He was responsible for the Easy Rake acquisition."
Hanson Silo has its own concrete batch plant within this building. Here concrete is being poured into a precast concrete panel form.
Concrete Batch Plant
Hanson Silo designed and built its own computer controlled automated concrete batch plant. This world-class plant will mix three yards of low slump 7,000 psi ready mix in 90 seconds. From it they produce their concrete feed bunkers used for grain, seed, compost and fertilizer storage to cattle confinement and on-farm storage. Block retaining walls, bunker silos and other products such as their decorative Hanscrete Hardscape landscaping blocks, sports backstop walls, concrete picnic tables, benches, and much more for agricultural, commercial and residential use are made there.
Hanson's line of farm/silo machine accessories is also a growing business from their popular Easy Rake, bale choppers to silo unloaders and blowers. There's also combine header transports, choppers, conveyors, hammermills and more.
Mike Hanson, Director of Business Development and Sales, holds up a Neopor 4" thick R-24 insulation panel. These panels are placed in-between the precast concrete panels that can be used for concrete feed bunkers, retaining walls and other Hanson Silo products.
Hanson Silo acquires the patented Easy Rake™ Silage Facer
In-plant powder coat painting was implemented in 1996 opening the door to contract manufacturing. It was expanded in early 2000 from a five person manual moving line to the 10'x10'x40' batch booth and now implements a 14-gun computerized automatic spraying line.
Any object that can hold an electrostatic charge and withstand the heat of the curing process (approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit) can be powder coated.
Workers inside the plant prepare the first layer of cement on the precast concrete panel and lay down Neopor 4" insulation before the final layer of cement is poured over it.
The future at Hanson Silo looks bright
"During the course of 100 years, we've had to reinvent ourselves many times. The thing that is important is that you can't wait until you have a problem to talk about doing something new. I've always been one to look under stones. To be a good manager you have to be able to see a vision of how things are going to look before anyone else does; that's a gift that this company has had. Now we have to be more than just a silo company. Small and medium size dairies are a thing of the past."
- Gregg Hanson, CEO
Hanson Silo Company
Gregg, Mike and Matt Hanson, from a business development and sales, marketing and operations viewpoint, see good things for the company in the future.
"During the course of 100 years, we've had to reinvent ourselves many times," noted Gregg. "The thing that is important is that you can't wait until you have a problem to talk about doing something new. I've always been one to look under stones. To be a good manager you have to be able to see a vision of how things are going to look before anyone else does; that's a gift that this company has had."
Gregg mentioned that they had 29 competitors in his area as recently as 1979. Hanson Silo has been the sole survivor for the past 15 years.
"That's because everyone else rode the horse - it brings to mind that old expression 'When the horse is dead - dismount!' You don't want to wait that long or you'll be toasted too. Every one of those people are out of business. I keep looking at new ideas and new products."
"We envision my brother and I will buy out the shares in the company from my dad and continue on with a growth pattern that is has; organic growth, not by acquisition," said Matt. "We're projecting 10 to 15 percent growth annually."
"We've learned to be diverse by bringing the same product to different emerging markets. We will go anywhere and ship anywhere. Fertilizer storage, grain and fabric-covered buildings for cattle feeders are a big and expanding market for us. We completed our biggest project in July of 2015 hauling 68 truckloads of concrete panels to Illinois for a Coop fertilizer building. We've been doing some precast shooting range wall projects for gun clubs in Texas and North Carolina," noted Mike. "Our diverse past has given us the ability to refocus and tool up and sell to the markets that are still viable.""
So what would Gregg's founding grandfather, Emil, and father Willard, probably say about the transformation of the company today?
This large crane will pick up the heavy finished precast panels. The 36'9" tall bifold door gives the crane enough clearance to move the panels outside for shipment to locations throughout the United States.
"It's hard to say what grandpa Emil would say. I think my dad would be pretty impressed. My dad never got to know Michael that well; he died in 1992, Michael was just a little kid, but he knew Matthew quite well. I think he would be pretty amazed. Those guys had it for at least 60 years. It was a situation where you could never buy enough trucks or hire enough people; business was always there. You can get a little complacent looking for too much new stuff. But if you're not able to take care of that much business, why would you look for new stuff? Things started changing when I got out of college; you had to be more flexible and a little faster.
This photo gives you an idea of the size of the huge new plant that was built recently. It is in this building where the precast concrete panels are constructed.
"Look at the movie Titanic. They didn't have time because of the momentum of the ship; by the time they reversed the engines it still wasn't enough. Then they hit the skids. That's the way it is in business too, you have to be standing guard looking over the top of the hill to give you enough time to make changes and corrections in your direction at the same time. Now we have to be more than just a silo company. Small and medium size dairies are a thing of the past."
He noted that a 9,000 head corporate dairy was just built near Willmar, something he sees as a wave of the future. He compared that to his father-in-law who raised a family of six kids and sent them all through college on 54 cows, raising hogs and chickens as well.
"Hanson Silo running strong for 100 years is quite a long run."
In recognition of their 100 years, Hanson Silo will be hosting an anniversary celebration Saturday, June 16 with plant tours, lunch and other things.
For more information about all the services that Hanson Silo Company offers, visit their website at: www.hansonsilo.com or call them at 800-843-7456. They are located at 11587 County Road 8 Southeast, Lake Lillian. MN 56253. Phone 320-664-4171.
In recent years Hanson Silo has diversified its production of its many products. Mills Fleet Farm silos like this one give immediate attention to its store location.
Hanson Silo becomes a large manufacturer and employer
Founder, Emil Hanson, saw a need for a better constructed silo
Hanson Silo Company was founded in 1916 by Emil Hanson. This is probably one of the first crews that worked for him.
During World War I, Emil Hanson, a local farmer from Lake Lillian, Minnesota, was looking to purchase a silo for his farm and found there was an abundance of poorly constructed silos in the area. Emil noticed that the sand was full of dirt and clay, which makes poor concrete for the construction of silos. Emil had the idea to create a more durable concrete using sand from the shore of Lake Kandiyohi; the lake his farm bordered. The product, which used a washed sand, is now used by concrete manufacturers around the world.
Quality accessories were not always available - so Hanson Silo began to manufacture all of its own accessories. With high caliber products, and its agricultural heritage, Hanson Silo has developed an enviable reputation for service, for dependability, for strength, for workmanship, and for personal pride in a valuable product.
Demand skyrocketed for Hanson's new silo, Newell Hanson, Emil's son, designed and patented the first automatic silo stave machine powered by gasoline to increase production to meet market demand.
Newell saw problems with silo roofs being made out of wood so he designed, patented and built machinery in 1937 to manufacture the first steel dome silo roof. Before this, carpenters were building hip style roofs for the tops of silos.
Farmers demanded a better way to dig their frozen silage to unload feed from silos. Willard and Newell Hanson invented and patented the first self-propelled frozen silage chopper.
This crew of eight Hanson Silo employees gathered for a photo years ago. At one point, Hanson Silo employed as many as 350 people working at various plants in Minnesota and Iowa.
The original Hanson dome roof manufacturing machine was designed by Newell Hanson in the 1930s to replace the hip-style roof design. It ran with a gasoline engine and a shaft running into the building before electricity.
Hanson Silo expands their manufacturing plants to Southern Minnesota and Central Iowa.
Farmers demanded a machine that could not only dig loose frozen silage, but handle all different conditions of silage and do it year round. Willard and Newell developed their own surface drive silo unloader primarily for Hanson's customers.
Hanson's unloader had spread beyond the area they marketed silos in. Hanson responded by building a new manufacturing factory and established distributors and dealers throughout North America. 1979 was a banner year for the company. Hanson manufactured and constructed over 600 silos out of all three plants.
Hanson increases production on a new industrial strength silo stave by implementing a completely automated computer controlled concrete machine. In 1986, Hanson designed and built a golf car manufacturing plant called Shuttlecraft in Willmar, MN to diversify their product portfolio in the midst of the agriculture crisis of the '80s.
Hanson further expands their silo unloader line and builds its first precast concrete plant. Powder coat painting was implemented which opened the door into contract manufacturing. Truck beds, assembly line automation equipment and electronic scoreboards for major sports complexes among others were engineered and manufactured.
Hanson expanded its powder coating system from a five-person manual moving line to a 10'x10'x40' batch booth and implemented a 14-gun computerized automatic spraying line. Hanson designed and built a computer controlled automated concrete batch plant. This world-class plant mixes three yards of low slump 7,000 psi ready mix in 90 seconds.
USCA "Best of Local Business" Award
Hanson Companies was selected for the 2009 Best of Lake Lillian Award in the Silo Fillers & Unloaders category by the U.S. Commerce Association (USCA).
The USCA "Best of Local Business" Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. The Washington DC organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations, chambers of commerce and other business advertising and marketing groups. Their mission is to be an advocate for small and medium size businesses and business entrepreneurs across America.