Hydraulic vs. Bifold
Ideas come from the darndest places! Take for example the birth of Schweiss
Doors, rural Fairfax, MN, which today has thousands of its unique bifold
and hydraulic doors providing quick, quiet and effortless entry to
airplane hangers, commercial buildings and farm sheds across America and
other parts of the world.
Owner Mike Schweiss relates, "It was 1980. I was at a wedding dance. A friend commented, 'Mike, you build lots of different things. Why not a door that folds up?"
Ironically, that very person died of a heart attack that same evening. But his idea didn't!
At that time, Schweiss and his three employees were manufacturing things like farrowing crates for sows, snow blowers, farm trailers, tile plows and can you imagine something called the Schweiss Chicken Plucker!
He chuckles, "It was the Chicken Plucker that gave us name recognition, and in fact got us going financially." His first Bifold door measured 12 x 12, and was installed on a Renville County Highway shed, 10 miles from Mike's country factory location. The door is still in operation even though Schweiss admits, "We made it wrong every which way."
Today Schweiss manufactures two styles of doors: 1) the famous lift-strap bifold door, and 2) The "One Piece", Schweiss hydraulic Door. And indeed Schweiss doors are traveling worldwide! Three Schweiss hydraulic units were shipped to Shanghai, China in February to be fitted as 'window walls' for a luxury restaurant in a new $250 million Ritz-Carlson Hotel.
The Schweiss Lift-Strap System utilizes nylon web material, which quietly wraps on a take-up spindle when the start-stop button activates an electric motor. Tensile strength of this nylon strap: 29,000 lbs! Straps are quiet, clean, quick, rust-free, durable and longer lasting than steel cables.
Schweiss Doors is one of about ten Hydraulic & Bifold door manufacturers nationwide, but only Schweiss has the patented nylon strap system. And size isn't an issue. Their biggest bifold door to date is a massive 140' wide facility. Their biggest single project: 145 doors, each 12' x 40', for T-hangers at Bult Field near Chicago, a new privately owned airfield.
Creating tremendous interest within the construction and architectural industry is the new Schweiss Hydraulics. Builders like the clean, yet rugged design of these new products from Schweiss Manufacturing. Heavy-duty hydraulic cylinders provide super stability. As one builder commented, "Hydraulic doors with the Schweiss name, it doesn't get any better."
Schweiss created a new world of interest with architects and builders with a
marketing logo stating: 'You Think It, We'll Build It.' Today Schweiss
doors can be ordered with walk-through 'designer doors', single or double
insulated windows, remote radio controlled capability, photo eye sensor for
emergency stop situations, virtually any 'skin' material, be it metal,
aluminum, glass, redwood siding, slate, or stucco. And of course matching
colors to accessorize the existing main structure. Doors can also be custom
cut to follow the roofline to gain extra headroom. A 50' Schweiss
Hydraulic for a unique Florida 'Hangar Home' was specially designed with 4'
trusses to accommodate a full-width patio deck and veranda roof. Open this
amazing hydraulic door and the entire patio deck sweeps up.
Today the aviation industry claims about 75% of the total sales of Schweiss Manufacturing, which now employs about 62 people full-time. That ratchets up to about 76 on a seasonal basis when the Ag market kicks in. Because farm equipment gets bigger and bigger, Schweiss Doors find a comfortable niche with U.S. farmers building new machine sheds for their huge farm equipment. Door heights are now up to 20', and can be remotely controlled from tractor, pickup or combine cabs.
Costs vary depending upon the door size and options with current costs at $110-$130/linear foot. This includes installation, which typically is a 1-day process for the two-to-three men Schweiss crew that delivers the door.
Why the continued sales strength for Schweiss doors? Having a good product obviously deserves credit. The private aviation sector is still going strong for Schweiss Doors during the current world recession and we keep picking up tempo.
"When Piper, Cessna, and others started building small planes again, our business with airport operators and airport builders really took off," relates Schweiss, himself a licensed pilot owning a Cherokee Six hangered at Hector, MN, eight miles from the Schweiss operation. The Hector Airport is frequently used by aviators and business people flying in to visit the Schweiss factory.
Today business is brisk for Schweiss Doors with both national and international sales including a European-based distributor. "The long-term future of our industry is strong. Better, quicker, quieter and safer door openings have a bright future," concludes Schweiss.
Schweiss Computer Programmers and Inventory Control Managers developed a unique computer program that details steel components, hinges, nuts, bolts and total hardware of each door. A computer printout of each order goes to electrical, steel, and welding crews in the various buildings of a 26-acre manufacturing facility, so each worker knows precisely what hardware is needed for each door as it moves through the assembly process. Doors are built as ordered so inventory is minimized.
Lead Sales person, Julie Schafer coordinates telephone and Internet generated sales. About 15 percent of sales activity is now Internet sourced, but the majority of our leads are driven from satisfied door customers.
Visit us on the web at www.bifold.com or by phone at 800-746-8273.