On the Road: Growth isn’t minimized for Blooming Prairie company

Published 7:28 am Wednesday, March 3, 2010

BLOOMING PRAIRIE — Despite the economic recession, Spray Control Systems Inc./Minimizer is a growing company, partially because of the deal for Minimizer fenders to be used on all terrain vehicles in the War in Afghanistan.

Minimizer didn’t sell the fenders directly to the government, but sold the fenders to Oshkosh Defense, a division of Oshkosh Corp., a long-time Minimizer customer that builds specialty trucks. Oshkosh built the M-ATV for the military that can navigate rugged terrain in Afghanistan, as opposed to heavier vehicles used in Iraq, said Jeff McCabe, president. The vehicles are built strong to be mine and ambush resistant.

Military contracts often take years to go from the planning stages to a reality, but McCabe said the M-ATV was turned around in just seven months to meet the military’s need.

“A lot of the vendors to Oshkosh Defense … were unable to meet that high demand,” McCabe said. “One of the reasons they like coming to us is we can meet that demand to provide them with a quality product on time.”

Minimizer manufactures heavy duty truck fenders, mud flaps, bracket kits and tool boxes for trucks. The products are used in the large truck industry as replacements for vehicles that need more durable, long-lasting fenders. McCabe said the company’s products are known for durability, and a warranty that is guaranteed for the life of their customer’s truck.

“Our product, what it’s really known for is its durability,” he said. “We have a life-time warranty — it just doesn’t break.”

Since their fenders are made from a high quality plastic material, they’re made to bounce back to their original shape and continue to look new. The company even posts videos to the Web site where they test the products by hitting them with a wrecking ball and driving over it.

McCabe said Minimizer’s market is focused on people who operate in rugged terrain in the construction industry or gravel hauling. He described these as areas where people go between off-road driving and general road driving, which is one of the reasons the vehicles work well for the military.

Durability is one of the reasons Oshkosh Defense selected Minimizer’s fenders. The military tested Minimizer’s fenders for extreme hot and cold temperature, testing it from 200 degrees to -200 degrees, and the fenders held up to the testing, McCabe said.

A 150-pound toolbox is even mounted to the Minimizer fender, and McCabe said the fenders are durable enough that they act as a spring with the toolboxes attached.

The deal with Oshkosh started late last year, and McCabe said Minimizer is still manufacturing the fenders for the M-ATV. McCabe said the initial order was for about 10,000 vehicles. The first portion of the contract is scheduled to be completed in the middle of 2010, he said.

However, McCabe said the Oshkosh Defense has had success with the M-ATV, and models of the vehicle are being used as an ambulance and dump truck in the war.

“It’s becoming to be a popular vehicle,” he said. “I’m hoping we’ll see additional orders continue to roll in.”

McCabe said Minimizer may sign another contract to provide fenders for other military transport vehicles designed by Oshkosh Defense. One such vehicle may be a Heavy Equipment Transport Vehicle that McCabe described as a tow truck on steroids that is used to tow 70 ton tanks.

Growth

The company has grown since Dick Kruckeberg started it in 1983. His son Craig now runs the company, and Craig’s two sons are involved as well.

Despite the economic recession, Minimizer is growing. The company hired McCabe, three sales managers, a plant employee, and a technology coordinator in the last eight months.

“In a time when the economy is not real strong, instead of cutting back and cutting resources, the last thing we want to do is cut sales manager positions,” he said. “We’re taking a more proactive approach to seek out and make sure that production customers understand the unique features of our product, service and the warranty that we provide, and we’re growing because of it.”

Minimizer has a warranty on all its fenders to last the life of the truck the fenders are installed on.

The company is off to a strong start in 2010, as McCabe said January’s sales had been the highest in the history of the company, until February’s sales were even higher.

“We had set pretty aggressive sales goals for 2010, and we’re surpassing those,” he said.

While Minimizer used to directly ship products, the company is now focusing on selling products through truck distributors.

“Our focus now is much more laser pointed where we’re trying to establish relationships with very strong, viable after market truck distributors,” McCabe said. “And then we manage the truck distributors much like we would a sales person on the street.”

A big part of the company’s recent growth comes from expanding its sales range. Minimizer sells products through distributors in Rochester and across the U.S. The company started selling products to distributors in Canada a few years ago, and Minimizer recently expanded to sell products in Puerto Rico.

McCabe said they’re looking to expand into Mexico and other countries, too. Selling to distributors in Europe and Australia is also on the company’s radar; however, McCabe said that’s down the road.

Minimizer representatives go to trade shows each month to generate interest from companies. McCabe said they can garner interest from more than 300 companies at a trade show, and they send them to distributors they work with.