A potato equipment company conceived by two growers continues to be lead in the 21st Century by people who know what it's like to work the soil. And from the sounds of it, that's the way it's going to stay.
Double L, based in American Falls, Idaho, has been manufacturing harvesting and other potato handling equipment for over 30 years, riding on the experience of growers to guide the company's ingenuity into creating equipment that streamlines the most important aspect of growing-handling the potatoes.
Brock Mitchell, operations manager at Double L, grew up on a farm himself and appreciates what Double L's equipment can do. He takes pride in the fact that the company he works for can turn steel into a complex potato handling machine in a matter of days-nine on average.
LYNN AND LELAND
The two Ls come from the original founders-growers Lynn Johnson and Leland Klinger-who started the company in 1976 building harvesting equipment that met their unfulfilled needs. The company later moved on to windrowers and other handling equipment, but in 30 years the company has never left the original manufacturing facility-they've merely expanded.
Today, Double L's facility is 80,000 square feet and the company employs 80 people full-time throughout the United States. A Colorado man, Dan League, owned Double L for over 20 years before hiring the current management group in 2003. In 2006, the management group bought the assets of the company, and it's been under their care ever since.
When a person thinks of "Chief Executive Officer," that typically suggests a person trained in the way of business models, rather than an industry; however, Chris Hunsaker, the Double L CEO since 2004, grew up on a farm himself-so he knows the importance of quality harvesting and handling equipment. The salesmen understand it just as much, having grown up on farms themselves.
Because none of the Double L salesmen are paid commission, growers are sold what they need. If they need a specific parts or a new machine, that's what they're sold-not something the salesman was motivated to sell. There's no need to push unnecessary equipment sales, because Double L doesn't build inventory-only what customers order.
A tour of their American Falls facility reveals that-besides a long-running safe work environment-there's still work to do even in an unsure economy, building new equipment for specific customers who ordered those machines, and customizing them to fit their needs. Since Double L has been in business, that trait has helped set them apart. Some applications for which Double L equipment has been adapted or built from the drawing board include: self-propelled potato harvesters, inspection tables, over-the-side trailer loaders, surge bins, custom trailers, telescoping conveyor booms, diesel/electric locomotive components and even a feed cart for the Elk Refuge near Jackson Hole, Wyo.
COMMITMENT TO QUALITY
Double L is committed to delivering exceptional value to the buyers and suppliers they serve by taking the time to understand their customers' needs during the Request for Quote process. Double L is able to supply high-quality products at reasonable prices by utilizing investments in quality people, quality vendors and quality manufacturing equipment. Some recent equipment additions include: a new CNC plasma cutter, CNC press brake and CNC lathe.
Employee longevity is another reason Double L is so good at what they do. Many workers in the shop have been there for 10 years or more, and some employees have been at Double L for 25 years.
In the 21st Century, Double L is still moving forward. The term "Bruise Free" is a motto employees are striving to integrate into each piece of equipment-to reduce bruising in crops as much as possible. "Bruise incentives in today's potato contracts can be huge," says Mitchell. "We feel like we need to do everything we can to help the growers take advantage of those contract provisions."
Double L also sees a bright future for their equipment in places all over the world.
"The market for our equipment is a global market," says Hunsaker. Double L has shipped equipment to places like Russia, China, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, Egypt and Israel. "We have overseas customers that were harvesting and handling their potatoes by hand a few years ago. Economics and growing populations are pushing farmers in developing nations to adopt practices that will improve the yield and quality of their crops."
Mitchell quickly adds, "The nice thing about sending equipment to all of these places is that it forces us to be better at everything we do. At the end of the day, we will deliver a better product and better service here at home as a result of what we are learning overseas." Double L strives to provide solutions to growers that enable them to be more efficient, getting the crop out of the ground faster and into storage without damage.
The Double L 965 Harvester and 973 Harvester are two pieces of equipment that are sure to expedite harvest. The 965 is a three-row harvester that is four feet longer than the previous three-row, and the 973 is a new four-row model. Both of these harvesters are capable of ground speeds in excess of 3 miles per hour.
Time is money, and during harvest time precious time is wasted during the transition between a full truck and an empty one. However, both of these Double L harvesters have Return Flow, a patent-pending feature that enables you to continue harvesting for as much as 45 seconds during a truck transition, increasing your number of truck loads by 15-20 percent. That's actual money in the pocket. Both harvesters also feature a short side elevator for less product lift, a center-position boom for better visibility and balanced weight distribution, a pull-style digger bed with true rock protection and the largest cleaning capacity in the industry-with 52 inches of cleaning width and three more shafts than most standard cleaning tables.
With technology like this, it looks like Double L is poised to continue its innovation well into the 21st Century.