Local industry making giant additions
W’bago Manufacturing adds 76,000 pound steel bending machine
There is at least one Blue Earth industry that has been making some big additions to their production capabilities and wants to let people know about it.
“We just thought it might be important to let everyone know that it is not all gloom and doom in the manufacturing world, due to COVID-19, especially here in Blue Earth,” Daryle Pomrenke, owner of Winnebago Manufacturing, says. “We thought this was pretty good news, and we wanted to share it, let people know we are in the process of making some large improvements to our company.”
One of those improvements is a piece of equipment that is, indeed, very large.
“We recently finished installing a Faccin 3-drive roller plate bending machine,” Pomrenke says. “What it does is roll steel plate that is up to two and a half inches thick, and five to ten feet wide.”
The new machine is a beast he adds, weighing 76,000 pounds, with each of its three rollers weighing 10,000 pounds each.
Getting this type of machine was not easy for the company located in Blue Earth’s West Industrial Park. Especially since one of the few places in the world which builds such a machine is located in Italy.
“So, we ordered it from Faccin, which is in Italy,” Pomrenke says. “To the best of my knowledge, the only companies making these are all in Europe. I’m not sure why.”
It was built and loaded on a ship to take it from Italy to Canada, where it went by railroad across Canada headed to the U.S.
“It was hung up in Canada for quite some time,” says Travis Pomrenke, Daryle Pomrenke’s nephew and the sales manager at Winnebago Manufacturing. “First it was customs issues and then it was because the border shut down due to COVID. Let’s just say it was a fun adventure, getting it here.”
Eventually the giant machine got to Ramsey, Minnesota, where it was uncrated and put on two large semi-trucks.
Daryle Pomrenke’s son, Matt Pomrenke, the general manager at Winnebago Manufacturing, arranged for a rigging company called Cullinan to bring the new roller to Blue Earth and set it up.
“They arrived with four semis, two hauling the machine and rollers, and two more with the equipment to unload it, put it in position and install it,” Travis Pomrenke says. “It would have taken us at least a day, maybe more, to get that done. But they had it installed in an hour and a half.”
The Pomrenke’s say that their employee, Isaiah Bladzik, who is their CAD operator, helped with the machine research and installation.
Of course, Daryle Pomrenke is already thinking about moving the huge machine.
“Now that we see it in operation, I think it needs to go to a more open space, and put the whole thing in a hole in the floor four feet deep,” he explains. “That would give us more space above it to move the materials to be rolled on and off the roller.”
So why did Winnebago Manufacturing need such a large roller machine?
“It gives us a lot more capabilities,” Daryle Pomrenke says. “Our customers were asking for this, so it lets us be more full service in doing metal rolling for them.”
He explains that while major manufacturers, such as John Deere, have their own rollers of this size, smaller companies want to be able to get this work done somewhere off site.
“It is very unusual for a job shop like us to have this ability,” Daryle Pomrenke says. “So we wanted to serve our customers by having this capability.”
The company already had two Faccin made rollers in the building. One could bend steel up to 3/4 inch, another could handle metal up to one inch thick.
It is not the only new piece of equipment, or specialized service, Winnebago Manufacturing has installed lately.
“Two years ago we installed a new MetalMaster plasma torch system, which could do true hole tech with a bevel head, which we needed to be able to do for our customers’ jobs” Daryle Pomrenke says. “We also have one of the largest stress relief ovens in Minnesota. During the manufacturing process, including rolling and welding, causes stress. The oven heats to 1,400 degrees and takes that stress out.”
The company also just recently installed a new very large paint booth. They always had a paint booth, where they could put a primary coat on some of the items they build. Now they can apply finish coats to some of the larger items they construct.
The new Dry Filter Crossflow Paint Booth has a nearly 9,000 pound frame with a booth size of 21 feet wide, 15 feet high, and 60 feet deep.
“We got the new booth in August, and it took into September to get it all installed,” Travis Pomrenke says. “We are building large tanks for a company and needed this to be able to do finish coats on the large tanks.”
Daryle Pomrenke explains that having the new equipment, the torch, roller machine and large paint booth, all complement each other.
“It allows us to be able to offer the ability to do just what our customers want and need us to do,” he says. “Our customers keep wanting us to do larger and larger projects, and now we can.”
To move those large projects – and the materials needed to build them – around the shop, Winnebago Manufacturing has 19 overhead cranes inside their building, and will be soon adding their 20th crane.
Winnebago Manufacturing has a very long history, having started out being located in the city of Winnebago 60 years ago, but moved to Blue Earth in 1986.
In May of 1999, Daryle Pomrenke, along with two others, Bob Preston and Joe Michaelis, bought the company. Over the years, Pomrenke eventually bought out the other two partners and is the sole owner.
“We have quite a few companies as customers and we do a lot of varied projects for them,” Daryle Pomrenke says. “But about 70 percent of our work is for one customer, Kato Engineering. We make items they will use in manufacturing items for their customers. And we need to be able to build whatever they need built. And now we can build about anything needed to be done.”
And, that’s good news.