Agri-Fab

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Agri-Fab, Inc. is an American manufacturer of lawn and garden attachments located in Sullivan, Illinois. Agri-Fab operates a 350,000 sq ft (33,000 m2). manufacturing facility[1] and at peak season employs nearly 400 employees in a town of 4,700 and the surrounding 40-mile (64 km) area.

History[edit]

Agri-Fab administration building

The story began in 1975 with the idea of developing a new and improved lawn sweeper. Soon, Agri-Fab® went on to redesign and manufacture a product that outperformed any lawn sweeper on the market. The result attracted the attention of a major retailer and, ultimately, catapulted Agri-Fab into the position of an industry leader of lawn and garden attachments.

Agri-Fab expanded its manufacturing facilities to meet its customers’ potential needs, with the addition of a 12,500-square-foot building. The building was finished early in 1987, just in time for the lawn and garden season. The expansion proved necessary. Orders for the new lawn sweeper were heavy, and overall company sales doubled.

AF’s business model included the development of a complete product line, ranging from lawn carts, lawn sweepers and aerators to fertilizer sprayers, spreaders and snowblades.

Not everything the company produced was to be attached to a tractor. Agri-Fab was also producing environmentally friendly products that relied on muscle power. In addition to standard wheelbarrows, its precision-balanced poly wheelbarrow allowed the user to haul several times his or her weight. Its silent push reel mower, with blades that were precision ground to the point where the blade and the cutter bar did not touch, was the best in the business. Even as Agri-Fab added new products, the lawn sweeper continued to be the mainstay of the product line. Gradually, Agri-Fab became the dominant source in the lawn sweeper business.

After its successful re-entry into the lawn and garden manufacturing arena, Agri-Fab’s growth continued. Through the period of the early 1990s, the business had doubled in size from what it was in the late 1980s and doubled in size again by 1999. One reason for the continued growth was constant reinvestment back into the company operations and infrastructure. Three years after going into business, Agri-Fab invested in its first computer. Early on, using its previous experience with a larger organization, the company purchased software with the capability of taking data from the shop floor—from part numbers to costs to labor distribution—and entering the data automatically into the general ledger. Having such up-to-the-minute data allowed the company to react to customer needs and make better business decisions, and provided a basis for a future conversion to completely integrated manufacturing and management systems.

By the late 1980s, regulations on liquid-paint spraying required all large manufacturing companies to convert to a high-solids paint. This was to be a costly and troublesome changeover. After researching all potential alternatives, in 1993 the company purchased and installed four powder-coating spray booths in a newly constructed paint building. The powder coating process eliminated all air pollution and hazardous waste, while increasing product appearance and durability.

One of the challenges faced in the early 1990s was drawing enough workers from the surrounding area to keep up with growth. Automation was utilized to supplement the existing work force. Agri-Fab built a new 110,000-square-foot building and modernized its operations with computer-controlled assembly lines that monitored each unit by weight to determine if any parts were missing. The use of robot technology was implemented in areas such as welding, drilling and strapping to help streamline the process. Agri-Fab also installed sophisticated laser equipment, which eliminated the high cost of precision tooling for lower-volume work.

As the 21st century arrived, the company faced increasing competition from overseas products. Quite often these products were almost complete copies of AF products. As this trend had been increasing in frequency and severity, the company began the initial stages of an anti-dumping petition. With help from several law firms and internal effort by AF employees, a petition was filed in June 2008. Company executives traveled to Washington, DC in July 2008 to appear before the International Trade Commission. While there was opposition to the petitions by some US competitors and Chinese manufacturers, the board voted unanimously to launch an investigation.

In addition to the efforts required to move this forward, the company worked to design new, patentable products. 2008 saw the creation of the SmartSweep (trademark). This all new version of Agri-Fab’s most popular product provided features no other sweeper on the market had.

June 2009 saw the final hearing on the anti-dumping petition. In the hearing, both sides were allowed to make their case in front of the commissioners before the final vote. No opposing forces attended this hearing. July 15, 2009 the ITC released the results of the investigation. All six commissioners voted in favor of Agri-Fab and the domestic manufacturers of Tow Behind Lawn Groomers.

Agri-Fab operates an on-site subsidized daycare center for the children of its employees, enabling families to better balance home and work. The company also donates funds to the community through many charitable organizations including area churches, hospitals, schools and foundations. [2]

Products[edit]

Agri-Fab currently produces a variety of tractor attachments.[3]

Its line of groomers consists of spike aerators, plug aerators, and dethatchers. Aerators are used to loosen compacted soil and allow nutrients to be better absorbed into the soil.[4] They also help the roots of grass to grow deeper and turf to become thicker. As far as dethatchers goes, Agri-Fab produces a variety including one that attaches to most lawn sweepers. Dethatchers are used to remove thatch, which is a layer of accumulating/slowly decomposing grass clippings, roots, grass stems, and debris that settle on the ground over time.[5]

Agri-Fab lawn sweeper

Agri-Fab's main products, lawn sweepers, use rotating brushes to collect debris such as grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, twigs, and other debris and they are placed into a collection/hopper bag.[6] When the bag fills, it can be emptied onto a compost pile or bagged for disposal. Agri-Fab's produces both tow and push lawn sweepers. Carts have also almost always been a major product of Agri-Fab as it produces both steel and poly carts, some of which are ATV/UTV compatible.

Two other main products made by Agri-Fab are spreaders and rollers. Their spreader line consists of a variety of tow and push spreaders with a large range of capacities and a spreader that is ATV/UTV compatible. The rollers made by Agri-Fab vary in size and capacity and are made of either steel or a poly material.

Other products made by Agri-Fab are ground-engaging attachments (rock rake, disc cultivator, row crop cultivator, scraper box, tow-behind tiller), an ATV/UTV compatible rough-cut mower, 15 and 25 gallon tow-behind sprayers, and a Mow-N-Vac and Chip-N-Vac (both with Briggs & Stratton engines).

2013 OSHA Citation[edit]

Agri-Fab was cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") with three repeat safety violations in March 2013, after OSHA received a complaint that a worker suffered an amputation injury in September 2012. A similar violation was cited in January 2012 at the Sullivan facility. [7]

After receiving the citation, Agri-Fab implemented new and improved operating procedures, created in consultation with industry experts. In order to better protect its workers, Agri-Fab also instituted a comprehensive Safety and Health Management Program in accordance with OSHA's recommended guidelines. In May 2015, OSHA and Agri-Fab entered into a final settlement recognizing that Agri-Fab had successfully abated the conditions complained of in the citation.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hoovers. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  2. ^ http://www.agri-fab.com/Utilities/AboutUs/OurHistory.aspx
  3. ^ Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  4. ^ Why Aerate a Lawn? Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  5. ^ What is Thatch? Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  6. ^ Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  7. ^ US Labor Department's OSHA cites Agri-Fab for 3 repeat safety violations at Sullivan, Ill., manufacturing plant after worker suffers amputation injury. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-26.

External links[edit]

Media related to Agri-Fab at Wikimedia Commons