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Home Made: Glenn Metalcraft, Princeton, Minn.

By Maria Surma Manka

Lots of companies say they’re not afraid of failure, but few are willing to go so far as to let it happen. Glenn Metalcraft of Princeton has no such qualms, and despite some unsuccessful experiments along the way, its innovation and boldness have paid off handsomely.

With investments in cutting-edge robotic technology, development of proprietary methods, machinery modifications and lots of trial and error, Glenn Metalcraft is now a leader in the production of spun metal parts for the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) industry, which produces parts and equipment that may be marketed by another manufacturer. 

Founded in 1947, Glenn Metalcraft is one of a few companies that specializes in heavy-gauge metal spinning for the OEM industry. For its customers—including some of the world’s largest agriculture and transportation OEMs—the products must be incredibly strong yet lightweight. As machinery in these industries continues to get larger, their round, rotating and spinning parts must be as wear-resistant and as lightweight as possible to avoid road or crop damage.

The fearlessness of this third-generation, family-owned company has fueled a stellar reputation and an expanding workforce. We talked with Glenn Metalcraft to get the spin on its success.

  • Practice makes perfect—There are two reasons that Glenn Metalcraft can create parts no one else can, according to President Dan Patnode: “Our years of experience and the modifications we’ve made to our machinery. Our competitors couldn’t buy a machine off the shelf that does exactly what we’ve modified ours to do.”  
  • Computer control—It was one of the first companies in the United States to invest in computer numerical control (CNC) spin-forming technology that uses computers, rather than humans, to control machine tools for better accuracy.
  • Staffing sensibility—When hiring, the company prioritizes cultural fits just as much as job skills: “Our core values are a huge part of our company,” said Patnode.
  • Growing workforce—Headcount has soared from 31 employees six years ago to 55 today, with plans to hire more for another building that was recently purchased. “Hiring can be a challenge,” said Patnode. “But we’re getting more Twin Cities applicants. A commute to Princeton is in the opposite direction of rush-hour traffic!”
  • Cutting edge—Once a piece of raw steel or plate arrives from the distribution center, an operator cuts the piece with laser, plasma or a water jet according to its requirements. The cuttings are stacked and a fork truck moves them to a staging area.  
  • Relative speed—The speed and exact process of each piece varies widely. “We can form a part in nine seconds while others take 50 minutes,” said Patnode. “It really depends on the complexity of the part, its size and the material’s thickness.”
  • Spinning steel—Glenn Metalcraft works with steel ranging from the thinnest of gauges up to 1.5 inches thick and 120 inches in diameter. Products include hopper cones, brake discs, wheels centers and stump jumpers. “We can even spin abrasive-resistant steel, and I don’t know anyone else who can do that,” noted Patnode.
  • Impressive output—In total, the company produces nearly 400 part numbers per year.
  • Expansion plan—Glenn Metalcraft has expanded from its original building size of 10,000 square feet to its current footprint of 76,000 square feet. A facility in Texas has also been added to speed up the distribution of its parts around the country.
  • Safety first—Glenn Metalcraft recently became MNSHARP certified, a rare and prestigious recognition from the Minnesota Health and Safety Awareness Program. It spotlights companies that develop safety and health programs that go beyond OSHA standards and result in immediate and long-term prevention of job-related injuries and illnesses. 

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