Weening Brothers Manufacturing Inc.
Based in the farming community of Bradford, Ontario, Weening Brothers Manufacturing Inc. has specialized in manufacturing and supplying vegetable handling equipment and custom design for 30 years. Whether it’s carrots, potatoes, onions, apples, or peppers, the company offers a diverse product line to meet many needs. In a competitive marketplace, Weening Brothers has gained a reputation for high quality and dependable equipment, both in Canada and internationally.
On its 30th anniversary, Partner & Sales Manager, Jon Weening attributes the company’s continued success to hiring the right team: “We have a great team, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without each one of them doing what they do best,” he says. “Whether that’s designing the latest product, welding it together, or sweeping the shop floor. Doing all those things with a positive attitude makes all the difference.”
This month The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Weening about the company’s current projects, the markets it serves and some of the lessons learned after 30 years of business.
As part of its growth over the years, Weening Brothers has expanded its product offering and product knowledge, and today offers leading edge vegetable handling equipment. This includes bin dumpers and fillers; wet and dry hoppers; conveyors and elevators; harvesters and hydro coolers. It offers a range of other machines to manage waste removal, washing and polishing, sizing and grading, water recycling and palletizing. It also continues to custom design equipment to meet specific requirements in various other industries such as a remote controlled material shuttle vehicle, (nick-named “shuttle buggy”) recently designed and built for a high end store fixturing manufacturer in Bradford.
“Carrots, potatoes and onions are the three main products we build equipment for, although we have done lots of work for spinach packers, sweet corn packers and today ginseng harvesting equipment is a big part of our business,” Weening says.
Exciting Projects in Ginseng and Carrot Harvesting and Artificial Turf
Since 1996, Ginseng diggers have been a key component of the Weening Brothers’ business. Its Ginseng harvester – the ‘Ginsenger DLX’ – is one of the company’s prized products. Since its engineers began designing and refining the machine seven years ago, demand has increased each season. The new Ginsenger DLX is a far more complex version of the original Ginseng digger and includes a very effective dirt and stone removal system, state of the art rear discharge conveyor, as well as a steerable axle and levelling system.
“We have sold about 14 all together. The first couple sales were staggered over a few years, one and two at time,” Weening says. “Then last year we sold eight and we have current orders for six and we expect that will probably go up to eight or nine for this coming harvest season in the fall. It’s one of the key agricultural products for us.”
Providing excellent customer service is a core factor of the company’s success. As a result, its experienced team of engineers are eager to help customers meet their particular farming needs. Right now, for example, the company is developing a specialized carrot harvester, specifically for the Latin American market.
“They have unique needs as far as the logistics of how the farming operations happen in Latin America, particularly in Mexico,” Weening says. “Traditional methods are not really the right solution for them so we have been working closely with customers to develop custom specialized carrot harvesters specifically for that market.”
Outside of agriculture, Weening Brothers is currently working on two projects in the artificial turf market. The first project involves developing a machine to pick up and relay rolls of artificial turf in large stadiums. The second project has the company designing a machine to help recycle the rubber and fill in expired turf.
Global Markets and Growth
The local market in Canada is still the company’s largest. However, the market in the United States and Latin America has been growing steadily over the years, and today Weening Brothers conducts 50% of its business in those countries. “There was a lot of potential in the growing markets of Mexico and South America and that has taken several years to get off the ground, but that is definitely a key component today that forms about 20 to 25% of our overall sales.”
While the company is focusing on growth, which includes streamlining its core product line, Weening emphasizes that increasing revenue and profits is not the only goal. “A key goal is to grow the company in an effort to increase opportunities for our employees to further their career without having to go somewhere else,” he says.
He adds, “We’re developing a more standardized product line to help grow the business, but custom solutions will definitely continue to be part of what we do.”
Great Team is the Key to Success
Since 1986, the company has been successfully designing and manufacturing high quality equipment. “That success is in large part due to a lot of blood, sweat and tears, especially by the founding brothers, Fred and Ron in the early years.” Today, with a current revenue of about $5 million, he says the company’s hardworking team is the key to its continued success. “Just having a great team of staff – great engineers with good ideas and great work ethic – is what contributes to our success more than anything,” he says. “We have a shop full of guys who are skilled and dedicated to what they do and it’s hard work and dedication that got us here.”
After 30 years of business, Weening says the most valuable lesson he has learned is the value of hiring the right people. “One of the biggest challenges has been and continues to be developing systems,” he explains.
“Systems are necessary for controlled company growth, but are difficult to implement in a company with such a diverse product and service offering. To keep these two aspects in the proper perspective I quote one of my favourite podcast hosts, pastor Andy Stanley: ‘the people you chose, are more important than the systems you use’.”
Weening quotes leadership expert John Maxwell who says: ‘Hire for attitude and train for skills.’ “The longer we’re in business the more we see the importance of that statement,” he adds.