‘Good Enough Won’t Do’ for this Family-Run Manufacturer
Danuser Machine Company
Danuser Machine Company, Inc. has thrived for over a century as a family-owned manufacturing firm. Based in Fulton, Missouri, the company specializes in making original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, agricultural and industrial equipment attachments, and recoil reduction devices for rifles and shotguns.
“Our company motto is the reason why we’re still around today. That motto is, ‘Good enough won’t do. It must be right.’ The one thing that Danuser has never compromised on in our 109-year history is quality. My personal belief is that other companies lose focus on how they got there and what’s expected of them. They end up being run by investment groups or accountants. Our philosophy is: ‘Keep the quality. It’s what built this company,’” states Co-Owner and Vice President Glenn Danuser.
Clearly, this commitment to quality and core values has paid off. Danuser Machine Company experienced explosive growth last year and has been rapidly adding new staff and facilities.
Glenn – great-grandson of company founder – offers a breakdown of the company’s main segments. “What makes Danuser’s income is the attachment division, number one. Then the OEM division, number two. The recoil division is just kind of a hobby.”
A leading product in the attachment division is an innovative item called the Intimidator tree and post puller. The Intimidator is a patented attachment fitted on tractors or skid steers that removes land obstacles like trees, stumps, boulders, or shrubs. The Intimidator has synchronized jaws and can pull, dig, or carry.
“What we tell people is that the Intimidator can remove any tree with any size machine. The reason is, if you can’t pull it out, you can dig it out or push it over,” Glenn explains. A lock-tab mechanism “makes both jaws very rigid. Then you can excavate and go under a larger tree that you can’t pull or a stump or a rock. You can snap the roots around the tree, eventually topple it over,” he continues.
Other popular attachments for tractors and skid-steers include auger systems, post drivers for installing posts in the ground, and material handling buckets.
“The two main focus points in the OEM segment are ball joints and what we call Klik Pins,” says Glenn. Ball joints are the answer where a flexible connection is required, similar in function to a human hip joint, while Klik Pins are the company’s version of linchpins.
Its recoil products include the Counter Coil “a hydraulic recoil reducer that is good for your big bore rifles and shotguns,” he says and the Comp Coil which has a compression spring and is designed for semi-automatic shotguns.
Most of the products that the company makes are proprietary. “A lot of the products that we’ve been developing are patent-protected. They’re innovative. That is a focal point that Danuser thinks is going to carry us for the next 109 years. If you make the same thing that everybody else makes, you really bring nothing of value to the market. My philosophy is: if we have a tool, it needs to do more than one thing. The Intimidator is great for pulling posts. Then we incorporated [the ability to] dig out stumps and/or move rocks. That makes it almost a three-in-one product, like the Swiss Army knife of machines. That’s what we’re focused on moving forward: innovative, patent-protected machines or tools that can do more than one thing,” he explains.
While the Midwest represents the strongest sales area for the company, the firm has a wide reach and sells across the U.S. and in Canada, South America, Israel, Dubai, Australia, and New Zealand. Attachment products are generally sold by wholesale distributors while Danuser sells its OEM products directly to manufacturers. Recoil reduction products are sold through a variety of channels.
The firm has a very long history, going all the way back to Kasper Berry Danuser, a blacksmith who founded the firm in 1910. The initial focus was on wagon repairs and the like. It was Kasper’s son Henry who really put the company on the map.
Under Henry’s guidance, the Danuser Machine Company became the first firm to mass produce a post hole digger in the United States. Henry did not invent the product but “worked with the gentleman who had the patent on the post hole digger,” Glenn notes.
While working with the post hole digger in the 1940s, Henry “realized he needed something that would allow a little bit of movement but be rigid and solid like a weldment piece. That’s how the ball joint was designed,” Glenn says. “We have a unique manufacturing process for ball joints that’s proprietary. There are a lot of copycats, but ours still has a good demand from people like John Deere, ACCO and Case. Most of the major tractor companies are buying something.”
Klik Pins also came out of the development of the post hole digger. After getting the post hole digger into production, Henry began approaching some of the biggest names in industrial and agricultural equipment. He met with auto magnate Henry Ford and explained how the digger could be fitted to the back of some of the Ford Motor Company’s tractors. A deal was made, and between 1947 and 1957, Danuser manufactured diggers for Ford.
Henry also approached the J.I. Case Company to demonstrate a three-point rear tractor blade. A business relationship was struck, and from 1956 to 1969, the company built blades for the J.I. Case Company. It also forged other partnerships and made products for the likes of International Harvester.
By the mid-1950s, “Things are starting to channel through the Case network for blades and the Ford network for post hole diggers. People were looking at them. That’s kind of how Henry Danuser got Danuser out in front of the public. Then more and more attachments were introduced [by the company]. Henry Danuser was ahead of his time is what I always say,” Glenn says.
In the 1990s, Glenn and his sister Janea came on board. Their father Jerry was still president, but his children decided to establish a new management team to propel the company forward. The team currently has five people and meets once a month to discuss various issues. Having this management structure helped modernize the firm, says Glenn.
Like Glenn, Janea is also a co-owner and vice president, though she focuses more on payroll, insurance, human resources, and administration. Glenn focuses on the sales and marketing side of the firm.
The plan is to keep Danuser Machine Company within the family for years to come. With this in mind, it is not too surprising that the firm boasts a family-focused corporate culture.
“We have brothers and fathers that work here. It’s a family company with a family environment. I ask people to treat it like it was their name above the door, not mine,” states Glenn. “If you have a question, it’s always best to stop and ask. Whether you’re welding, forming [or doing something else], take pride in what you’re producing. Customers expect the world out of this company and its products, and we have to give them that world.”
The firm has also been increasing personnel and expanding. At present, Danuser has roughly 125 employees, up from about eighty just a few years ago. “We built a new building five years ago. We opened up our welding, shipping and receiving, laser cutting, plasma cutting, robotic welders, and brake press area. About a year ago, we moved into our new 12,000-square-foot office complex,” he says. “Now we’re talking about our phase-three expansion, about building another facility to do more manufacturing, to get ready for the next one hundred years.”
All of the company’s facilities are in Fulton, where it currently runs three shifts and anticipates strong growth this year. Glenn says the company wants people “who are willing to learn. You do not have to be proficient in the field. We can train them the way we like to do things. But you have to come to work with a good attitude.” He says that finding a “qualified workforce is the biggest challenge we’re up against.”
Other challenges include international trade, specifically, the tariff battle between the United States and China. The company is keeping a close eye on these economic developments.
Nonetheless, by maintaining its commitment to quality and remaining an expansion-minded, family firm, Glenn offers a positive forecast for the future. “Over the next few years, I see continued growth and continued expansion. We want to maintain the focus of quality and innovation and never get complacent,” he states.