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Precision Husky Sprouted From Sapling Company

Wed December 22, 2004 - National Edition
Pete Sigmund



Precision Husky Corp., Birmingham, AL, has been celebrating 40 years of growth as a manufacturer of a wide array of sawmill and logging equipment this year — from huge loaders that lift logs as heavy as 17 tons (15 t) to chippers that chop up logs into chips.

If large oaks from small acorns grow, so, too, has Precision Husky developed into one of the nation’s leading manufacturers in the timber field.

When it was founded in 1964, the company was based in a small 5,000-sq.-ft. (464 sq m) corrugated steel facility in North Birmingham. Founded to manufacture and sell parts for sawmill chippers, Precision Chipper Sales and Engineering was founded by Harold West. The tiny company employed approximately five people.

Bob Smith Arrives

The story of Precision Husky’s growth since then very much involves Bob Smith, who joined the company as a vice president in 1967. He said the big money title compensated for the not-so-big paychecks.

Smith helped steer the company away from manufacturing parts to manufacture the entire chipper. The company had produced parts for Morbark for approximately three years. The company introduced the Precision chipper in 1967. Then, it designed and manufactured a full line of sawmill and logging equipment throughout the 1970s. These machines included rosserhead debarkers, chip screens, vibrating conveyors, mobile whole-tree chippers and many other products.

After the company was restructured as Precision Chipper Corp. in 1970, Smith became a minority stockholder. The company relocated to its current location in Moody, AL, a suburb of Birmingham, in 1971.

In 1982, Smith became majority stockholder. Two years later, he acquired the remaining shares, giving him sole ownership of the company as president and chief executive officer. It has been a family-owned company, with its own unique family spirit, ever since.

This year, the company’s 40th anniversary, Smith handed over his position as president to his son, Scott, who had joined Precision in 1986 as a shipping and receiving clerk.

Scott has worked in almost every department.

“He really learned the product line with hands-on and working with other people as the products were being built,” Bob said.

Even though he is younger than half of the company’s current staff, Bob said “He gained their respect by working alongside them for all of these years.”

Bob continues to help guide the company as chairman and chief executive officer.

In the Beginning

Bob first got a taste of this industry in the late 1950s with Budow Machine Company, a subcontracting shop in Birmingham. He recalled one day when his supervisor announced they were about to embark on the construction of a chipper.

“I remember asking what a chipper was,” he said.

This was the first chipper built in the Southeast.

Following his tenure with Budow, Bob and two colleagues created Bush Manufacturing Company in Birmingham, where he was executive vice president. Then he worked as plant manager at Soderhamn Manufacturing in Talladega, AL.

He left that position to join Precision in 1967.

Kept Growing

Under the second generation of Smith leadership, the company kept growing from a sapling to a full-grown nationally recognized leader in its field.

Acquiring Husky Hydraulics, in Two Harbors, MN, in 1986, the company became Precision Husky. Then, in 1998, it acquired the Recycling Equipment Division of Toro Co., in Olathe, KS.

The company has grown from its humble roots to its present 165,000-sq.-ft. (15,329 sq m) facility in Moody. Instead of manufacturing parts, it now offers more than 70 products for the lumber, chip, logging and wood-waste recycling industries, and employs approximately 130 people.

Full Line

Precision Husky’s products include the Husky Brute XL Series of knuckleboom loaders, heaviest in the industry, which offer the industry’s largest steel booms and heavy-duty subframes. The XL-345, for instance, weighs 31,000 lbs. (14,061 kg). Its grapple can lift 17 tons (15 t) of logs at a 10-ft. (3 m) radius.

Timber harvesting equipment ranges from the Precision 1858 whole tree chipper to the DCL 2452 debarker chipper and the 3084 whole tree chipper, which reduce wood to a chip that is cooked in paper mills into a pulp to produce paper.

Wood-waste processing systems range from the entry level Pro-Grind 900 to the top-of-the-line Pro-Grind 5100, which reduce wood into a mulch used for fuel or by homeowners for landscaping

Demand for Precision Husky’s products comes from all over the world, mainly from the forest industry.

Precision recommends its customers enroll in the training sessions, which includes more than a day of classroom work and more time in the shop for hands-on training.

Family

“We have tried to build a family spirit here and I think we have succeeded,” Bob said. “This undertaking has positively impacted the way management treats employees and the way employees feel towards management.”

Scott, as the new president, looks forward to continued growth.

“Since coming to Precision, I learned a lot,” he said. “Two big lessons are that you have to have loyal, competent people on your team and you should listen to their ideas.”

Growth

Precision Husky’s annual revenues now exceed $20 million. It continues to offer new products, including several new grinder product lines in the past year.

Bob expects most of the company’s growth will come from the grinders as burning laws across the country and worldwide become more restrictive. These tightening regulations have sparked new business from contractors who need a way to dispose of stumps and trees. Internationally, Precision expects markets in Australia, South Africa, Europe and Japan to grow stronger.

For more information, visit www.precisionhusky.com.