Canadian cattlemen have long looked to Highline manufacturing to provide them with advanced technology that helps them turn a larger profit. The Saskatchewan-based company has never disappointed. With over 50 years of experience in design and manufacturing of industry leading machinery, Highline embodies the spirit of innovation, Dan Harvey reports.
A longstanding figure in the Saskatchewan landscape, Highline Manufacturing Ltd. offers products that serve its region’s cattlemen, cereal and pulse growers, and hay producers. Customers rightfully insist on a big bang out of their buck, and Highline has always responded with high-quality, innovative offerings that increase users’ efficiency and, in turn, their profitability.
Signature products include bale processors, rock pickers, a feed chopper and a bale mover. But as it evolved, the company added mowing, haying and forage tools to its versatile product line.
Established by Raymond Bussiere, the Vonda-based Highline was acquired by Bourgault Industries Ltd. in May 2006, a transaction that serves both sides well. Bourgault was attracted to Highline because of its reputation for innovation and its robust product line, and Bussiere sought to couple his company with a purchaser that would provide the necessary marketing strength and financial stability to help his organization achieve full growth potential within and beyond the community it serves.
“The acquisition presented us with new growth opportunities, both domestically and internationally, and subsequently increased our customer base, which positively impacted both production and sales,” reports Gina Redl, Highline’s sales and marketing and international sales coordinator.
BACK FROM THE BSE BRINK
Recently, Highline’s sales suffered a hard hit from the Canadian bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak that hurt the country’s cattlemen, but Bourgault firmly believed that Highline would rebound from the disaster. In this regard, the parent company wasn’t wrong. Highline engineered a strong recovery, bolstered by new models in its bale processing line.
Throughout its history, bale processors have anchored the Highline product line and, true to its legacy, the company continued new development, most recently introducing two new bale processing equipment models comprised of industry leading elements. The Bale Pro 8100, which handles round bales up to six feet in diameter, includes unique features designed to make bale handling more efficient and cost effective. These include interchangeable left- and right-hand discharge, a patented twine cutter, standard extendable axles, hydraulic discharge door, standard adjustable loading forks, and adjustable aggression settings.
The Bale Mover 1400 model can haul up to 14 bales in double rows of seven bales, a capability that provides users with fast handling with non-stop picking and transporting. Capable of loading from either side, it provides the power to pick up bales on the fly. Further, users can unload without having to exit the unit’s cab.
“Also on the bale processor side, we introduced a feed chopper in 2006, which is something that no one else in the industry offers,” reports Blake Neudorf, Highline’s engineering team leader. “It allows the user to process a bale and turn it into feed, cutting it into very palatable lengths for the cows.”
This chopper is a significant industry advancement, adds Neudorf. “Previously, producers were forced to use a tub grinder and accumulate large batches of chopped-up hay for their TMR [total mixed ration] mixer, but our technology allows them to cut on demand, so that they aren’t left with a large pile of hay that could spoil or waste,” he explains.
EXPANSION VIA INNOVATION
Within the past year, Highline has also expanded into the industrial arena with its high-powered, RCH-equipped movers, designed for roadside cutting. “The mowers represent a big leap in technology,” states Neudorf.
RCH allows operators mower control from the tractor seat. Its patented hitch offers the ability to drive a tractor on safe footing while mowing difficult areas. “For instance, RCH technology allows the mower to operate within a ditch while the tractor is up on a road, which is something that no other company can do without applying attachments or lengthening an entire machine,” he describes. “It’s not only a big boost as far as safety, but it also makes the equipment much easier to operate – and it provided us entrance into the industrial market, opening up a whole new side of our business.”
For its mower technology, Highline has either applied for or already received as many as 10 patents. “The mower has some nice technology included within its structure, such as a advanced blade bolt for attaching mower blades,” adds Neudorf. “It also includes features such as gearbox temperature sensing and independent wing lift. The mower and the feed chopper represent Highline’s most important recent developments.”
FACILITIES ACCOMMODATE GROWTH
The Bourgault purchase also has promoted increased production capacity. Highline recently expanded its 75,000-square-foot, Vonda-based facility – a site that has provided jobs for the surrounding community – with a 12,000-square-foot expansion. “The addition will provide space for the fabrication side of production, as well as support new manufacturing for the parent company,” informs Neudorf. “Because of this addition, we’ve increased our staff and now have about 130 employees.”
Production facilities have always included space for research and development, an ongoing process that involves year-round prototyping and extensive testing for all products. “All R&D is done on site within facility staffed by an eight-member team that employs finite element analysis, data acquisition and 3D CAD software for modeling,” says Neudorf.
Current activities include expansion of the mower product line and development of new products for cattle feeding that will supply markets in North America and Europe.
“Also, within our plant, we are pursuing a lean manufacturing approach, to deal with the high prices of energy, steel and grain,” adds Neudorf.
Even more, the Highline facility adheres to the highest quality standards to ensure that products are free of any defects or faulty processes. An in-place quality system, an integral component of Highline’s “Customer Driven Quality” philosophy, focuses on advancing optimal levels of service and satisfaction.
One of Highline’s greatest strengths has been its substantial distribution system. “On the agricultural side, we sell products through dealerships,” says Redl. “But on the industrial side, we sell factory direct. So we have a mixture. Our client base includes customers in the U.S., Australia, Russia, Ukraine, France, Norway and the Baltic’s.”
On the agricultural side, the company currently serves more than 150 dealers throughout Canada, and it operates throughout the United States in 180 dealerships via two dealer networks. Also, in Canada, Highline is the exclusive distributor for the Vermeer-branded haying equipment. Association with the Pella, Iowa-based Vermeer Agricultural Division enables Highline to provide Vermeer’s full product line of haying products including balers, hydraulic basket rakes, mower conditioners, wheel rakes, mowers and tedders.
Whether through innovative design, acquisition or strategic partnerships, Highline strongly focuses on offering clients the most advanced technology with industry exclusive features. As farmers reap the benefits, Highline continues sowing the fertile fields of imagination with seeds that blossom into full-blown innovations.