Rem Enterprises is at the crossroads of old-world dogma and the new millennium of advanced technologies and innovations, and even though it serves the centuries-old farming industry with grain and harrowing products, its ingenuity is nonetheless state-of-the-art. Lorie Greenspan reports.
If you’re a company situated between towns with names like Medicine Hat and Moose Jaw, the pillars on which you do business need to sink solidly into the ground, lest an outsider think you’re still communicating through tin cups and a string.
Yet for Rem Enterprises, which embraces the Canadian prairie and all of its inherent legend and lore, these places are not as much shadows of a simple past but places that combine tradition and progress. Through them winds a highway that may have supported native Indians and bison herds centuries ago, but today has expanded into a quick-paced artery and a metaphor for global advancement.
In 1966 the company was founded in Swift Current by Frank Rempel, now 85 and still company president, who started building chaff spreaders and savers and combine attachments for the agricultural industry. He designed a way to save chaff (separated from the plant during harvesting) to feed to cattle, and from this little bit of ingenuity, oversaw his company through 10 expansions in three different facilities. In its current plant since 1981, Rem employs 150 and maintains two factories measuring 30,000 square feet each. Major products include blowers for air seeders; springs and tines through a wireforming segment, including specialized wire forming for the agricultural industry. The company also fabricates steel for other manufacturers.
GRAINS OF INNOVATION
However, three quarters of Rem’s business is with its popular GrainVac. Developed in 1985, GrainVac is quite literally a big vacuum hooked to a tractor that sucks grain from a bin and feeds it onto a truck. The original purpose behind the invention was to improve the operator’s safety factor in unloading grain, which caused a lot of dust to kick up.
“The old way was sticking an auger in the bin and shoveling with a handkerchief over your mouth,” relates Rem General Manager and Rempel’s son-in-law Bob Sonntag. “You’d shovel all afternoon and you’d end up covered with dust.”
Having advanced the technology behind the GrainVac through the years, Rem today offers a machine that is very fast, which has been lauded by truckers who never have the time to wait and, as it turns out, they get what they ask for at Rem. The company’s GrainVac Model 3700 produces 10,000 bushels an hour, giving the ability to load a semi in five minutes. In fact, adds Sonntag, “with some truckers, if they know a company has a GrainVac, they’ll give a small discount on price because they know the wait will be reduced.” Using an auger, he adds, could take a half hour to 45 minutes, so the GrainVac not only cuts down on time, but on labor as well.
Other products include the DeltaTM rotary harrow, designed for aggressive harrowing, in sizes from five-foot to eight-foot. The unique design eliminates build up around posts and under fences. Features include replaceable tynes and heavy-duty construction. The DeltaTM flexible harrow has been a mainstay in pasture renovation for over 20 years, and is the best tool available for soil aeration, elimination of manure clods and quicker green-up in the spring. Delta’s newest product is the “Push ‘N’ Drive Over Gate”, which comes in six-, 14- and 16-foot widths. This product eliminates the need to get out of the vehicle to go through the gate, while ensuring the safety of livestock in the area.
Rem also manufactures a variety of high pressure blowers for agricultural applications. These blowers are used in aeration systems (components); air seeders; granular applicators; air-assisted material handling systems (both solid and liquid) and air reels. Rem blowers can be seen on products manufactured by a wide range of OEMs including the John Deere air seeder, Spray-Air sprayer, Haybuster applicator, Concord air seeder, Tormaster air seeder, and the Conserva Pak air seeder.
“Air movement and pneumatics is our bread and butter,” Sonntag says, adding the company has also developed applications for customers in air seeding. “Historically, it was done through gravity seeding but we discovered in Canada if you have seed injected in an air stream it can improve consistency in placement in the right quantities and in the right position.”
THE PAST AND FUTURE
Through all of these products and services Rem has served the agricultural industry well in the last three decades, responding to trends as well as ebbs and flows in the market. “The agricultural industry for years was flat – not showing a lot of growth,” Sonntag says, “but in the last five years it showed tremendous growth, partly because of the ethanol evolution, and increasing demand for corn. More corn acres means more corn to move, and the more GrainVacs we sell. These have been good years, and we’ve grown 30 percent per year.” But the economic downturn brought with it a global hush while companies waited to see what moves the new Obama administration would make. “We don’t see a downturn in the farm equipment business yet,” he adds. “But people are cautious.”
At the very least, Rem can count on its hometown for support. In 2004, it was Swift Current business of the year. And in an event whose theme matched the company’s own tenet, Rem earned first prize in the Commercial Category at Swift Current’s annual parade last July 26. For the parade, whose theme was “Old Traditions & New Beginnings,” Rem fashioned a float containing an old grain handling machine that was built in 1984, alongside the newest GrainVac model, the 2700. In addition, some of the Rem staff and families were part of another float, sitting in a covered wagon, provided by Frank and Helen Rempel. The theme for this part of the float was “The Career is at Rem …The Track is Yours! …Manufacturing Your Future.” That seems to say it all.