Does any of this sound familiar? You’re driving along a heavily traveled, major thoroughfare at night, cruising the inside lane of a six-lane highway. Up ahead, out of the darkness, you spot a glowing beacon. It’s an illuminated arrowboard mounted on a trailer, and its lights indicate that you need to merge to avoid a lane closure. After you make the switch and continue on for about a quarter mile, you slow down to pass through a road construction site.
This contained environment strikes you as otherworldly. A night crew toils beneath tall light towers that illuminate their work area with luminosity that seems brighter than day.
Continuing on your journey, and making your way into a more residential area, you see a caution light that precedes another area illuminated by another set of light towers. Only this time, the floodlights shine down on a fire and emergency crew. Swiftly and easily erected, these portable towers enhance the crew’s visibility, as its members respond to a dangerous situation.
Allmand Bros. Inc. provides all of the necessary wattage, electronic technology and structural equipment deployed in these situations.
Based in Holdrege, Neb., Allmand Bros. manufactures and markets portable light towers, emergency power and light towers, portable light stands, and arrowboards. As a large part of the company’s business involves the construction and oil and gas industries, Allmand Bros. also manufactures and markets portable job-site heaters and compact tractor loader backhoes. “We currently have six tractor models including two-wheel and four-wheel drive models ranging from 20 to 35 horsepower,” says Operations Manager Matt Allmand. “But our primary products are our light towers.”
Outside of the construction industry, the company’s lighting product line has proved useful for a variety of customers and markets including oil and gas production, mining, fire and emergency, municipalities and special events. In business for nearly 70 years, Allmand Bros. has established a worldwide reputation for producing high-quality lighting equipment. “That was our first successful major product line, and it has continued to be our bread and butter through the years,” says Allmand.
The family owned and operated company started in a garage in 1938, when Walter and Les Allmand, brothers with a knack for innovation and entrepreneurialship, invented and then began manufacturing the first electric portable farm welder. But their creativity didn’t stop there. In 1954, they developed the first portable floodlight system. They refined their system in 1968 when they developed the first parallel lamp fixture on a portable light tower. In 1972, the brothers introduced one of the company’s premier products, the Maxi-Lite® portable tower, which represented another refinement of their original system. These two advancements became widely used within the construction industry.
Allmand Bros. continued expanding its product line in 1981 when it purchased the Bemis Company and its diesel arrowboard product line. Four years later, the company added to its tower line with the Night-Lite portable light tower, which was introduced because of changing customer needs.
As the need for quality road construction systems increased toward the end of the last century, the company introduced more new products including its Eclipse® solar arrowboard (1990) and the Maxi-Heat® portable heater system designed to warm up work sites (1991). In 1996, Allmand Bros. made a major advancement when it introduced the “industry exclusive” Super High Output (SHO) lighting system, which the company then included in its Maxi-Lite® and Night-Lite portable towers. The following year, it came out with its Night-Lite Pro™ model, a smaller and more compact portable light tower that also included the SHO lighting system.
Then, in 1998, the company diversified into portable light stand equipment when it acquired the assets of Portable Power and Light, which manufactured the Port-A-Lite™ portable light stands. The company continued innovating as the new century began. It has developed the other components of its construction equipment product, continually updating its TLB line with new tractor loader backhoe models, including their newest 4-wheel drive model, the TLB-6235.
As the company sustained itself and diversified, Les and Walt Allmand passed the business onto brothers Roger and Steve Allmand. Roger and Steve are Walt’s sons and Roger acts as the company’s current chief executive officer. Now, the third generation of family members – Brad (Roger’s son) and Matt Allmand (Steve’s son) – has entered the managerial ranks.
Production facilities have come a long way from the days of Les and Walt’s garage. The company’s single production facility is equipped with advanced capabilities and technologies that include plasma cutting, turbo punch press brake, a large paint system, and the saws and drill presses that enable the company to do its own fabrication. “We also have about 12 large weld bays to weld up our equipment and the small parts that go into them,” adds Matt Allmand. “In addition, we have a jigs and fixtures area that enables us to build more efficient and more tightly toleranced controlled jigs. After assembly, we then test and ship everything.”
Today, the company includes 170 employees who contribute to the Allmand mission of providing high-quality, innovative products that make work sites brighter, warmer, safer, and more efficient for a number of different markets, including the construction industry. Airports, mining companies and customers in the oil and gas exploration industry also use Allmand equipment. The light tower line, for example, is quite versatile in its applications. “For instance, at big events such as a NASCAR race, there’s often a need for a lot of extra parking. The entertainment venue will light up the makeshift parking areas with portable light towers,” reveals Allmand.
For the fire and emergency market, Allmand Bros. provides specialized power and lighting equipment in its Night Responder™ Series (which includes the EPL- 20W, EPL- 8N, and the EFL- 1 models), designed to help crews in their rescue and recovery efforts. “While the series is part of our core product line, it has been tailored for a specific need with specialized equipment,” says Allmand. “Responders at an emergency scene need light right away, so the Night Responder™ tower includes one housing light at the tower top that can be turned on immediately and used until the four incandescent lights switch on. It also has additional outlets as well as additional lighting in the back that signals an emergency. This lets other vehicles know to proceed with caution. The system also has smaller tripods equipped with lights that can be easily moved around, even though they are still powered by the main trailer. This enables the crew to light up more of the scene.”
Currently, the main challenge for Allmand Bros. is remaining out in front of its competitors. “Right now, there’s a lot of competition in this industry, and most of our competitors are owned by larger corporations, whereas we’re a small, family owned business,” Allmand points out.
The company is addressing that issue by listening to its customers, working on product differentiation and innovation, as well as focusing on capacity and quality. “We recently implemented lean manufacturing to increase our efficiencies and, in turn, the quality of our products,” he says.
Toward that end, the company has accomplished a lot at its single facility in the past 18 months. “Most significantly, we implemented our visual inventory replenishment system that addresses constraints related to parts shortages, line stoppage and limited capacity,” explains Allmand. “After implementation, shortages disappeared. Also, this lean visual system only pulls in inventory when it has been used. This has emptied our shelves, which we took apart and replaced with two new production lines in our assembly area, moving us up from two to four.”
The two new lines increased the company’s capacity and flexibility, he adds. “With our increased capacity, we’re able to meet more orders with shorter lead times, so that we can provide better service and win even more business.”
The strategy has been effective. The company has grown at a rate of between 20 and 30 percent in each of the past three years, reports Allmand.
However, quality is just as important to the company as its capacity, if not more. “That’s the main thing that differentiates us from our competitors. Our products may cost a little more, but our customers get better equipment that lasts longer without a lot of service expense,” comments Allmand. “And if something should go wrong, we’re on the spot to make sure the product fulfills its usefulness. We place high value on service, too. We have a long history of keeping our customers satisfied.”
Furthermore, on the performance side, the company’s product specifications are better than most competitors’, continues Allmand. “For instance, our tractors have a better service life. They include components such as self-lubricating bushings, bearings and pins. If you disassembled one of our tractors, you wouldn’t even see any wear inside. As for our light towers, we produce more illumination, which makes for a safer work environment.”
Indeed, with the company’s SHO light system included as standard equipment, all of Allmand Bros. lighting products provide up to 50 percent more illumination than competitors’ products.
That’s only one way that Allmand Bros. has made work sites brighter, warmer, safer and more efficient.The company staked a claim in the market when it was the first to offer portable light towers, and it has remained a leader in work site lighting ever since. Successive generations of Allmands carry on the tradition of innovation and quality. Their strong past guarantees a truly dynamic future.