Article Credit: Austen Neaton, Herald Journal
AWI Manufacturing has a long history of growth in McLeod County, and the company plans to continue that expansion by adding 10,000 square feet to its 230th Street facility near Winsted, Minnesota. The expansion is being made to accommodate the company’s fast-growing drain division.
Started in 1970 by Art Scherping, AWI is a stainless steel fabrication company that specializes in parts for food and dairy processing facilities. Today it is in its second generation of ownership, and it has expanded to operate nationwide as well as in parts of Canada.
“Basically, for anyone that is building a facility that is food or dairy related, we are making products that they are using in those buildings,” said Brent Johnson, AWI’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We create a lot of different stainless steel components.”
While the business offers a wide variety of stainless steel products such as hex hangers, tanks, and hardware enclosures, its upcoming expansion is primarily for its drain division.
AWI provides a range of different stainless steel drain products, and in recent years, the company has been working to become a well-known brand amongst drain fabricators.
“It’s something that we have been working towards for a long time, but we’ve been very intentional about the process,” Johnson said. “In short, we have done the marketing and sales work up front to become a bigger, more well-known brand in the industry which has led to more and more projects.”
With the uptick in the amount of projects, the company finds itself in need of more space to fabricate its drain products. With the upcoming expansion, AWI will get exactly that.
“It more or less allows us to have more room for what we are already doing with better organization and a better workflow,” Johnson said. “We currently have to store some of our projects and materials outside, which we don’t like to do.”
Johnson hopes the added space can help to cut the company’s lead times in half from where they currently stand. “The capacity that we will gain will be big for us, especially when we are dealing with these big bulky floor drain projects that are usually needed in a hurry,” he added. “What’s going in this new bay is new welding stations and more welders to give us the capacity to do projects quicker.”
While the expansion serves a direct purpose in offering the company more room for its projects, Johnson said it also serves as a reminder of the company’s goals. “One underlying theme of this project is that we are always expanding and always getting newer technology,” he said. “Part of our expansion is that we are constantly evolving and seeing that things are changing, and they will probably continue to change over the next decade so we are trying to position ourselves to continually innovate and expand and do as much as we can under the same roof.”
The City of Winsted is full of well-known, longtime manufacturing companies, and Johnson said that AWI feels proud to be one of them. “Winsted is such a unique town with so many big manufacturers in one area, and I think that we do take a lot of pride in being a part of that community,” he said.
The company has around 90 employees, and with it being a second-generation, family-owned business, Johnson said the family environment plays a big role in its workplace. “I think that our employees definitely take pride in knowing that the Scherping family truly cares about them,” he said.
“To say it’s a family-owned, family-run company is an understatement because everybody there is related to someone or tied to the town,” Johnson said. “There are obviously a ton of good things about that, and so we take pride in knowing the people that we are working with.
“Even though we have gotten to be a company that is this big and doing projects all over the country, it still feels like a small, family-run community.”