Sukup continues focus on innovation in the grain industry

by Holly Demaree
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SHEFFIELD, IOWA, U.S. – With the invention of an automatic stirring machine for in-bin drying, Eugene Sukup launched Sukup Manufacturing Co. 55 years ago in 1963. His two sons, Charles and Steve Sukup, have grown this family-owned business 10 times in the last 20 years. Through product expansion and a commitment to quality they have transformed the company into a leader in the grain storage and handling industry. 

Today, Sukup employs over 600 people, have sold products in over 80 foreign countries, and operates six U.S. distribution centers in addition to the main manufacturing facility in Sheffield, Iowa, U.S. Recently, Sukup expanded its steel buildings line with the formation of Sukup Steel Structures located in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, U.S. Sukup Steel Structures is a wholly owned Sukup subsidiary formed with the acquisition of assets from SBC Building Systems. In addition to the company’s domestic operations, it also maintains Sukup Europe, based in Hedensted, Denmark, which serves customers in Western Europe.

Sukup Charles Sukup
Charles Sukup, president

“At Sukup Manufacturing we pride ourselves in finding innovative solutions to the grain storage, drying, and handling issues that our customers face,” said Charles Sukup, president. “A common problem in the commercial bin industry, across all brands, is water leaking into the bin where stiffeners are used on laminated bin sheets. The leaking occurs where the stiffener connects to the sheet just under the seam where two laminated sheets overlap each other. The thickness of the laminated sheets creates a gap between the sidewall and stiffener. This exposes the bolt hole making it vulnerable to water weeping behind the stiffeners which can, of course, lead to spoiled grain.”

Charles Sukup explained that within the industry there was not a solution to the water leakage issue, so the company pushed forward to find a solution and developed the patent pending, Double-Ended Stud Bolt.

Steve Sukup CFO
Steve Sukup, vice-president and chief financial officer

“It features a rubber-backed steel washer in the middle of the bolt that is set between the stiffener and sidewall sheets,” said Steve Sukup, vice-president and chief financial officer (CFO). “This provides a tight seal directly to the outer sidewall sheet behind the stiffener, eliminating water infiltration between the sheets and into the grain. These bolts have been tested in the field and have proven extremely effective at preventing water from leaking into the bin behind the stiffeners. Double-Ended Stud Bolts now come standard on all Sukup stiffened bins that use laminated bin sheets.”

Sukup double ended stud bolt
Sukup's Double-Ended Stud bolt one of the company's newest products.
All photos courtesy of Sukup.
 
In addition to the Double-Ended Stud Bolt, two new products for 2017 from Sukup Manufacturing Co. have been honored by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) as among the 50 outstanding innovations of 2017. The award-winning products are the Mixed-Flow Grain Dryer and the Zero-Entry Commercial Paddle Sweep. The Mixed-Flow Grain Dryer combines the use of mixing/heating chambers with vacuum cooling technology to produce a dryer that removes moisture from grain more evenly and economically than other dryers. The Zero-Entry Commercial Paddle Sweep is a grain unloading machine that sweeps grain from large bins without requiring the operator to enter the bin.

Sukup believes this innovation and being family-owned helps set the company apart from its competitors.

“We are very proud to be the largest family-owned grain storage, drying, and handling manufacturer in the world, with three generations active in the business,” Charles Sukup said. “The majority of our main competitors are owned by large corporations. We feel being family-owned gives us an advantage over our competitors and it is really one of the main factors that drive our Core Principles.”

The company’s principles are:

  • We develop strong personal relationships with customers and employees - Make them feel special
  • We do what we say we will - We stand behind our products
  • We respond quickly and accurately to our customers - We work with a sense of urgency
  • We work cooperatively and engage in robust dialogue - We treat each other with mutual respect
  • We add value & eliminate waste

Sukup’s corporate mission is to protect and preserve the world’s grain supply and the tools used to produce it. “However, giving back to our community and to the world is something that is inGRAINed in our culture,” said Emily Schmitt, corporate council and third generation Sukup family member. “One of the ways in which we are blessed to do this is through our Safe T Homes.”

After the January 2010 earthquake devastated Haiti, Sukup saw an opportunity to help. The company designed the Safe T Home, measuring 18-feet in diameter and made entirely of metal, making it resistant to termites and moisture. They are also virtually earthquake proof. Each home can sleep 10 or more and features a double-roofed system that displaces heat, a full-size, lockable steel door, two windows that can be locked from within and a water collection system. The Safe T Home is built to withstand strong winds.

In 2016, Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti with winds in excess of 145 mph and all 200 of the homes escaped with just minor damage. In contrast, the vast majority of traditional homes in the area were destroyed. The Safe T Homes were able to hold up to 60 people in each home to ride out the storm. The Safe T Home has a life expectancy of 75 years and can be assembled on-site with simple hand tools.

Now the company is working with GoServ Global to provide 50 Safe T Homes to a refugee camp in Uganda.

Along the theme of giving back, Sukup recently donated $2 million to support a new Iowa State University educational and research facility for feed milling and grain science.

“Our mission is to protect and preserve the grain that feeds the world. Key factors to our success as a company have been innovative ideas and our dedicated workforce,” said Charles Sukup. “That's why we are excited that Iowa State’s plans for the feed mill and grain science complex will focus on innovation in support of the grain and feed industries, education of the next generation and continuing education that helps our workforce and customers keep up to speed on the latest developments.”

Steve Sukup added, “Being part of Iowa State’s feed mill and grain science complex is a great way to showcase equipment that wasn’t even being engineered and manufactured 18 years ago.”

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