INDUSTRY: Lidgerwood Mundy engineers tackle defense contracts, commercial baking wares
Ask an engineer to solve an equation or to design a custom tow haulage winch system for the Army Corps of Engineers. No problem. Ask them how many buildings are located on Superior Lidgerwood Mundy's property. Well, that's an altogether different...
Ask an engineer to solve an equation or to design a custom tow haulage winch system for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Ask them how many buildings are located on Superior Lidgerwood Mundy's property.
Well, that's an altogether different question.
"Seven or eight, I think," said Dave Beatty, a 23-year engineering veteran at Superior Lidgerwood Mundy.
SLM is a conglomeration of an indeterminate number of buildings located along Highway 53. The company has a rich history, including creating the cableway system for the Hudson Dam and building the machinery for the SS Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic.
The company works with the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers to create custom capstans, winch systems and centrifugal pumps for their vessels. In addition to the defense line, it also produces the Dutchess line of industrial baking equipment used in the food service industry and a commercial line of capstans.
Kent Phillips, president of SLM, says the company currently devotes 85 percent of its resources to the defense sector of their business, but hopes that within three years their commercial and bakery aspects will be more diversified and SLM can bring each end of their business into a better balance.
"Oftentimes federal cycles don't move in the same cyclical nature that the economy does," said Phillips. "As cycles go and things change and you hear about how much the budgets are in trouble and all that, we're always concerned that those areas may be hit hard."
The engineering team at SLM plays a crucial role in developing new products and creating custom machinery for existing clientele. Engineers work on projects from beginning to end -- drawing the initial sketches, working with machinists to develop and design parts, testing the final product to make certain it does exactly what it was designed to do and creating manuals to explain operating procedures of the finished product.
"There's always a challenge," said Beatty. "Every day is a challenge. There're a lot of things that keep your interest piqued. To me the finished product is the best part -- being able to see that it's operating exactly how it should."
And when things don't go quite right, the engineering department is the one that must re-evaluate and start over. "There's little thanks when things go right and plenty of complaints when things do not," said Ken Ropp, an engineer who's worked at SLM for 20 years. "We generally hear about things that go wrong more than when things go right. They just expect that everything works."
Phillips says the quality of the products produced at SLM must be unobjectionable because companies use their parts or products year-round and a failure of equipment could interfere with production. So when he hires engineers, he looks for people who are passionate about the job.
"I want people that are driven to succeed and passionate about what they do," said Phillips. "If you give me those two qualities, I don't have to have the most brilliant engineer in the world. But if they have those two qualities, I can work with them."
Phillips says their hiring process is multi-layered and includes a personality test to judge where employees will best fit the company. Engineers must have a degree, excellent math skills and technical acumen. According to Phillips, engineers make can make somewhere between $40,000 and $80,000 per year, depending on qualifications and experience.
David Hughes, a junior in the University of Minnesota Duluth's mechanical engineering program, is an intern at SLM and says internships are a great way to get your foot in the door and ultimately give you better employment prospects.
"A couple of my teachers that have been in the industry prior to becoming teachers said a lot of resumes they get without internships on them, they just put in the pile that they don't ever look at and just throw away," said Hughes.
He has been an intern at SLM since November and says the experience has been a good one.
"Everything just makes more sense when it's applied to something physical and not just theoretical," said Hughes.
Though the number of buildings on the property is still in question, none of the engineers debated the quality of the company they work for. "It's a good company and they treat you fairly," said Ropp.