Eagan, Minn.-based Miller Manufacturing Co., an injection molder of farm, ranch and pet products, is integrating the former Lakeland Tool and Engineering Inc. in Anoka, Minn., into its operations to expand domestic production of items in higher demand because of the pandemic.
Founded in 1941, Miller Manufacturing's first big seller was a poultry drinking fountain. Eighty-one years later, it also offers feeders, waterers, tubs and stall supplies for pets, horses, cattle, pigs and bees.
Many of the products have been flying off the shelves as the continuing waves of COVID-19 and its variants keep consumers' attention on household pets, raising bees for honey and chickens for eggs and meat, and supporting buy-American efforts.
Miller Manufacturing and the former Lakeland Tool are owned by the same parent company, Frandsen Corp., which is based in North Branch, Minn.
Frandsen acquired Lakeland Tool in 2019 and is integrating its 187,000 square feet of production and 181 employees into the Miller Manufacturing business.
Frandsen officials had talked about running Lakeland Tool as a subsidiary and sister company to Rush City, Minn.-based Plastech Corp. before deciding on the integration with Miller Manufacturing to expand its capacity and capabilities.
The last two years have been incredible for the Miller team, according to Miller CEO Dan Ferrise.
"We have seen unprecedented growth and this expansion will set us up for further growth in 2022 and beyond," Ferrise said in an email. "We are reshoring products currently being made in China and other global locations and many of these products are in our new facility in Anoka. Buying American is a big part of our strategy, and this strongly reinforces our commitment in doing so."
A company video shows a product called a universal block holder that it says was reshored for improved quality and reduced lead times. The product is used to hold 50-pound salt, mineral or protein blocks, as well as loose minerals and feed for cattle, horses, goats, sheep, alpacas and llamas.
To date, other products that have been reshored include injection molded buckets, feeders and feed tubs, according to Ferrise.
"Demand has been strong across all of our categories based on the trends of consumers spending more time at home," he said. "Our core customers are farmers, ranchers and backyard hobbyists and the pandemic has caused an increase in the number of people participating in this lifestyle. Particularly strong growth has occurred in products used in our poultry and equine, cattle and hog categories."
Miller Manufacturing now has two manufacturing facilities with the other one in Glencoe, Minn. The company had some presses but the Anoka integration brings additional injection molding capabilities to better control manufacturing as well as access to additional pools of labor in a tight employment market.
Miller Manufacturing currently has about 40 open positions that it needs to fill soon.
"Many of Miller's products are related to spring and the miracle of birth of backyard farm animals including poultry products, so our busiest season is late winter and spring," Ferrise said.
The company recently increased its starting wage 12.5 percent to $15 an hour for non-technical machine/press operators and it offers health and dental plans and profit sharing.
With the Anoka facility now part of Miller Manufacturing, production of parts and products for the appliance and outdoor power markets as well as consumer goods, electronics, and institutional furnishings will now be handled at the Plastech facility.