Aggressive Named “Emerging Manufacturer of the Year” by Minnesota Business Magazine

Aggressive Hydraulics co-owners: Front: Dave Slanga, Paul Johnson, Dave Johnson. Back: Pat Roed, Shane Vos, Steve Slanga, Wes Maack.

Getting it right the first time streamlines Aggressive Hydraulics’ success.

Paul Johson, founder and president of Aggressive Hydraulics Inc., a manufacturer of hydraulic cylinders in Blaine, is onto something. Johnson recognizes that, these days, everybody claims to be “service-oriented.” But that adage has become his company’s calling card, its mantra–and one they need to be very good at. It is this determination to “stand out from the crowd” that has earned Johnson and his company this year’s Emerging Manufacturer of the Year in the Minnesota Manufacturing Awards.

Here’s why: Aggressive Hydraulics prides itself on manufacturing the products that other cylinder companies would rather not, due to size, short lead time or small quantity. They also strive to “get it right the first time” due to their hands-on experience with a variety of industries and applications. And they also offer a unique combination of automated production and manual equipment for a variety of run sizes.

The company’s focused vision and purposed strategy has paid off. “We have enjoyed double-digit growth and hiring new employees every year other than 2009,” Johnson says. “We attribute our success to not having employee turnover, which carries over to us not having customer turnover.”

In 2009 Aggressive Hydraulics could have justified laying off 15 percent of their staff but they kept 100 percent working 40 hours a week. “Nobody was standing around looking for work; we addressed areas within the company that made us better,” Johnson says. “We made fixtures, addressed layout and reorganized the shop for greater efficiency, painted walls and even had a customer/vendor appreciation open house event. This maintained a strong morale and positioned us to take advantage of nice business opportunities that came our way during the beginning of the recovery in the fourth quarter.”

And when it comes to their products, the company’s integrity of their designs and the quality of their manufacturing speak for themselves.

“We combine years of experience and sound engineering practices to designs which cater to performance and not low cost of production,” Johnson says. “What’s more, our batch sizes tend to be smaller in size than other manufacturers of hydraulic cylinders and our range in physical size of product is quite broad.”

Another aspect of Aggressive Hydraulics’ mark in the industry is that they help their customers grow–but in a fairly unique way.

“In many cases when we have new business opportunities with our customers, we generate a marketing campaign to help them sell their product and we foot the bill,” Johnson says. “There’s no company that I know of who does this–let alone in our industry.”

Johnson’s primary function is in the area of vision and direction as well as seeking out resources required for the company. But he is quick to point out that the unique combination of shareholders, who are all active in the company, have set the stage for the company’s proven success.

“Our group of seven shareholders all bring different skill sets to the table,” Johnson says. “We never could have accomplished what we have if my partners were all like me with the same background. We all cover different core competencies within the organization. As we’ve added employees, we’ve continued on the path of adding highly skilled and entrepreneurial thinking people with a solid work ethic.”

And the company’s vision for the future is bright. “We have a five-year rolling business plan which, right now, has us doubling our sales within five years. This includes employee and capital equipment requirements as well as market development plans to create business opportunities on a proactive basis. We are not waiting for the business to come to us, we are working toward incremental growth through base customers as well as new customers.”

The company is currently looking at a new facility that will transform Aggressive Hydraulics from operating out of three buildings to getting them under one roof while offering room for additional expansion.

“For our company, this award is a nice compliment and positive affirmation to what we have been working on for the past decade,” Johnson says. “Our employees are very proud of their accomplishment. The ownership could not be more proud of the company and what our employees have accomplished. Our employees are what make this company great, so we have the philosophy, ‘What’s good for the employees is good for the company, and what’s good for the company is good for the employees.’ With that kind of perspective, everything else is simple.”

Source: Minnesota Business – December 2011

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