The Metal Fabricator and Manufacturer of Choice for World-class Brands

BTD Manufacturing
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

From design, research and development to engineering and fabrication, BTD Manufacturing provides end-to-end solutions for its customers in the recreational vehicle, lawn and garden, construction, agriculture and energy markets. Its superior metals expertise ensures that its customers’ various needs are met.
BTD Manufacturing serves world-class customers like Toro, Caterpillar, John Deere, CNH Cummins, Honda and many others, including its longest-standing customer: Polaris. The company has developed a reputation for being an irreplaceable and seamless extension of its customers’ operations in metal fabrication and manufacturing.

“We help them build a product right from the start that makes sense, and we are also taking it all the way through service,” explained President Paul Gintner. “We want to start with a new product, and we also want to take it all the way to where it is out of service one day, so the part never has to leave BTD during that part life cycle.”

This was not always the case, however. It took a great deal of investment in its equipment, technology and people, following a thorough understanding of the needs of its customers and trends in the markets it serves to get BTD Manufacturing where it is today.

The company was founded in 1979 by Erling Rasmussen and Paul White Jr. as Bismarck Tool and Die Co. (BTD) in Bismarck, North Dakota. It began in the design and manufacture of dies, fixtures and special machines. The company eventually moved to its current headquarters in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota which is strategically located near its customers.

Throughout the years, new equipment and locations were added. The company officially became known as BTD Manufacturing, Inc. in 1991 when a merger took place with MN-Kota Stamping, Inc. In 1995, the company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Otter Tail Corporation, and it has continued to make acquisitions to expand in the United States.

“The tool and die business cycles really hard, and when your customers are building new products and developing new products, you are extremely busy, and then there are lulls in that design timeline that basically puts you in a very big lull in the business. And the owners looked at it at that point and said maybe instead of just building dies we should actually be running them and producing product,” noted Gintner.

Stamping services were added, in addition to lasers, turrets, press brakes and other equipment necessary to support the company’s growth. “We were not just going to be the high-volume metal stamper; we were also going to be the low-volume fabricator,” stated Gintner.

“We also got into machining parts. Instead of just cutting parts and bending parts, we would do some secondary machining. Which also lead us into tubing, in both bending and cutting of tubing, along with welding, and we started actually putting more of these products together, trying to be that one-stop solution provider,” said Gintner.

“We saw that they actually wanted us to get to the point where the product was painted and assembled, and we held off as long as we could and found some outside service support, but in 2015, we added that service in Minnesota, and we put a fully-automated paint system in one of our plants. The acquisition in Georgia also came with an automated paint system. That got us that last core piece that our customers were looking for,” said Gintner.

The Georgia acquisition was especially important in establishing the BTD name in that market. “We’re really just getting started down there in the southeast. We have awesome brands that we are servicing already. Now we’re just trying to leverage BTD operating as one unit so we can act as one brand in the marketplace,” said Gintner. “We’re in the right spots; now it’s really about growing the sites.”

Today, BTD Manufacturing operates from four locations in three states. Customers have come to rely on its assembly, finishing and painting, tooling, stamping, fabrication, tubing, welding and machining services.

Not all sites have the same skills, but the company is set up to successfully serve each area it serves, having created channels and process flows that connect its locations in the upper Midwest and the Southeastern United States.

“We’re trying to use all our footprint, leverage all of our capital, and to grow our plants based on what the customer need is,” Gintner explained. As well as its location in Detroit Lakes, facilities in Lakeville, Minnesota, Washington, Illinois and Dawsonville, Georgia, it has expanded its presence in the Midwest and the southeast.

The company’s large tool shop, R&D department and in-house capabilities mean that whether a customer is large or small, BTD can deliver the services they expect. It boasts an extensive inventory and reliable delivery, making it truly unmatched in the industry.

“Where we differentiate is on the front end, in both our in-house tool shop along with an extensive R&D area to support new product development for our customers. A core part of BTD is being a tool shop, which we never lost. In our market, that is a differentiator because we control the up-front design work; we control the tool designs; we control the manufacturing. So we build our own dies, fixtures,” Gintner said.

“That front end separates us from a lot of competition. A lot of people can do what’s in the middle – cut, bend, machine and weld steel and tubing – but what we’ve done is we’ve built that where all those competencies are under one roof, and our customer can order a simple part or they can order a very complex weld, and our system can allow for that.”

Gintner also highlighted the back-end capacity of BTD Manufacturing. “We build to stock, so we take customers’ forecast into consideration, and we build off their forecast, and we put it in inventory, and they can come with orders – in some cases – on a daily basis, and they pull from our stock. So really, we’re an extension of their warehouse.”

“If our customers are only carrying one-day supply and you send them bad product, then their line doesn’t run. It’s a huge impact for them, because their mindset is that they’re an assembly plant, and the only way they can assemble is if they have good product, so delivery and quality are critically important coming out of BTD every day.”

Working within the huge and still-growing operations are over one thousand employees who ensure quality, delivery, attention to detail and an impeccable level of service for the company’s customers. Gintner says the employees are engaged, responsible and operate with a high sense of urgency to meet the demands of customers.

“It’s not just about being skilled at what they do. They really have the ownership. We have a huge sense of pride to walk out into our plant and see the latest and greatest products that we are putting out into the market. Our job is to make great components for someone else’s product,” Gintner said.

Just as BTD Manufacturing invests in its operations, it also invests heavily in its people, supporting them and the impact they can have. Training, as well as the employee culture, has played an important role in company success.

“We have a unique culture where it’s not just about working hard every day but really about winning and what it’s like to win and give back. We’ve got some great things going on at all of our sites from a community standpoint – people engaged in the community and making an impact,” said Gintner.

“The culture at BTD really is, ‘if you invest the time, then we’ll invest the time with you,’ and I can tell you there has been hundreds of people inside BTD that have grown careers because they were willing to put energy and effort, and we were willing to put energy to teach and train them.”

Since there is a scarcity of skilled labor in the market, training has become imperative when bringing people into the organization and ensuring they are functioning at the required standard. Investments have also been made in robotics and advanced technology, and efforts are being taken at local schools to recruit future employees to a career in manufacturing.

“We try to have an impact on the community and the school systems. We’re really just trying to get out there and impact manufacturing on a much bigger scale,” stated Gintner. Since its founding, BTD Manufacturing has played an active role in the communities it calls home by supporting many local causes including local food pantries, crisis centers, highway cleanup efforts and much more.

The company benefits from affiliations that are an indication of the quality it offers. Among these are the National Association of Manufacturers, Precision Metal Forming Association, Manufacturers Alliance, Minnesota Safety Council, Association of Women in Metal Industries, and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

It has been certified by the American Weld Standard, Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group) W47.1, and it complies with International Organization for Standardization (ISO), American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and American Society for Quality (ASQ) Q9001-2015 standards and requirements.

Its efforts to be a leader in the industry and the community was recently recognized by the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International (FMA) and CNA when it received a safety award for the seventh consecutive year. “It’s just a reflection of what we’ve worked hard to build this business around.” Because of this demonstrated quality and reliability, the company is drawing more work.

BTD Manufacturing, though it has grown significantly since its founding, still has untapped potential and will continue to grow. As Gintner noted, “We still haven’t scratched the surface in terms of what we can do for our customers.”



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