Following the regular monthly lunch meeting, held at the Downtown Cafe in Tipton on Wednesday, Sept. 11, several members of the Board of Directors of the Moniteau County Regional Economic Development Council (MRED) toured the Koechner Manufacturing facility.
The tour was conducted by Mark Koechner, president of the Koechner Manufacturing Company, Inc., the best known of the four corporations which make up the Tipton business. The business employs 13 people.
Koechner manufacturing is best known for the custom turkey coops designed and built for turkey producers for more than 30 years.
Koechner said the company was started in 1960 by his father, Cecil, with manufacture of picnic tables, farrowing crates and gas grill stands. After assisting a neighbor in the loading of range turkeys several years later, Cecil Koechner built a loader, but it scared the birds. He was asked to build a turkey coop, which he did, starting the mainstay of the business.
Mark said he is one of six children who grew up working in the business. He enjoys it.
"I've never thought of it as work," he said.
The operation is a niche business which grew along with the turkey industry. Even now, there are constant changes in company operations and facility expansions as needed.
A washing system still in use was designed to clean the steel used in construction because there was so much dirt and grease.
Koechner said one building has a facility to straighten damaged turkey crates. Before it was built, insurance companies would have to write off nearly new crates after a truck accident. Now the crates can be repaired and Koechner's is the only place in the United States which can do the job.
There is now an autoloader system which has become necessary as the weight of the turkeys has increased 40 and 50 pounds, a level of weight that people have trouble lifting.
"It's all about the birds and the people," Koechner said.
One of the more recent additions is a separate company. M&J5:15LLC manufactures patented poultry euthanizer.
"When an animal has lost its ability to sustain a standard of life conducive to its own well-being and the continuation of life only leads to more suffering, euththanasia is the necessary choice," states the brochure for the the devices.
According to Koechner, it is necessary to do the procedure as easy as possible both for the bird and for the growers who have become attached to them.
The Koechner Handheld Cervical Dislocator was recently featured in a video shown to turkey processors and growers. One large company ordered 600 of them.
As the poultry industry changes, Koechner's changes with it. In recent years, the stray turkey feathers have come under fire. The Koechner improvements include designs with screens to keep the feathers from escaping the cages when the animals are being transported.
One machine he is very proud of was purchased recently. It is a Press Break, a computerized machine utilizing CNC software which will bend, crease or cut metal panels at a predetermined place and angle. He said the old one still works, and is a backup, but the new one will do the job more accurately and efficiently and will recall the job for repeat work.
Koechner said the next planned facility improvement is to put some of the outdoor area under cover so work can continue at a steady pace during rain, snow and ice.
Currently, if work is being done on a semi-trailer in bad weather, it has to be pulled outside if a load of metal arrives.
Koechner Manufacturing plans to continue growing with the industry and working to stay with or ahead of industry needs.