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As one of the oldest manufacturing firms in the Midwestern United States, Gehl first made a name for itself in the agricultural industry before it expanded into construction machinery in the 1970s.

Its construction line has included skid loaders, rough-terrain telescopic forklifts, and paving equipment. Their agricultural products have included hay makers, forage harvesters, feed makers, manure handlers, and material handlers. Gehl has also manufactured equipment for day-to-day livestock farming.

Gehl’s 2007 annual revenue was $457 million.[1] It trades on NASDAQ under the GEHL moniker.[2]


[edit] History

[edit] Hexelbank Attracts Gehl Brothers

In 1859, in central Wisconsin, a man name Louis Lucas opened an iron foundry specializing in the manufacturing of plows and cultivators, as well as repairing farm equipment. The Midwest was swarming with new European farmers, which meant a growing client list for Lucas.

He formed a partnership with German blacksmith M. Silberzahn in 1880. Together, they developed “one of the most important innovations in agricultural machinery during the late 19th century,” the Hexelbank.[3] It was a hand-cranked cutting machine that replaced chopping livestock feed by hand.

The Hexelbank was so popular it garnered attention from local investors. In 1902, Wisconsin-bred John W. Gehl acquired part of Lucas and Silberzahn’s firm. A year later, Gehl convinced his three brothers of the benefits of his investment and together they purchased the rest of the firm’s assets. The company was renamed Gehl Brothers Manufacturing Co., and by 1904, it was manufacturing the Hexelbank in conjunction with a series of basic farm tools.

After witnessing the success of the Hexelbank, the Gehl brothers decided to focus more attention on research so they could remain on the cutting edge.

[edit] Financial Setback and Recovery

Gehl Co. suffered a major setback in 1906 when its plant and inventory was entirely destroyed in a fire. In order to rebuild the company, the brothers sold company stock and dipped into their own savings.

Gehl was able to recover in two years by releasing a larger feed cutter and an elevator, and producing stone and wood-stave silos. It also developed an engine-powered re-cutter for malt grain, corncobs and stalks, as well as a new silo filler, which is said to have become the standard in the industry.

[edit] Popularity, Growth, and Evolution

Throughout the early twentieth century, Gehl Co. was revered as “one of the most innovative and reliable farm equipment operations in the Midwest.”[4] The company focued on being adaptable and versatile. In the 1920s, the dairy industry was growing exponentially, resulting in farmers seeking new ways to grind grain for livestock feed. Gehl developed two pieces of equipment to meet the demand: the hammer mill and the portable truck mounted mill. The portable mill, attached to a Chevy truck, would travel from farm to farm, grinding grain for feed.

In 1927, Gehl manufactured a manure spreader that included an auto-style steering system, which allowed for more precise steering capabilities. This made it capable of maneuvering through the tight quarters of a small farm.

Shortly thereafter, the Great Depression hit, crushing the U.S. economy. However, many farms in Wisconsin were somehow able to avoid bankruptcies and foreclosures so rampant throughout the country. This allowed Gehl to maintain a significant midwestern customer base.

Gehl also benefited from dairy industry expansion throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s. However, U.S. involvement in World War II created a shortage of labor, which brought a pause to the expansion of labor-intensive industries like dairy herds and feedlots. Instead, many farms switched over to gathering hay and corn into silos. Gehl, understanding the changing market, designed and developed a silo filler that pulled across fields on wheels towing a wagon-box. It made the process of silo filling much easier. Farmers could now unload chopper corn into a blower instead of throwing the corn stock bundles with a pitchfork. The new chopper “could blow two acres of hay into a wagon in no time at all.”[5]

With the 1940s came a changing of the guard for the Gehl company. A second generation of Gehl brothers was now at the helm. They subdivided the responsibilities, managing the company as a committee of mutual consent, without any formal titles.

After World War II, the demand for dairy and livestock farms reemerged. However, much of the original equipment needed for expansion was now outdated, unable to live up to the demand. In response, Gehl introduced a new front-unloading forage box that replaced the inadequate rear-loading model. It also designed a self-propelled forage harvester, powered by a Continental engine.

In 1960, Gehl introduced the first “efficient” green chop machine, which had a 72-inch (183-cm) cut and a blower, capable of daily use.[6] This model continued to be manufactured until the mid-1980s.

[edit] Movement to the Construction Industry

After succeeding in the agricultural industry, Gehl Co. decided to extend its influence into the construction market. The company introduced its own skid steer loader in 1970. Its new machine quickly became popular amongst construction companies because it was entirely controlled by hand, simplifying the operator’s job. Gehl also developed the very first hydraulic grinding mixer.

By 1973, Gehl had expanded into Europe by establishing a subsidiary in West Germany, Gehl Gmbh. It was responsible for selling skid steer loaders throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Gehl experienced considerable growth in the 1980s, with the building of four manufacturing facilities, located in West Bend, Wisconsin; Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Madison, South Dakota; and Yankton, South Dakota. It also achieved a revenue growth of 220 per cent in six years.

The 1990s were not as kind to Gehl, as the decade produced a slower economy with higher interest rates. Gehl’s expansionist policies of the 1980s were put on hold. Instead, the company began eliminating unprofitable product lines in order to streamline its business. Sales fell through the first half of the decade, until they turned upwards in 1996. At this point, Gehl had established a significant construction equipment line including skid loaders, rough-terrain telescopic forklifts, Power Box asphalt pavers, and material handlers. The company also continued relying upon its established agricultural line, including machinery for haymaking, forage harvesting, feed making, manure, and materials handling.

The success of the 1980s and downturn of the 1990s allowed Gehl to recognize and focus on its strengths throughout the 21st century.

They currently aim “to achieve profitable growth by manufacturing and distributing high quality compact equipment to selective segments of the light construction and agricultural markets, and to deliver increased value to customers and shareholders.”[7]

[edit] The Company Today

The Gehl company manufactures products under the Gehl, Edge, and Mustang brands through a network of independent dealers, primarily in North America and Europe. Its two main manufacturing facilities are located in Yankton and Madison, South Dakota with distribution facilities in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, United States, and Germany.

It continues to participate in both the agriculture and construction industries by manufacturing skid loaders, telescopic handlers, compact excavators, compact track loaders, all-wheel-steer loaders, compact utility loaders, and asphalt pavers.

Current CEO is William D. Gehl. The corporate head office is located in West Bend, Wisconsin.

In late 2008 Gehl was acquired by its rival competition, the French-based Manitou.[8]

[edit] Equipment List

[edit] References

  1. Gehl. Finance AOL. 2008-09-09.
  2. Gehl. Finance Yahoo. 2008-09-09.
  3. Gehl. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  4. Gehl. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  5. Gehl. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  6. Gehl. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  7. Overview. Gehl. 2008-09-09.
  8. Manito BF SA. 02-02-2009.

[edit] External Links