Steve Sukup, Sukup Manufacturing Co.: “Our products are known for their high quality; our people for their commitment to innovative solutions. Innovation is part of our identity at Sukup, and continued innovation and growth is one of our main objectives. As a family-owned company, my priority as president will be to continually outperform our big corporate competitors by staying close to our customers.”
Sukup Manufacturing Co., the world’s largest family-owned and operated manufacturer of grain storage, grain drying, and handling equipment, made a successful leadership transition in February.
Steve Sukup took title of president and chief executive officer from his elder brother Charles. After taking the reins, Steve Sukup gave an interview to Miller Magazine and answered our questions on Sukup’s three-generation family legacy in manufacturing, his objectives as the new president and the latest trends in the industry.
He is proud that his company designs and manufactures the industry’s most technology-forward grain management equipment. With over 80 patents, Sukup manufactures a full line of equipment for in-bin drying and storage, as well as dryers, farm and commercial grain bins, material handling equipment, and steel buildings. Pointing out Sukup’s award-winning systems, “Innovation is part of our identity at Sukup, and continued innovation and growth is one of our main objectives.” he said. “Our products are known for their high quality; our people for their commitment to innovative solutions; and our company for excellent customer service and continuous improvement.”
Three generations of the family are active in the business at Sukup Manufacturing Co.
(L–R) Charles Sukup, Steve Sukup, Andrew Sukup, Mary Sukup, Matt Koch, Emily Schmitt, Andy Schmitt.
Here are Steve Sukup’s answers to our questions:
Mr. Steve, Sukup Manufacturing Co. is a family company with a true tradition of its own. Can you tell us about your company’s history in the grain handling and storage industry?
It all started with my dad, Eugene Sukup, inventing a grain stirring machine to break up crusted grain and produce even drying of grain in a bin. He improved the design and sales took off. Eugene and Mary founded the company in 1963. He soon turned his attention to other products that would help on the farm, such as bin unloading and grain aeration equipment.
Reacting to customers’ needs, the company’s product line expanded over the years to include on-farm and commercial grain bins; portable, mixed-flow and tower dryers; centrifugal and axial fans and heaters; stirring machines; bin unloading equipment and bin floors and supports. Sukup also manufactures material handling equipment including bucket elevators, conveyors and support structures; and steel buildings.
What reputation does Sukup have in the USA and worldwide? What kind of role and place does Sukup hold in its sector?
Sukup is the world’s largest family-owned and operated manufacturer of grain storage, drying and handling equipment, and steel buildings. Three generations of the Sukup family, including my mom, Mary, are active in the business. My daughter Emily Schmitt, who is general counsel, is one of five third-generation family members involved daily in our operations. Being family-owned allows us to stay close to our customers and better understand their needs.
Our products are known for their high quality; our people for their commitment to innovative solutions; and our company for excellent customer service and continuous improvement. We also emphasize giving back, both in our local community and internationally. In 2010 we designed the Sukup Safe T Home®, and we have now built more than 400 of these hurricane-proof structures in Haiti and around the world.
Sukup offers the largest free-span bin available in the world, at 156’ in diameter.
Your company recently underwent a generation change. You took over the portfolio of President and CEO from your brother. What are your future objectives in your field of operation?
Innovation is part of our identity at Sukup, and continued innovation and growth is one of our main objectives. As a family-owned company, my priority as president will be to continually outperform our big corporate competitors by staying close to our customers. Sukup is known for understanding the agriculture industry’s needs and providing innovative solutions to effectively address those needs.
You are a part of the expansion of Sukup Manufacturing. Can you tell us what you experienced along the way? How has your company developed over the years?
Throughout the years, Sukup Manufacturing Co. has continually grown and expanded its product offerings in grain handling and drying. In 2001, Sukup took a significant step and began manufacturing the grain bins themselves. At the time, our dealers and farmers were asking for a “one-stop-shop” for their grain storage and handling needs. Other companies were getting OUT of bin manufacturing, but we listened to our customers and decided to move forward the bin product line.
Sukup quickly gained market share and was within the top three grain bin companies by sales volume within a few years. We believe our commitment to the excellent fit, as well as innovative design with multiple patented features, have been the keys to our success in offering grain bins.
Another growth area where I have been involved in our commercial sales. Ethanol is an important market opportunity for our farmers, as the ethanol plants have grown we have been there to provide the large scale equipment they need for commercial operations.
Our newest product line is the steel building line. Ease of construction is a top priority, as well as providing custom options. We have designed many farm storage buildings, but you can also find an airplane hanger, furniture store, and even a giraffe barn at a zoo.
Can you give us some information about your production capacity and facilities?
Sukup Manufacturing Co. covers a million square feet of manufacturing, warehouse and office space. Our main production facility is located in Sheffield, Iowa, where Eugene and Mary founded the company in 1963. We also have six distribution centers around the United States and a steel building subsidiary in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The company currently employs more than 600 people, and uses some of the most advanced design and manufacturing equipment available, including laser and plasma metal-cutting machines, robotic welding machines, plus benders, saws, drills, and routers. We can do a lot of amazing things with metal.
What distinguishes your products from others?
Many of our employees have farming experience, so they’re constantly on the lookout for ways to make our products better for farmers in terms of safety, ease of on-site construction, ease of operation, and to improve profitability. We’re extremely focused on finding solutions for our customers, and providing excellent customer service. We hold more than 80 patents and have won 26 ag engineering innovation awards from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), including 20 since 2011.
Sukup dryers and control systems, which are the most technologically advanced in the industry, have won nine ag innovation awards from ASABE. Those products include the industry-leading Mixed-Flow Grain Dryer, introduced in 2016.
Sukup offers the largest free-span bin available in the world, at 156’ in diameter. Our bins are known for being easy to erect, with innovative sidewall splice plates and double-ended stud bolts to keep out moisture.
Where do you export your products to? How many countries are you exporting to right now?
Sukup equipment is available worldwide, with products in 85 countries. The company’s network of dealers includes Denmark-based Sukup Europe. We most recently opened a sales office in Bangkok, Thailand. International sales have grown steadily in recent years and now represent about 12 percent of total sales, with most going to Canada, Mexico and Europe.
What can you say about the trends in the grain storage, drying and handling manufacturing?
Lately, there has been a tremendous need for grain dryers. Overall, the trend in recent years has been for bigger bins and larger pieces of material handling equipment such as bucket elevators and conveyors. There are several reasons for this, including increased grain production, growth of the ethanol industry (Sukup equipment is used at about 40 ethanol plants), and grain prices, which have prompted many farms and commercial grain sellers to store more grain so they can take advantage of price fluctuations.
Is there anything else you would like to communicate to our readers?
We love farmers and farming. We try to make all of our products the best they can be so farmers can be more safe, productive and profitable. Check us out at www.sukup.com.