Winning Together Honorably
Brenton L. Smith envisioned a system that would integrate engineering with manufacturing when he founded Aagard in 1997. Aagard designs and manufactures industrial automation and packaging machinery largely for the food and plastics industries, as well as several others. They manufacture unique packaging solutions that combine cartoners, case packers, sleevers, palletizers and retort loaders/unloaders. To date they have 525+ machines shipped or in the field in North America.
Smith started the company in Carlos, MN and moved it to Alexandria in 2002 when they outgrew their first facility. Aagard built a new facility in the Alexandria industrial park in 2006 that was 43,000 square feet with a workforce of 60 employees. In 2008 they grew by 31,000 square feet and the workforce grew to 85 employees.
Aagard expanded again in 2017, adding 41,000 square feet, 31,000 of which provides additional manufacturing space, with the rest comprising a new lunch room, bathrooms and conference rooms with a workforce of 210. The Aagard site is 13 acres so they have the capacity to expand well into the future.
Aagard has a focus on “Production Capability” with their staff carefully considering every aspect of safety, capability and reliability with each project. This focus includes a thorough testing phase for every piece of packaging machinery they produce.
Aagard executes an Internal Factory Acceptance Test (IFAT), a thorough validation of design, safety, static and dynamic criteria, one week prior to customer demonstration to assure a successful and efficient FAT and vertical startup. Every machine is proven with a complete Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) process that establishes a partnership between the customer and Aagard.
Aagard employs more than 40 engineers and builds its components and electrical panels in-house which allows them more control over quality and scheduling.
The company has a seven-day-a-week fabrication department with 12 CNC mills, four lathes and a variety of support equipment. Aagard also offers remote technical support, as well as upgrades and retrofits for current packaging machinery.
Aagard provides a three-step training program for customers, including 1) introductory training 2) operator hands-on demonstration, and 3) technical training for in-depth trouble shooting.
After witnessing employees coming to work without the appropriate tools and/or the funds to purchase tools, Aagard instituted a tool program in 2017 to provide employees with new stocked rolling tool cabinets. The program provides Snap-On cabinets that house every tool Aagard employees may need. At the end of the employee’s employment at Aagard the cabinets are inventoried, and any loss is remedied with the employee.
“Our tool program will increase efficiencies due to all technicians having access to the same set of tools,” said Smith. “It also increases the mobility of technicians around the machines. In addition, it reduces labor costs, tool box clutter, out-of-pocket expenses for employees and assembly-related service costs which benefits our customers and creates the total project success we strive for.”
Written by Becky Hauschild, Communications Specialist. Background materials and photos provided by Aagard.