Well, it’s official. Summer is over. We hate to break the news to you; we know how hard this must be. Kiss those lake days goodbye until next year. But in this time of mourning, we can also take time to remember those who did their utmost to make our lazy days on the water as magical as possible. To the unsung heroes of yore—we thank you for your service.
To the people who helped us scurry away from the Loch Ness monster by providing reliable dock railings and to those who protected our feet from splinters as we geared up for epic cannonballs (regardless of whether the lifeguard said no running on the dock), you deserve a standing ovation. And to the people who protected our boats with robust boat lifts and hand-crafted docks, year after year, ShoreMaster, we thank you.
Learn how water sport equipment manufacturer ShoreMaster has continued to save summer over the last 45 years and the secrets behind its manufacturing success. (Hint: One of them is an automated push-feed system by TigerStop!)
Land of 10,000 Lakes
Marsha and Dennis Tuel Sr., our aforementioned guests of honor, founded ShoreMaster in 1972. The company began in Carlos, Minnesota, a small town with less than 500 people. But out of the small town of Carlos came big ideas. What the town lacked in terms of population, it surely made up for by being an endless source of ideas.
As part of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Dennis and Marsha drew inspiration for their range of waterfront equipment from the surrounding water bodies. After all, the quaint town of Carlos was named after Lake Carlos, a popular summer destination for Minnesotans. (Congrats! You learned a new word today: Minnesotans. You’re welcome. The quirky spelling is not shocking considering how wonderfully quirky Minnesotans are.)
In 1980, ShoreMaster began to pursue commercial marina projects and in the late ’80s, its operations were moved to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, as part of Project 500, an initiative aimed at bringing jobs to the Fergus Falls area. ShoreMaster continues to serve its local community via Midwest Fishing’s School of Fish, teaching children about fishing, lake preservation, and water safety. It’s also incredibly passionate about its mission to provide the very highest quality products to improve the waterfront experience.
“Our team shows up each and every day with that goal in mind. We employ a vast array of people to help in this mission, from engineers, to welders, assemblers, accountants, sales reps, truck loaders and everything in between. ShoreMaster is comprised of GREAT PEOPLE that help to put out a GREAT PRODUCT,” explains the ShoreMaster team.
Today, ShoreMaster is most famous for its configurable standing docks, wheel-in docks, floating docks, railing, an array of boat lifts, canopies, ShorePorts®, and more, sold throughout the United States and Canada.
Making the Case for Aluminum
But what sets ShoreMaster apart from other dock and boat lift manufacturers and fabricators?
In the early ’70s, the majority of the Tuel’s contemporaries were manufacturing docks and water products using steel. In a completely unprecedented manner, Dennis focus on building with aluminum—a lighter, more resilient material. And thus, the first aluminum, welded-frame boat lift was developed by ShoreMaster, turning the entire waterfront industry on its head. For nearly 45 years, ShoreMaster boat lifts have been the trusted brand used by water sport lovers across the nation.
What makes manufacturing with aluminum so special? Well, that’s a great question for a plethora of reasons we will detail next.
The Other Options
- Wooden docks are extremely heavy and have the lovely tendency to rot and warp over time. To prevent such atrocities from taking place requires a bit of ongoing maintenance. They’re also more susceptible to bugs. Yes, BUGS. Nobody wants that. But aside from vermin invasions and decomposition, wooden docks are responsible for the worst offender of summer swimming fun: splinters. Have you ever had one wedged into the bottom of your foot while trying to taking an innocent swim? ShoreMaster says no to the horrific splinters of your childhood, those awful dream-ruining splinters. Which is why wooden docks are so last year. Plus, wet algae-covered docks = death-defying slip zones.
- Steel docks aren’t much better than wooden docks in terms of maintenance. Even galvanized steel can corrode and rust over time. And corrosion is just not a cute look, let’s be honest. For anyone. Or anything, really. Cuteness aside, steel is also incredibly heavy, making it a more difficult material to work with.
Aluminum is the clear winner here. It’s lightweight and corrosion-resistant. And for that reason, aluminum docks and boat lifts can be left in the water all winter long. For those areas where docks must be removed each winter for safety reasons, lighter is better. At 30 to 45 percent lighter than steel, aluminum is the obvious choice. For a fraction of the weight, it also retains, surprisingly, comparable strength.
Cost of Aluminum Scrap
ShoreMaster, thanks to its success, processes a lot of aluminum each year for various dock and water sport products. Millions and millions of pounds worth of aluminum, that is.
When spending precious capital on any amount of raw material, it’s vital that it gets utilized and ends up as finished product, and not at the bottom of a scrap bin. Maximizing its yield has significantly impacted ShoreMaster’s profits. It’s exactly why nearly two decades ago ShoreMaster began looking for ways to reduce scrap waste, because as the company came to find, reducing scrap waste was an automatic boost to its bottom line.
Eliminating scrap waste means that ShoreMaster can save the dollar per foot value on material versus trying to recoup just cents on the dollar for recycling scrap material. Ensuring aluminum doesn’t end up in the bottom of its garbage bin is where real dollars are found.
Making the Cut with an Automated Push-Feed System
Chris Winter, director of operations and engineering, has been with ShoreMaster going on 15 years. He explains, “It’s a great place to work and I have witnessed all of the growth. I am currently overseeing a team of approximately 70 people.”
Part of the growth is due to implementing the right manufacturing processes to cut down on excess waste and rework. During Chris’s first year on the job, he came across a TigerStop automated push-feed system and in his own words: “I’ve never looked back!”
In 2013 Chris contacted Daunten Veit of Boxter Machinery to see if a second TigerStop system could help streamline aluminum processing. “Daunten installed an additional TigerStop to help out our aluminum shop. The single TigerStop saw station has been responsible for about 80% of our aluminum cut off work,” explains Chris.
The automated positioner and push-feed system is attached to an aluminum upcut saw. The TigerStop ensures that aluminum is pushed through the saw to the exact measurement it needs to be cut, again and again. The operator simply types in the desired measurement and presses start.
“We have witnessed an incredible scrap reduction, we are no longer using tape measures in our manufacturing processes, and have significantly reduced labor,” explains Chris.
Because they’re so simple to use, TigerStops have helped combat the skilled labor shortage. “One of the most difficult parts of my job is finding skilled workers. With the TigerStop, we show guys how to use it and within a day they are pretty self-sufficient. The TigerStop is really easy to learn.”
Pushing 10 Million Pounds with a TigerStop
Daunten Veit of Boxter Machinery describes a recent phone call he received from ShoreMaster: “A few months ago ShoreMaster contacted me about purchasing a third TigerStop. They did the calculations, and over the last 4 years the TigerStop was running, ShoreMaster pushed over 10 million pounds of aluminum extrusion with its TigerStop.”
“It’s simple,” explains Chris Winter for ShoreMaster, “we calculate the pounds we pushed based off of what we purchase. We buy all of our material by the pound and get a report each month showing how many pounds we have used. We know that all of our material is fed through the TigerStop, so the calculation is easy.”
“For example, I can tell you that last month alone we pushed 642,856 pounds of aluminum on our TigerStops. So to say we push 3 million pounds a year of material on our TigerStop would be a very conservative estimate,” explains Chris.
ShoreMaster purchased its third standard TigerStop push-feed system. The TigerStops work in multiple shifts throughout the day, accurately positioning and feeding aluminum to be cut for docking and boat lift products.
“The TigerStops have saved a ton of labor hours and increased quality immensely,” explains Chris. “It has increased the quality of our products because everything is cut to the perfect length every single time.”
“In the last two months we have moved the original TigerStop into the steel plant, we haven’t used it enough for it to be dangerous, but we will keep you posted about the amount of productivity gains we see,” says Chris excitedly.
ShoreMaster has been helping people enjoy waterfront experiences to the fullest for over 45 years, in part due to its continuous improvement on the manufacturing floor.
Learn the secrets to reducing aluminum scrap.