Pioneer Equipment Inc. - A brief history
After World War II, until the early 70’s, horse drawn equipment was available for dimes on the dollar throughout the Midwest. Tractor farmers discarded the old machinery or parked it in fence rows. These old relics were viewed as part of a bygone era.
By the late 70’s the need for new horse drawn equipment was increasing as old plows and equipment were wearing out beyond repair. Spare parts were scarce and often very expensive.
During this period, Wayne Wengerd, along with his father, Henry Wengerd, did their own repair work and made eveners and neckyokes for use on the home farm.
In the summer of 1976 when the Wengerds needed a new walking plow they decided to build their own because manufacturers like John Deere and McCormick had quit building them decades earlier. They questioned if the newer raydex style plow bottom would work on a Walking Plow. They took a bottom off an old Ford Sulky Plow and attached a beam and handles. The first test run was made behind the hill to save potential embarrassment from the neighbors who might otherwise see the results. After numerous improvements the plow performed satisfactorily. Neighbors found out about the plow and asked the Wengerds to build plows for them.
Most of the plow parts were manufactured in the small family farm shop. However, they lacked the proper tools to cut plow beams and machine the spindles and bushings. At this time Wayne was still working at J. Horst Machine, a local metal fab shop, and was able to do the necessary machining and fabrication after hours at this location.
The first run of plows was sold in the spring of 1977; twenty-five Walking Plows and twenty-five Sulky Plows. These were all sold to farmers in Holmes County, Ohio and the surrounding area.
In September of 1978, Wayne quit his job at a local metal fab shop and officially opened his business under the name “Wengerd’s Machine Shop.” The same year a 40’ x 72’ shop building was erected for the new business “We decided to build the shop large enough that we will never run out of space,” Wayne recalls. Henry opted to keep farming the 150-acre family farm, and a neighboring 115 acre farm, rather than becoming a partner in the business.
Other family members helped in the business during their spare time. When Henry passed the farm on to the next generation, he worked in the business full time until a few months before his passing in March of 2007.
Wayne hired his first full time employee, Emery Yoder, in the summer of ’79. New products, services and more employees were added as time went on.
Spring and spike tooth harrows were some of the first products added to Wengerd’s equipment line, and the first steel wheel was made in March of 1983. Wagon gears and forecarts came on board in the mid to late 80’s.Small express wagons were a vital part of the business during this period.
In 1986 a corporation was formed and the business name was changed to Pioneer Equipment Inc. and now more recently to Pioneer Corp. Wayne felt the need to have a logo and brand to go with the new name. His youngest brother, Henry Jr. had artistic talent and provided the skills in developing the widely recognized Pioneer logo. A logo that has changed very little in its lifetime.
Like any business, time brings change and new challenges. The business and the Wengerd family continued to grow. The twelve children outgrew the house and barn and 2 acres where the business was located. New product lines and additional employees created a need for more elbow room.
In October of 1992 the Wengerd family purchased a 57-acre farm 1-1/2 miles away where the the business now resides. A new 145’ x 200’ steel framed shop was built in 1994. Another one of Wayne’s younger brothers, Leon, provided the skills for plumbing the air and hydraulic system, and did all of the machine setup at the new facility. The business moved into the new location in February of 1995. The machining and wheel department continued in the old facility until the fall of 1997 when the move was finally complete.
By 2008 Pioneer was already outgrowing the new facility and considering an expansion. At that time, it was recommended to Wayne and the next generation of Wengerds, now deeply involved in the day to day operations, that they consider LEAN manufacturing. An outside consultant teaching the principles of LEAN was able to equip the team with the knowledge needed to set them on path of becoming a LEAN enterprise. “No other single thing has positively affected our business like LEAN” said Daniel Wengerd, Wayne’s oldest son and current CEO. It enabled Pioneer to streamline processes and free up space otherwise wasted. The LEAN principles embraced in the ensuing years are very evident if you happen to tour the Pioneer Equipment plant.
Today, Pioneer’s continues to be a leader in equipment innovation. Take the new rock plow, a spring reset plow engineered in collaboration with Kverneland, arguably the global leader in tillage equipment. Engineers from Germany came to Ohio to spend time with our team and develop this new plow designed for the toughest soil conditions. Or look at the new Pioneer Cultivator, designed for precision shallow tillage and to work right alongside the plastic used by most produce growers. The entire design of this cultivator is built around this new concept in cultivation, adopted from modern European tillage techniques.
Ask anyone of the family of owners at Pioneer and they will tell you they have been blessed over the 40 plus years of being in business– that their customers, and those relationships, built over numerous decades, are what motivates them to continue to strive for excellence and live their mission statement each day.