(Originally published November 2, 2020)
Hokanson was working at his father's construction company when he built his first auger rack as a solution to moving his equipment from place to place. His goal was to make something he could strap to his truck quickly by himself.
"It worked well, so I patented it," Hokanson says. "The next thing I decided to do was to build a company around that patent. It wasn't an instant success, but people saw what I could do with auger storage, and I started getting into custom racks."
It took a few years, but United Rentals discovered Auger Rack, purchased a few products and asked whether the company could make other things. That's when Hokanson started taking requests.
The racks are designed to hold augers -- tools used for drilling into the ground -- vertically in the correct position to hook up to a drive motor. "It's a shipping-and-handling solution for these auger bits and attachments -- and a storage solution, too," Hokanson says. "The whole idea was for shipping."
Hokanson says one of his products' best features is improved safety for his customers. "I've been in safety my entire career in the construction world," he says. "I've been able to think about safety as the first consideration in every design. If we can't do it safer, we won't build it."
Safety also is a priority at the Auger Rack's 9,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, which has one forklift for every two employees to ensure no one tries to lift something heavy because they're too impatient to wait for a machine. Auger Rack also invites the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to walk through its facility, which sits on 3.5 acres, to ensure it has the safest practices for its employees. "In most cases, we exceed their expectations," Hokanson says. "We have one of the cleanest shops they've inspected."
Challenges: Because Auger Rack's products are one-time purchases built to last a lifetime, Hokanson fears the company could run out of customers. "It's not like an iPhone where every six months to a year you have to go out and buy a new one," he says. "Our biggest challenge is finding new customers and continually developing new products to open up new markets."
Opportunities: Hokanson sees an opportunity to work with new equipment dealers to set up racks in their yards to store attachments.
He also thinks developing new attachments that haven't been available before would open up opportunities for the company. For example, Auger Rack has three patents on the fork grabber hitch -- a mechanism that clamps a forklift attachment to the forklift fork. "It's created a new market for us because it's a safer method than any other manufacturer uses on their forklift attachments," Hokanson says. "Now that it's been created, we're learning to adapt it and bring out new attachments to work with it. We've solved major safety issues for the forklift industry."
Needs: About 99 percent of the materials used in Auger Racks' products are made in the United States, but Hokanson says the company still needs to find more U.S. suppliers. "We really need our steel industry to come back," he says, noting that the company used 54 miles of steel last year. "This world has been interesting this year, but I think next year is going to see a lot of challenges in the steel industry. We're going to see shortages of different materials and a lack of recycling here in the U.S."
A more stable trucking industry also would help the company's operations. "Trucking is all over the map due to restrictions nationally," Hokanson says. "Hurricanes in Florida don't help."