This family-owned business has learned that two of the most important factors for continued success are (1) continue to increase efficiency by better tracking job costs for each project, and (2) continue to educate and train employees. These two factors have been, and will continue to be, the key to sustaining the growth and profitability of Webster Scale, Inc. This small family business, started over 50 years ago, has grown from a simple scale service business to having two separate divisions – Scale Division and Construction Division – with full-time, full-time seasonal and part-time temporary employees totaling nearly 100, with 4th generation Shoemakers now a part of the work force. Joel Shoemaker, 3rd generation family member, is leading the company forward as Vice President.
With the turn of the century, Webster Scale, Inc. was starting to feel the sudden decrease of new scale sales and service. A large share of this slow down was because grain handling facilities were being regionalized throughout the area. As farmers started purchasing semi-tractor trailer units, elevators started closing down their small facilities and giving farmers incentives to haul their grain to large handling facilities. Webster Scale, Inc. was now faced with a new dilemma.
Instead of downsizing their equipment fleet and laying off employees, the company decided to steer a portion of their equipment and workers to heavy highway and commercial construction. The first few years were a learning curve, but their passion for completing top quality projects and dedication to satisfying customers, blazed the way. One of the larger projects during this time frame was the Eastern Dakota Expressway from Groton, SD to Summit, SD. Webster Scale, Inc. worked on every phase of that project. One of the key factors during this project was their ability to listen, learn and work together with the Department of Transportation personnel. Another key factor in this project was hiring quality people and promoting from within the company.
In the 1990’s there was a major scale sales boom. The company and their coverage area grew immensely during this time. They sold and installed livestock, motor truck and railroad track scales in a corridor from Montana to Wisconsin, and from the Canadian border south to Texas. All of the projects were sold turnkey. Several projects in Texas and Kansas involved a lot of demolition and excavation. When the company was awarded these projects, they decided to invest in the equipment to continue performing projects turnkey. Excavators, trucks, trailers and other demolition equipment were purchased to complete these projects. By the end of the 1990’s, Webster Scale, Inc. was in full swing completing scale projects in ethanol plants, beef packing plants, sale barns, grain handling facilities and gasification plants from Friona, Texas to Bottineau, North Dakota.
In 1984 there was a major change in the way that Webster Scale Service operated. After much deliberation and lengthy research, Roger and Russell decided to start up their own concrete crew to construct the scale foundations. A second major decision was to manufacture their own line of truck and livestock scales. These two key enhancements were a great boost to the quality of their products and the prosperity of the business. Webster Scale Service now controlled every facet of new construction and the relationship with customers.
In 1987 Webster Scale Service was once again reorganized. Webster Scale, Inc. was incorporated in the Great State of South Dakota. These were very prosperous times for the company. As the 80’s were waning and the 90’s were starting, Roger’s three sons, John, Jason and Joel, began working with the business as they completed their education.
As the company entered the 1970’s, they started installing a few new livestock and truck scales. With these new installations, they needed to hire outside contractors for scale site development and for the concrete scale foundations. Business was good and projects were being completed, with the exception of occasional dimensional mistakes made by concrete crews. The contractors simply did not understand how tight the tolerances are on scale designs when constructing the foundations. Webster Scale Service was not large enough to have a supervisor on site at all times. Consequently, there were times when the piers or the anchor bolts were installed incorrectly, and it was nearly impossible to get the concrete contractor to come back and fix their work. These situations left the company in an uncomfortable position with customers from time to time. At the same time this was happening, load cell technology and digital weight indicators had been invented, and the scale industry was about to change dramatically. There were a lot of scale companies in business that had no experience with this new technology or anything digital, and Russell was one of them.
In 1976 Russell asked his son Roger to come and work with him to increase sales by adapting to the new digital equipment. That year the company was reorganized as a partnership with Roger and Russell Shoemaker as partners, along with two employees, and with Doris running the office. At this time, the company was engaged in selling and servicing motor truck scales and livestock scales in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota. They were selling a couple of different brands of scales because they were having trouble with quality control issues coming from the factory.
Webster Scale Service was started in the mid 1960’s by Russell and Doris Shoemaker in Webster, SD. It began as a simple scale repair business, repairing and servicing all makes of small and medium capacity scales. These scales were all mechanical scales. The primary service coverage area was South Dakota and North Dakota. All work was performed by Russell and one employee, with Doris handling the office duties.