Kukielka Fabricating: the ‘machine shop of dreams’ for area farmers
Updated: Jul 13, 2022
You might call Kukielka Fabricating the machine shop of dreams.
But instead of ‘build it and they will come’, its modus operandi is embracing the dreams of potential clients, and turning general concepts into functional builds.
“It’s easy if somebody has a blueprint,” says Henry Kukielka. “That’s easy, we can build it to specs no problem.
“Our blueprints are basically sketches in a guy’s mind… and we try to see what we can figure out.”
Kukielka’s background is firmly rooted in agriculture, transitioning from tobacco to tomatoes, into ginseng and back to vegetables, with a side order of organic (corn and beans) cash cropping.
Fabrication began informally on-farm, repairs and innovations for their own operations.
“We knew what we needed, just had to put it together and make it work,” Kukielka explained.
‘Making it work’ being a necessary part of farming, their success began to be noticed by industry compatriots, who approached Kukielka with concepts of their own.
“That’s how it started.” A personal project, creating an automatic ginseng harvester which helped answer labour sourcing challenges by reducing human requirements from 30 individuals to five, is one example of their innovative approach.
“We’ve come a long ways in our operation.”
Apart from positive fiscal ramifications and ‘breaking up the monotony of farming’, there definitely is satisfaction in solving a theoretical puzzle with an effective practical application.
“We enjoy that challenge,” says Kukielka. “The reward is, we made something and it works great.”
The fact he has extensive agricultural experience with a variety of crops and disparate machinery helps in figuring out effective solutions. Talented welders and fabricators are also very much part of the design, creative and construction process credits Kukielka, solving any issues that arise.
“It’s the whole staff that pitches in to make Kukielka Fabricating what is is today. We pretty much do anything anyone wants.”
Kukielka Fabricating does a lot of speciality equipment says Henry, presses, rollers, milling, washing, harvesting and tillage equipment, with some ginseng nurturing and harvesting equipment (including straw choppers) shipped as far afield as Wisconsin.
“The more you do, the more you come up with good ideas,” says Kukielka. “We’re not geniuses, but we get stuff done the way we need it.”
There definitely are challenges to the approach. Research and development time and money can be difficult to recover when essentially building prototypes, or one-of-a-kinds.
“What are you going to do, charge the hell out of the guy?” Kukielka asks rhetorically.
Secondly, a well-earned reputation of making things happen based on ‘keeping trying, if that fails, moving onto something else,’ adds pressure to continue to do so, particularly in a high-pressure agricultural setting where time is not only money, but operational functionality during an intensely-compressed harvest season can represent the difference between profit and loss.
The typical farmer waits until the last minute, says Kukielka.
“And ‘we need it tomorrow’ - that’s the worst part,” he laughed.
But unexpected expectations are part of the industry, and hitting deadlines or dealing with any issues which arise is a thing taken extremely seriously.
“We get that going as quickly as possible.”
And in the end, occupying the unique service niche Kukielka Fabricating has created for itself is challenge - but one which fits into the day-to-day requirements of an agriculturally-based family operation.
“We keep going and try to survive when the markets fluctuate,” Kukielka concluded. “Try to make ends meet, basically.”