Manufacturing: Building a life and 'massive' trailers
October is Manufacturing Month, so this month's Palace City Profile features a resident who has chosen a career in manufacturing.
The Mitchell Area Manufacturer's Association will host 1st Fridays on Main Street, from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. There will be live music, food vendors, robotics demonstrations, inflatables and the Toshiba hot air balloon, weather permitting.
Brent and Mollie Greenway each grew up on farms near small towns, and now they've found their home in Mitchell.
Brent's family farm is near Mount Vernon. After he earned his degree from South Dakota State University in agricultural and biosystems engineering, he began his career in Jackson, Minnesota.
After meeting the woman he'd eventually marry, getting back to South Dakota and the Mitchell area became a priority.
"For a while, I commuted 82 miles one way every day," he said.
His fiancé, Mollie, was working in dietetics in the Sioux Falls area, and they lived in Brandon.
Now, Mollie is a self-employed dietitian consultant based in Mitchell, and she travels several days a week to nursing homes in the region. The Langford native appreciates the flexibility of being self-employed.
"One of the biggest perks to being self-employed is self-management," Mollie said. "If something comes up where I need time off, I can adjust my schedule."
Brent has been at Trail King Industries for a little more than three years. He is the manufacturing engineering site lead, which means he is the liaison between the design engineers and the production floor.
"I'm a middleman, really," he said. "We are problem-solvers, and we take concepts and drawings and create repeatable, accurate components and products."
Brent says he enjoys interacting with both sides of the workflow and he likes coming up with solutions to problems.
"I like that what I do can affect a larger group of people," he said.
Optimization is key to efficient manufacturing, and his team has been working in one area of the shop at a time to do time studies and assess workspace.
"We don't perform time studies to judge or critiquing the employees," he said. "What we are doing is determining whether we can better equip our team members and their workspaces to be more efficient. You don't want someone to have to take several minutes to find an item. Sometimes, we just need to improve a cart or create a better rack for tools and equipment."
"The more efficient we are, the more trailers we can build," he said.
The result is impressive.
"It's pretty cool to think that we can start with a flat sheet of steel and some tube and build it into this massive, customized trailer," he said.
As for a career in manufacturing, Brent is positive about the opportunities available. He knows colleagues who started on the shop floor and have gone on to become an engineering tech or even into management. He is also pleased that Trail King has implemented a welding training program which allows people who have never welded to learn on the job.
"The advancement opportunities are darn good," he said. "There is always a position for a good, hard-working person."
Being in Mitchell has come with benefits to the Greenways' personal life, in addition to their work.
"As a high school kid, you want to move away. When I graduated, I couldn't wait to get through college and find an engineering job," Brent said. "I wanted to be done with work at 5 o'clock every day."
Now, the farm work that seemed all-consuming is how he chooses to spend most of his free time.
"I think you're always drawn back home," he said. "Helping out on the farm has always felt rewarding, even if it leads to some long days. As my grandfather, Tom Greenway, has joked to me, 'even if you work 12-hour days, you're still only working half time."
When Mollie reflects on the differences and similarities of Mitchell and Langford (population around 300), she likes what she sees here.
"Much like my little hometown, Mitchell has a lot of passionate people," she said. "I've met so many individuals since moving here who really value the ideals of community, whether it's in the public or in their business, and they go above and beyond to keep Mitchell a thriving city."