Made in TF Country: The right blend

In 1961, Merle “Jack” Doyle introduced the agricultural industry’s first drum-style rotary fertilizer blender, catering to an emerging movement to­ward prescription plant food applications.

In 2019, his namesake company, Doyle Equipment Manufac­turing, introduced its latest innovation, a 24-ton rotary blender designed for ag retailers with big-batch fertilizer mixing needs. The blender is one of the largest on the market and is nominated for “Product of the Year” by CropLife Iron magazine—an award that’s never been given to dry fertilizer equipment.

“From the very beginning, we’ve been a leader in this industry, and we always strive to be the best at what we do,” said Monty Doyle, Jack’s grandson and the company’s current president. “After all, it’s our name on the side of the equipment.”

When his grandfather founded the company in 1951, there were two names on the equipment: Doyle and Adams. Jack and his business partner, Merlin Adams, owned a Stag Beer distri­bution business together in Quincy, Ill., just a couple hours away from where the regional brew was born in the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Ill. Around the same time, the pair began dabbling in dry fertilizer equipment, manufacturing mechanical truck spreaders.

This odd combination of business ventures didn’t last much more than a decade, with the partners amicably going their separate ways in the early 1960s. Merlin continued in the beer business, while Jack focused on expanding his dry fertilizer equipment line.

From those early beginnings, Jack, who died in 1989, built the family business into a highly successful enterprise, which today manufactures dry fertilizer blending, conveying, tending and spreading equipment with 160 employees and two state-of-the-art facilities in Palmyra, Mo. Doyle equipment can now be found in 70 countries and every U.S. state but Alaska. Many of MFA’s facilities are equipped with Doyle blending systems, tenders and spreaders.

Jack turned over management of the company to his son, Ron, who then passed the torch to his son, Monty, in the early 1990s. Doyle Manu­facturing saw explosive growth during the tenure of these second and third generations, and that trend continues today as Monty’s children, Colten, 30, Catie, 29, and Case, 23, take on leadership roles in the company and bring a fresh approach to the business.

“As a family business, we wear a lot of hats, but we all have our own niche,” said Catie, who manages human resources. “Mine is the people side of things. When we came in as fourth generation, we knew that our next focus had to be internal to withstand continued growth.”

As farmers themselves, the Doyles also have a personal stake in the industry they serve. The family farms some 4,000 acres in Marion County, Mo., and Pike County, Ill., raising corn and soybeans. Such hands-on experience provides a perspective that other equipment manufacturers may not have, Monty said.

“We understand all the fertilizer, the chemicals, the blending, the micronutrients and the precision technology,” he said. “We apply all our nitrogen and do all of our fertilization. We also understand the struggles of farming, especially this year. The flood­ing was one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever had. We lost about 800 acres. We know what farmers are facing, and we know times are tight.”

For more than 65 years, Doyle’s manufacturing facilities remained in the original factory Jack had acquired in 1954 in downtown Quincy. As the equipment lines and sales increased, Doyle outgrew its infrastructure. Landlocked with no more room to expand, the family purchased what they call their Riverview Manufacturing facility in Palmyra in 2005 and moved the spreader line there. In 2011, they broke ground for the company’s flagship facility on 144 acres just off busy Highway 61 in Palmyra. They finally moved all operations into the 232,000-square-foot plant in 2017.

“Over the years as we grew in Quincy, we just added a building and added a building, so we were really strung out and bottlenecked,” said Monty, who joined the business full time in 1983. “There, we had about 120,000 total square footage of buildings. This building here is almost six acres under roof.” 

With the modern facility came renewed focus on improving company culture, efficiencies and technology. And it’s paying off, Monty said. For example, a state-of-the-art fiberoptic laser cutter carves out steel parts five times faster than the facility’s old machines, keeping the assembly lines con­tinually supplied with parts. The Doyles also switched to using bulk welding gas instead of individual tanks that had to be manually replenished. Monty estimates this change saves the company about $30,000 in the cost of the gas and another $30,000 in labor.

“The move gave us a chance to rethink everything,” he said. “We had almost maxed our growth the way we ran the old company. And now that it’s more streamlined, we’re up 14% in sales and no overtime in the shop. Before, we ran overtime in blending for five years at 50 hours a week. The amount of money it costs when you’ve got to kick in overtime is huge.”

In a labor-intensive metal fabrication business, human resources can be challeng­ing, Monty admits, but Doyle manages to attract and retain good employees. Providing a pleasant work environment is one reason. The new plant is illuminated with all LED lighting, and safety and housekeeping are priorities. Supervisors lead weekly safety meetings, and every Friday afternoon, there’s a mandatory shutdown for a total floor cleanup.

Catie also said she believes the fact that the business has been family owned and operated for 68 years and four generations also helps foster employee loyalty. Another son, Casch, 21, will join the operation when he graduates from Northwestern University next year. The youngest Doyle, Bryden, is only 8 years old but, like his siblings, will have a chance to learn the family business.

“When I say family owned and operated, I mean we’re in it every single day—work­ing side by side with our employees,” Catie said. “That’s different from a larger corporate entity where you’re just a number. Here it’s more that family-owned atmosphere. We care about you and your family and want to make sure that you’ve got a healthy, clean place to work.”

As for customer loyalty, Monty said service sets Doyle apart from other fertilizer equip­ment manufacturers. Relationships matter, he stressed, adding that he and his family work hard to build and nurture their busi­ness relationships with a personal touch.

“We will jump through hoops to take care of our customers, especially in the spring and the fall when time is short and the stakes are high,” Monty said. “If something breaks or something’s not right, our hearts are into it. We’re going to fix it. We’re going to make it better. That’s why we have such great relationships with a lot of companies such as MFA, and they keep coming back.”

More information on Doyle Equipment Manufacturing can be found online at www.doylemfg.com

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