The company was originally founded by Arnold Huelsmann in 1985 under the name Arnold Distribution. As its name implied, the company was a distributor of a wide variety of material handling and vibration equipment, including various industrial and railcar vibrators, belt scrapers, magnets, and air cans, as well as other material handling products.
“In the late ‘90s, Arnold started distributing the predecessor of today’s Door Demon product line. It was a very basic railcar hopper gate opener called the Door Devil,” says Middeke, who purchased the company from Huelsmann in 2014.
By the early 2000s, the company had the opportunity to purchase the Door Devil product line from the previous manufacturer and began fabricating it internally. Middeke notes that the acquisition was essentially just for a single product, but the company had bigger plans in the works after the sale.
“Shortly thereafter, around 2004, Arnold Company started innovating and expanding the line. Many of these innovations were the direct result of a customer request that would lead to an expansion of the product offering. Arnold was fortunate to have a key employee, Jerome Ripperda, who really took the designs to the next level, resulting in a complete line of hopper gate openers, as well as boxcar openers,” Middeke explains.
“By listening to customer needs and working with them to find a solution, we basically took one version of a hopper gate opener and built it into the variety of products we have today,” he adds. “That philosophy of finding solutions was key back then and is still strong in the company.”
Products and Services
Arnold Co. is undoubtedly best known for its flagship Door Demon railcar hopper gate openers, which come in a variety of types and specifications. On the hopper car side, these include manually operated, hydraulic, DC battery-, electric-, and air-operated openers. Within those categories, variations include portable, beam-, forklift-, conveyor-, and skid-steer mounted units. This wide array of products is one of the ways the company has distinguished itself in the market, according to Middeke.
“We truly understand the needs and challenges with railcar opening, we’ve got the broadest line, and we’ve got the ability and willingness to customize when necessary,” he says.
As far as new developments go, Arnold Co. recently has introduced new products in two categories.
The first took place last summer when the company introduced the patent-pending Door Demon HTO, the world’s first handheld, powered hopper trailer opener, or grain truck trailer opener. Prior to the introduction of the HTO, Middeke says this product category didn’t really exist, but due to changes in the grain industry, the demand for the product has increased
“We’ve seen the industry change to where the larger facilities are no longer allowing the trucker to get out of the truck, and therefore they have an employee, or multiple employees, opening up hopper trailers all day long,” he observes. “These people are opening several hundred trailers a day, and as a result, injuries and fatigue are setting in due to the higher volume.
“It isn’t an easy job. Plus, when you do 200 of anything, you just start seeing strains, motion injuries and things like that,” he points out. The HTO is intended to eliminate those issues, making the job of opening grain trailers safe and more productive.
Another expansion to Arnold Co.’s product line came several years ago with the launch of the patent-pending Rhino Railcar Vibrator Lifter, which was designed to eliminate the danger of inserting and removing heavy railcar vibrators and brackets into the pockets of hopper cars. The Rhino is powered by a pneumatic motor that operates a hydraulic system designed to safely and easily maneuver the railcar vibrator and bracket assembly into and out of the railcar vibrator pocket – all without any manual lifting by the operator.
Much like its HTO product, Arnold Co. is addressing a huge safety issue in the industry with the release of the Rhino. “Most railcar vibrators and wedge brackets range in weight from 65 to 145 pounds,” Middeke says. “You get guys inserting, lifting, and removing these all day long, so injuries are bound to occur. The Rhino completely eliminates these risks.”
However, Middeke says beyond just being a product manufacturer, Arnold Co. considers itself a safety and productivity solutions provider. “Pretty much everything we sell can be considered a safety product, first and foremost, but they all aid productivity, too. Because without them, the manual options are terribly slow,” he says. “I can’t think of any of our products that don’t fit into those two categories.”
Keys to Success
One of the reasons Arnold Co. has enjoyed success over the years is because of the high quality of its products, many of which Middeke says are still in operation 15-20 years after they were purchased. He says the company also prides itself on its ability to solve problems for customers when other out-of-the-box solutions won’t work.
“I think the difference with us versus most of our competition is that we’ve got the broadest product line available, so not only do we have multiple options but also the ability to customize. Our customers appreciate that we can help them find a solution, even when their layout isn’t standard,” he adds.
At the end of the day, though, it all comes back to founder Arnold Huelsmann’s initial focus: the customer. “I think the reason we do well in the market is extremely high-quality standards and excellent service,” Middeke explains. “When a customer calls with an issue, we pretty much drop everything and get them running, because we know that they can’t afford to be down; they can’t afford to have a railcar sitting there waiting to be unloaded.”
(a special thanks to our contributing writer, Rob Nieminen, at Grain Journal)
1985: Founded under the name Arnold Distribution, the company provides a variety of vibration equipment, including rail car vibrators, industrial vibrators, belt scrapers, magnets, air cans, etc.
1992: Name changes from Arnold Distribution to The Arnold Company.
1997: Begins distributing the first version of its highly popular railcar hopper gate opener, the Door Devil.
2000: Officially acquires the Door Devil product line and begins manufacturing internally.
2004: Launches and begins expanding its Door Demon product line to include a wide assortment of hopper gate openers, from manual to multi-position beam-mounted models.
2006: Boxcar opener line is introduced.
2013: Creates the first vibrator lifter, “The Rhino,” to remove the dangers and inconvenience of putting heavy railcar vibrators and brackets into the cradle of hopper gate rail cars.
2014: Albert Middeke, president of Arnold Co., acquires the company and becomes the sole owner.
2016: Moves into new headquarters and production facility.
2017: Introduces the Door Demon HTO, the world’s first handheld, powered hopper trailer opener.