Up in the northwoods of Wisconsin, an upturn in manufacturing is picking up speed, often to the satisfying hum of a finely crafted diesel engine.
One company in particular — with new ties to UW-Green Bay — is both driving and benefitting from that resurgence. Superior Diesel, headquartered in Rhinelander, customizes industrial-grade diesel engines for commercial users for whom there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all.
“We’re proud to be the largest value-added distributor of John Deere engines in the world,” says president Brian Wendt.
Engines are shipped directly to the plant, located in the forest along Highway 8 in the industrial park west of town. Warehouse shelves are lined with products by Deere, Kohler and other manufacturers awaiting testing and tuning at the hands of Superior’s skilled production specialists.
Each job begins long before, of course. Clients can expect field visits and exacting analysis of their intended end-use applications. Specialists in mechanical, electrical and design engineering pore over schematics and blueprints. Powering an electric generator is different than pumping water. Emissions requirements vary by locality. Drive-train components perform differently in 110° conditions than at minus-20°.
When Superior’s team devises a solution, the custom-designed components are jobbed out, usually to a local supplier or metal-fabricating shop within a 150-mile radius of Rhinelander.
Wendt is proud that Superior’s success is spinning off employment across the north. There’s also satisfaction in knowing high-torque diesel power remains in demand for logging and agriculture in Wisconsin and beyond, and in new industries, as well.
Partly in appreciation of its local roots, partly anticipating the need for future engineering, purchasing, sales, accounting, production and product-support people, Superior has established two endowed scholarship funds at UW-Green Bay.
Scholarships are open to residents of Oneida, Vilas, Lincoln, Price and Forest counties. Wendt hopes local students will pursue the education that will make them even more valuable when they return north. One of the scholarships is reserved for UW-Green Bay’s new program in engineering technology, and Wendt is hopeful of setting up internship opportunities, as well.