Dyersville manufacturer looking forward to future after 10 years of growth

DYERSVILLE, Iowa — When an Australian manufacturing company opened its first North American facility in Dyersville’s then-new industrial park, the facility only had about five employees.

The Digga North America location at 2325 Industrial Parkway SW since has grown to support a staff of about 50 with additional growth anticipated.

“The company is really willing to reinvest in North America,” said Beau Ellingson, national sales manager at Digga North America. “They see the biggest growth here companywide.”

A manufacturing company with facilities in Australia and Europe, Digga announced a decade ago that Dyersville would be the site of the company’s first North American facility. That facility opened in 2013, and thanks to expansions, it spans about 75,000 square feet.

The company manufactures gearboxes and auger bits used in the construction industry, including pieces to be attached to skid steers and excavators.

Ellingson has worked for Digga North America since the facility opened. He said Dyersville was selected as the initial site for a variety of reasons, including its central location in the U.S. for freight purposes and a closer proximity to suppliers.

Another reason was the workforce of the area, including area colleges that offer manufacturing degrees, he said.

Dave Stephen, Digga North America operations and product development manager, added that the company has worked with local suppliers to outsource needs for Digga products that can’t be completed at the facility. Stephen also has worked at Digga North America since the beginning, following six years with Digga in Australia.

“We grew organically,” Stephen said of Digga North America. “When we grew Digga here, we had to start from scratch here in the U.S.”

Dyersville Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Jacque Rahe recalled that she had been in contact with Digga for a couple of years before company officials visited the Dyersville community.

Once Digga came to the city, she said, the company became an “anchor” for the then-newly established 20 West Industrial Park.

“Even in the whole recruitment process, we recognized right away that this was a great company and would be a great jump start for our industrial park,” she said. “They brought international flare and flavor, which was even more exciting.”

By the end of the facility’s first year, several additional employees had joined the workforce.

“When we first started, our factory was barren,” Ellingson said. “But we built the factory for where we were going to be, not where we were starting. … We have 50 employees and two shifts. Now, we manufacture pretty much everything (without outsourcing).”

To manufacture products, the process begins with putting raw material into machines to be processed into the shape of the part being manufactured.

Three such processing machines are located in the back of the factory. One of those machines is new, Stephen said, and it can work on pieces of material that are up to 3 feet in diameter and 4 feet long.

“The cost of outsourcing for big machines is very expensive,” Ellingson said of the new equipment. “So, this helps with that and also helps us control our wait time a bit. We’re not waiting for supplies for four weeks.”

Since Digga North America opened, robot welders have been added to complete products, in addition to employees who weld.

After products come out of welding bays, Stephen said, they are washed then powdered with paint in different colors before employees assemble complete parts and gearboxes together.

Then, products within one customer order are grouped together and shipped out. Stephen said Digga North America fills about 35 to 40 orders per day, enough to fill two to five full semi-tractor trailers.

“On this robot, we can do about 60 different products,” Stephen said. “It takes about a third of the time as human welders to do it. It’s consistent, all day, every day.”

Digga North America started manufacturing a product that launched in the U.S. this month — HALO. It is an alignment system that includes a ring of LED lights that grants those operating machinery 360 degrees of vision when drilling.

“We had it in Australia for two years, and the demand was big,” Stephen said. “So, we let them get the market covered before we started it here. We also didn’t want to run into any supply issues as well.”

Rahe said she drove past Digga earlier this month and remarked on how full the parking lot was, showing the company’s growth during the past decade.

“We’re so proud to be able to work with them and so proud of that company and its growth and the people that it has brought here,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful employer. And it’s exciting to watch the two countries come together and work with one another.”

During the past 10 years, Ellingson said it has been fun to see other businesses move into and grow in Dyersville’s 20 West Industrial Park.

Looking ahead, he said the company aims to continue growing, noting that Digga North America owns land to the west of the current building.

“We’ve been fortunate to experience really, really good growth, and we expect that to continue,” he said. “We have a lot of room to grow. We have some new attachments as well, but we have to be smart and make sure we’re meeting the demand. But we fully intend to grow into that additional space and have some new equipment. All those things are on the docket.”