"Small to us is under 200 pounds," said Gayle Woerishofer, vice president and chief financial officer.
A family team runs the subcontracting business at 4430 N. 127th St. Gordon Vesely and his brother-in-law founded Argo in Butler in 1987 using Gordon's many years of metal fabrication experience. His son, Mark Vesely and daughter, Woerishofer, now run the business.
The original building was about 5,000 square feet, and the company focused on belt conveyor frame manufacturing. The current facility is more than 100,000 square feet and the company serves the rock crushing, water clarifying, railroad, frac sand and a variety of other industries.
Argo has grown its size and product offering significantly since it was founded, Gordon said.
"When you have enough space to grow, you start to grow," Mark said.
The company specializes in very large products, like water clarifying systems as large as 80 feet long, 16 feet wide and 12 feet tall. Since they are so large, Argo often builds its products onto trailers and mounts tires and brake systems to the machine for easy transportation.
Its products have been used to separate oil from other substances in oil refineries and dredge mercury from contaminated lakes. But since Argo is a subcontractor, "most of the time we don't know what it (specifically) does," Mark said.
Customers are often quarries in the Midwest, since Argo makes large rock crushing and screening machines.
The company has CNC plasma, laser cutting, roll, sheer press brake, punch press, CNC saw and CNC beam line equipment available.
With a recent investment in the CNC beam line equipment, the time to complete a particular job was reduced from three minutes to 10 seconds per hole drilled. The precision laser cutting capability has drastically increased the speed at which Argo employees can accurately drill holes into materials, Mark said.
Argo focuses on hot rolled steel plate, steel plate rolling and steel plate sheering production. For example, a steel plate is rolled into a cylinder and placed on stilts, then formed into shape and welded to make a watertight filtration system.
While the recession took a toll on Argo—business fell off 30 to 40 percent— the company is nearly back to full employment. It has hired three new employees so far in 2012, and is always looking for employees with the right skill set, Woerishofer said.
"We always make it through because we don't overspend, we always try to keep our debt load manageable, we do watch our statements religiously," she said.
A growing frac sand industry is driving growth in the water clarifying and sand crushing industries Argo serves, Gordon said.
"It just happens to be something we got into and our name is out there and we're good at it," Gayle said.
And at the moment, Argo is busier than ever. There are four rock crushing plants shipping out in one month, a higher volume of the very large machines than usual.
"We're just trying to get everything done right now," Mark said