This year Wacker of Menomonee Falls, Wis., celebrates its 50th anniversary in the United States. Its founders, brothers Peter and Hermann Wacker, emigrated from Germany in 1957 to manufacture and promote their powered hand tools specializing in compaction. While the company's roots date back to 1848 in Germany, opening a U.S. operation for the family-owned manufacturer was a true milestone.
It was only 12 short years after their post-war startup that the Wackers had foresight to bring the growing German construction-equipment manufacturing business to the Hartford, Wis., community. Their original grassroots operation started in a small second-floor warehouse, was successfully run by only six employees, and offered one product: Hermann Wacker's innovative soil compaction invention, the Rammer.
Today, backfill compaction in confined areas is critical to a well-engineered construction project, but in 1957 America it was an uncommon, labor-intensive process. The brothers' innovative, high speed GVR-100 rammer was an effective, one-man-operated machine that saved significant construction costs. The rammer's reputation spread; demand skyrocketed in the United States; and, in 1958, land was acquired for a 21,600-square-foot office, warehouse and production facility.
The GVR-100 Rammer weighed only 125 pounds, but gave a mighty impact of 1,590 pounds per blow, 630 times per minute. A lightweight gasoline motor provided power to the reciprocating mechanism, ensuring flexibility of operation without being tied to electric or compressed air lines. A standard compaction shoe of 11x13 inches was provided, although narrower shoes to 4 inches were available. The machine featured positive grease lubrication, an aluminum alloy casing for reduced weight, and a convenient steel grab bar encircling the top of the machine for ease of handling. It also came complete with low-noise insulation and spark arrester approved by the U.S. Forest Service.
Over the past 50 years, Wacker has continually improved the Rammer, introduced new products, and developed new sales concepts. Early on it recognized the challenges of introducing products to a customer base spread across North America, so it hired salespeople whose sole responsibility was to visit jobsites and demonstrate products. Contractors interested in buying were directed to local dealers for purchase. This is still Wacker's strategy. With a fledgling rental industry started in the 1970s, Wacker was one of the first equipment manufacturers to see a promising future for light-equipment rental. Today construction-equipment rentals dominate the industry, and Wacker is a leading supplier to rental dealers.
In 1986, Wacker moved to a new facility in Menomonee Falls, Wis., which has been expanded many times since. Besides the company's vibratory rammer, the U.S. operation is responsible for the manufacture of all vibratory walk-behind and ride-on rollers, trash pumps, portable and mobile generators, and walk-behind and ride-on trowels. Wacker currently markets over 150 models sold through its dealer network.
You can read more about the evolution of construction equipment in Keith Haddock's latest book release, an updated version of his illustrated Earthmover Encyclopedia due in bookstores Spring 2007. Also, consider a membership in the Historical Construction Equipment Association, www.hcea.net.